The title refers not to a specific garden, but to the idea of the garden, and to the several gardens in which I have photographed.
'The Neglected Garden' was adjacent to a house where I lived briefly. The garden had been worked by an old man, long absent, yet amongst the riotous growth of summer weeds signs of his work remained.Brick edged paths, an ancient shed, and adjacent to it a pile of boxes. I was intrigued, the boxes contained the collected and saved necessities of garden work, string, stakes, plastic cups and bags of fallen leaves, transient and suggestive of time and change.
One in particular attracted me, a black plastic bag, three apples, blown leaves and seed heads. The apples had been placed or had fallen with a precision that implied an aesthetic impulse. I made an exposure, then thought that if I photographed the box over a period of time as the apples gradually decayed the images would chart a precise period of time and change. I photographed the box first in August, then again in September, December and finally in February. So 'Apple Time' was made. I later photographed the stack of boxes and all the boxes individually, each in it's own way was of interest.
Whilst exploring the garden I found two well grown thistles. The thistle is not a popular plant, often beaten down or dug up, an outlaw plant, unwanted, unloved. They were full blown, about to release seed, I found them unexpectedly beautiful.
In a catalogue I wrote: 'In the derelict garden I discovered two thistles standing amongst the riotous growth of late summer. They were at the peak of ripeness, flowers at the point of bursting, seeds awaiting release. I was amazed by their beauty, the ornate barbed intricacy of leaf and stem, the delicacy and profusion of seed. The thistle became, for me, a symbol, a microcosm. The photographs chart a period of intense involvement and discovery, a celebration of cosmic forces.'
I have just realised that these images pre date my previous 'Early Still Life' collection, so whilst working in the landscape my first still life photographs were the 'found' subjects of the neglected garden. The later thistle photographs were constructs, the pieces (all from the two thistles discovered in the garden) were removed and placed on sympathetic surfaces.
It was also a significant period in my exploration of print tonality. Continuing the shift of tonality I had made in printing 'Lila' the later thistle prints were of the palest possible tonality. They still excite me, the copies on my website cannot match the prints and do them justice.
Later when making a garden I inevitably began the necessary visits to garden centres. I was fascinated by what I found there, from the apparently essential apparatus of leisure to the dismal remnants of statuary evoking, in plastic, the bygone splendours of antiquity and yes, the occasional plant also in plastic. Row upon row of weed killers, slug pellets, pet deterrents. I came to see the garden as an interface between 'nature' and 'culture', a dream of lost Eden, but also a site where the global disasters our species inflicts upon the planet were played out on a smaller, a more personal scale. The garden centre photographs were sequenced for a group exhibition 'The Garden'. Of the few images on the website 'Garden Centre' number 4 'Closer to God in a garden' with it's group of sad displaced people began the sequence. Number 3 with its angry invocation to kill ended it. The two images seemed to sum up the paradox of the garden.
Later I discovered nurseries, no cultural tat, but dedicated plantsmen and women and plants in abundance, but still the same ethical dilemmas.
Enjoy the collection.