Private Places.
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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