French Gardens / Jardins Anglais (2006)

In garden history, French and English gardens represent two different traditions.

The classic French garden emphasised order, symmetry and control, as exemplified by the work of André Le Nôtre, who was the gardener of Louis XIV at Versailles in the 17th century.

In reaction, the 18th century English garden favoured asymmetrical, rounded shapes and a greater naturalness (a ‘naturalness’ that was in fact often strictly controlled).

This work consists of black and white photos taken at five French gardens and colour photos taken at five English gardens.

The French gardens are those built by Le Nôtre around Paris for the family and court of Louis XIV: Vaux-le-Vicomte, Versailles, Sceaux, St Cloud and Chantilly.

The English gardens are more wide-ranging: Studley Royal in Yorkshire, Stourhead in Wiltshire, and Stowe, West Wycombe and Rousham, all to the north-west of London.

In making these photographs, I adopted the tactics of a ‘street photographer’. Wandering round the gardens, I observed the juxtapositions between classical statues and modern day visitors, building up a sense of the spaces between the time they were built and the present day.

This work was first shown in 2006 in the exhibition Le Spectre des Jardins, curated by Yves Abrioux for the Domaine de Coubertin, a chateau and garden near Paris.

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