This series was all shot with an 8×10 view camera over almost a decade in the back gardens of three families living near Melbourne, Australia. The back gardens here in this dry, golden, sun-drenched country contrast so strongly with the lush green or frozen backyards of rural New York where I grew up. The vernacular, the textures the light are all so different here: dry earth, dust, sun through palm-leaves, coriander growing feral, the smell of over-ripe figs, the way the back garden is often another outdoor room here, an extension of the house, mysteriously growing into the family and reflecting the people who live in it.
The images in this series highlight the dual sense of displacement mixed with tentative belonging that I often feel in my adopted home, where my own kids are growing up with these particular details as their most familiar environment, taken right into their deepest inner experience of what home feels like. These images are an attempt to wrestle with notions of home, with familiarity and foreign-ness, with the imperfect intimacy of a family’s private space. They are portraits of the family as well as the garden, the way this ecology looks and feels in daily life. What does it mean to live on land that isn’t really mine? Can you ever not be home? How much of biography is geography? How does photography inflect our sense of self, home and family identity, freezing this one out of a million fleeting moments as it does? How does the ritual of large format photography mark a moment or place as worthy of repeated remembering and meaning-making?
Since the images were all shot with an 8×10 view camera, I had originally planned to enlarge them myself in the darkroom. However, after the birth of my first child I found that my photographic practice had to change. I only had an hour an a half per day to work while my son napped, and I soon realized that I would have to discover a new way to print the negatives – at home, very quietly, without chemicals, and always poised to dash away when I heard him wake up.
I realised I could tape the 8×10 inch negatives to my back door window, shoot them with a digital camera, and then invert them in post. Some of the colours and shapes from the garden on the other side of the window are visible in the final images: the residue of objects from my new life as a mother. A blue wading pool, scattered toys, laundry, a red hammock.
The images have two defining moments: the first when I clicked the shutter in other people’s back gardens, and the second when I re-shot the negatives on the window in my own back garden. In this way, even though there is a digital element involved, the process of making them reflects a traditional printing process, especially some of the alternative processes I have used before, like palladium, platinum or salt printing.