PDN Photo of the Day

Photographing the Rockefeller Family Gardens

Two places star in The Rockefeller Family Gardens: An American Legacy, a new book published by The Monacelli Press—Kykuit, in the Hudson Valley, established in 1909 by John D. Rockefeller and continued by his son John Jr., followed by Nelson A. Rockefeller, and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden on Mount Desert Island in Maine, designed by Beatrix Farrand in the 1920s and 30s. Over the course of several years, Larry Lederman photographed both sites, working across seasons to make a record of them “through the eyes of one artist,” as Dominique Browning writes in the book, a particularly moving experience “especially when those gardens themselves have been in the devoted care of generations of one family.”

In an essay, Lederman describes the Maine garden as an idiosyncratic Asian-style walled garden, “green and cerebral and serene at its entrance,” with a “hot and emotional” flower garden at its center. Visiting it inspired him to seek out its New York counterpart, a massive estate with a serene Japanese stroll garden and modern sculpture set in the woods. Together, he writes, “My task as a photographer, and one of my pleasures, was to get to know the gardens and to experience the ranges of their light over a number of years, and then to anticipate the changes in order to capture them.” Together, the images “present the immediacy of the experience of place, while creating, as only photographs can, a sense of immersion in the gardens, unbounded by their formalities, and an indelible record of them.” Writes Dominique Browning about the images, “These photographs are [Lederman’s] memories, but they become ours, as well, as if we had visited in a dream.”

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