Patrick Dougherty

Patrick Dougherty combines his carpentry skills with his love of nature to make fantastical, massive sculptures out of willow saplings and branches. He is currently working on an installation at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden as part of the institution's centennial celebration. I have been watching the work in progress over the last week. The first section of the installation is done today, and there are a few more to follow. I love the beautiful curving lines of the bent willows, so intricately woven and slightly out-of-this-world looking. Perhaps it is this Alice-in-Wonderland aspect of his work that I find most appealing.


A soft muted morning

Patrick Dougherty's work in progress
Calycanthus floridus
Euphorbia marginata
Agastache rupestris and Gomphrena globosa

Lagerstroemia indica

The Cranford Rose Garden

Rose Abraham Darby
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden at 7:15 AM

I spent a soft muted morning at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden wandering around among the trees and flowers all by myself. These stolen moments of just looking at flora and greenery have always made me very happy. I thought about the primordial need we all have for some contact with nature, which led me to think about James Hitchmough's work in developing new planting designs for the urban environment based on ecological science. As a professor of Horticultural Ecology at the University of Sheffield, Hitchmough makes the overarching connections between horticulture, ecology, and culture. As he states on his website, "until the late c.19th beautiful examples of semi-natural meadows, steppe and prairie were relatively common in many parts of the temperate world, but have mostly now been eliminated by agricultural intensification and urban development...Most urban people have no actual or even cultural memory of this vegetation other than as a photographic image in 'nature' calendars." Using his horticultural knowledge of plant communities from all around the world and combining it with sociological and psychological research, Hitchmough aims to create new and sustainable plant communities for the urban environment. He's done some amazing urban meadows in the industrial city of Sheffield. What distinguishes his work from most ecologists is his commitment to the human context. "I am interested in the human culture I live in, where context is important." I think the landscape of our cities are changing, and thanks to people like Hitchmough, the future looks bright.


Luminous Colors

Jacques Henri Lartigue, Me and my friends in the Auvergne, 1913

Kiyoshi Sakamoto, Swimming Lessons, Japan, 1927
Franklin Prince Knott, Woman outside the South Pueblo, Taos, New Mexico, ca. 1914
Jules Gervais-Courtellemont, Portrait of Young Spanish Woman, ca 1914

I have always loved the colors of autochromes, the first color process developed in 1903 by the Lumière brothers. Potato starch mixed with color dyes was used on glass plates to yield grainy, positive color images that resemble exquisite pointilist paintings. It was a difficult process. Sensitized plates had to be used within weeks. The emulsion was slow, necessitating long exposures. Yet it was championed by the most prominent photographers of the day. Alvin Langdon Coburn claimed "It's the greatest thing that ever happened to photography."

Edward Steichen's beautiful portrait of Rodin remains one of the most celebrated autochromes. In 1900, Rodin's reputation was already entrenched when a young Steichen paid him a visit with his portfolio to convince the famous sculptor to be photographed. The results in the ensuing years were some of the best photographic records of Rodin.

Edward Steichen, Rodin-The Eve, 1907


New York, New York

It was a real dog day of August, and I had a long and tiring shoot, but the view of the city from the roof deck of a hi-rise building in midtown just about made up for everything.


Welcome to Our Dollhouse, Part II

Lily and I have added another floor to our dollhouse. We made everything except the bathroom fixtures, which are real porcelain. In the living room, I've added my fantasy art wall, with some of my favorite photographs by Adam Fuss, August Sander, and Sally Mann, along with paintings by Klimt and Van Gogh.


I heart New York

Reflection of Cherry tree at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Painting on a construction site

The Brooklyn Bridge at night

The Cranford Rose Garden at 7AM

Sunset at Battery Park

A wedding at the Brooklyn Bridge Park

Sunset at the Brooklyn Bridge Park

The Statue of Liberty

Once in a while I think about the possibility of living somewhere else and I am reminded of how much I love this city, despite everything. As Le Corbusier wrote in 1936, "A hundred times I have thought New York a catastrophe, and fifty times, it is a beautiful catastrophe." Or, in the words of E.B. White in his gem of a book from 1949, This is New York, "A poem compresses much in a small space and add music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive."

I love this city for the freedom it gives me to be who I am.


Heavy Roses

Edward Steichen, Heavy Roses, Voulangis, 1914

Years ago, when I first became interested in photography, I fell in love with Steichen's beautiful photograph of dying roses, which I discovered at MoMa. I would go back to the museum periodically just to look at it again and again. Steichen took the photo in France shortly before World War I, and the sensual blooms dying so spectacularly were a metaphor for the state of world as he saw it on the eve of one of the most destructive wars in history.

Ever since, I am always touched by the sight of roses that are past their prime, their beauty extinguished petal by petal. Yet I have always shied away from trying to photograph anything similar to the Steichen image. Today I happened to have a shoot in a house that had several rose bushes in the garden. We used the blooms as props, and at the end of the day, I just had to take this picture for myself.

Garden Roses, Watermill, August 3, 2010


Days of Being Wild

Fire Island
Night swim
Endless days
Early morning walks
Sand under our feet
The sound of the ocean
The full moon on the sea
Lily running barefeet all day long