Saturday, February 26, 2011

Allotment garden pilgrimage

Anne Geene published a wonderful photo book about her garden allotment. It is called "Allotment nr. 235, Encyclopedia of an allotment garden." It costs 29 euro for 190 pages, but it is worth every cent. I reminds me of my early youth, when I knew all the pictures of a picture book by heart. It's the same with this book.
This book contains artful photographs of all the species that live in this 245 square meter habitat (plants, trees, mosses, insects, bacteria, birds, dogs). All of these have been photographed and identified. There is even a tiny salamander! I thought these only lived in nature reserves.

But there are also photographs of the compost heap, dead leaves, colours, clouds, stars, airplanes overhead, water, ice, snow and rain.
And there are photographic maps of the horizontal and vertical areas, including the garden hedge and each individual garden tile and the earth underneath. A fascinating book that I'm jealous of ... I would like to make such a book myself. From the book description:

The "Encyclopedia of an allotment" is inspired by the language of science, but has no scientific pretensions. It contains very personal observations, that have been selected and recorded with scientific precision and attention to detail. The book aims to provide a complete visual representation of everything that grows, flowers, crawls, swims and flies, on and along allotment 235 of the garden  complex 'Our own plot" in Rotterdam-Overschie. But the objects that are recorded are not really the central theme - these are: the art of observation and the relationship between photography and science.

Today was a rainy day but I yearned to go outside. I could not decide on a place to go and then my wife suggested that I could go on a pilgrimage to this garden allotment. It was easy to find and the garden complex was open. It's a sympathetic place from 1937. A few flowering plants were for sale and old men were drinking coffee in the communal room.

pilgrimage to an allotment garden

Using the map in the book it was easy to find lot 235. Tucked away in a corner of the estate, inconspicuous. At first sight I did not recognize it. In the book it looks much larger and it looks quite isolated from any surroundings. The feeling was totally different from the book. Interesting ...

pilgrimage to an allotment garden

The photo book creates the sense of an enormous space by (I think):
  • using low viewpoints (child / dog / frog perspective),
  • focusing on details and borders,
  • showing the huge open sky.
The pilgrimage was definitely worth it. I hope the artist doesn't mind I've been doing some topographic research of my own.

Other Dutch artists have made photographic documents about garden allotments. Here are the pictures by Marrie Bot from Amsterdam in 1977. These focus on the inhabitants, not on natural history.
Interesting text on Flickr: Lenin didn't like gardening

Anne Geene - artist's website
Book description by editor - in Dutch
Book review - "scientist with camera" - in Dutch
Google maps - Bing maps

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