Seeing Gardensby Sam Abell
To capture the essence of a garden demands both a keen eye and a subtle sensibility, the hallmark qualities of Sam Abell's acclaimed photography. Not for nothing is this volume
At the heart of every garden lies an idea; the greatest gardens represent not just nature's beauty but the clear vision of a gifted artist. The same is true of an inspired garden book.
To capture the essence of a garden demands both a keen eye and a subtle sensibility, the hallmark qualities of Sam Abell's acclaimed photography. Not for nothing is this volume entitled Seeing Gardens, for its landmark images have as much to tell us about how we see as what we see. To Abell, a scatter of pears ripening on a Moscow windowsill evokes an orchard just as surely as his portrait of a 600-year-old Japanese garden summons up an ancient tradition of artfully cultivated wildness. Each pebble, pond and twisted pine in that garden is carefully placed to create an idea of unstudied nature as resonant as reality itself.
As befits a book that melds two visual arts, Seeing Gardens lets its 150 pictures speak for themselves with a spare text that offers context rather than commentary. The book is at once thoughtful and elegant, and the anecdotes, recollections and aesthetic philosophy amount to a brief but telling memoir of Abell's three decades of interpreting gardens. His photographs include planned gardens in a variety of cultural settings; found gardens, created by nature but given form by the artist's frame; and the many allusions to gardens in daily life. Whether in the pruned symmetry of a line of plane trees along Lake Como's shores, the pristine shape of a wild water lily in the blackwater mirror of the Okeefenokee Swamp, or the leafy print of a vivid floral fabric, Abell discovers gardens everywhere. The gift of this book is the gift of seeing gardens in a new,intimate and involving way.
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