Eugène Atget, Lys (Lillies), 1916–19 A garden is made of equal parts nature and artifice: It springs from the earth, and yet is defined by human intervention. This combination of opposing forces is precisely the same that powers photography. “In a way [a garden] is a set,” writes Jamie M. Allen in The Photographer in the Garden. Co-authored by Sarah Anne McNear, it is the first book to explore this synchronicity in depth. From the moment Kodak released the first snapshot camera in 1888, flower beds and bushes came alive with the clicks and whirrs of experimental hobbyists. Much like the domestic still lifes popularized by renaissance painters, garden arrangements are the perfect subject to practice on: Easily accessible, yet full of technical challenges and bursting with coded symbolism—provided you know how to look for it. Allen and McNear argue that it’s wrong to write off such photographs as twee just because they are pretty. They can be political: During both world wars, photographs of “victory gardens” full of home-grown produce were used as rallying propaganda. They can also be erotic: Think of Man Ray’s 1934 photograph of a bee feeding on a sunflower, or Robert Mapplethorpe’s Tulip (1985)—the white flower resting on a thorn, subtly evoking the photographer’s more explicit images of sadomasochism. Flowers have their own language and, as The Photographer in the Garden elegantly demonstrates, that language can be used to convey almost anything. TwitterFacebookPinterest Jacqueline Hassink, Haradani-en 1, Northwest Kyoto, 2010; from the series "View, Kyoto" Mark Klett, Kem Brown in her Garden, Gimlet, Idaho, September 6, 1981 Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 37 Mood Bores On the aesthetics of inspiration. Arts & Culture Issue 35 In Season Why flower power is perennial in the spring. Arts & Culture Fashion Issue 35 Soft Strokes Fashion often looks to art for inspiration, so why not the other way round? Arts & Culture Issue 28 David Uzochukwu A proliﬁc photographer comes of age. Arts & Culture Issue 27 Aida Muluneh Three questions for the Ethiopian photographer. Arts & Culture Issue 26 Zanele Muholi Rebel without a pause: A firebrand photographer and visual activist reflects on a decade’s work.