Photographs of Chicago Gardens.
Photographs by Brad Temkin. Introduction by Rod Slemmons.
Center for American Places, Chicago, 2005. 96 pp., 52 color illustrations, 11¼x9¾".
Voltaire’s Candide told us that ultimate happiness is
found in cultivating one’s own garden, and human
beings have been rediscovering his sage advice ever
since. Brad Temkin’s first book is a contemplative stroll
through various urban garden spaces, and it bears the
same resemblance to a standard-issue garden book that
classic street photography bears to a senior portrait. This
is not to deny the astute quality of Temkin’s compositional
eye, or the admiration he has for even the most
humble pot-and-patio garden. But the gardens he has
gained access to are, for the most part, a little raffish and
uncombed. The appearance of luxuriant disorder is
helped along by Temkin’s exclusion of the more austere
garden-in-winter as a subject—his vision is all warmth and
perfume. The tossed-off quality of many spaces is
deceptive, of course, given the constraints of urban
gardening: every inch
must play its part if
the resulting whole is
to ease and please.
Though human beings
are scarce in the
images, the invisible
hand of each gardener
(and often the presence
of children) is
ubiquitous. One of Temkin’s aims was to treat each
garden as an outgrowth (pun intended) of its creator’s
personality, and in that he was quite successful. The
relaxed sense of the pictures is occasionally jarred by
Temkin’s slight amping of the color, which makes a few
images feel a bit anxious, as if certain tulips wanted to
jump off the page, or a hot-pink geranium were about to
spontaneously combust. For the most part, though, this
is a lovely bedside companion for the imaginative,
banishing the reality (or memory) of winter, summoning
up the scent of summer, and burnishing the eternal optimism
of the gardening-obsessed. PHIL HARRIS
About the Limited Edition:
Housed in a dark green slip case, this limited edition of 100 copies is signed and numbered and includes an original color print, Blue Wall, Chicago IL 2002.
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