SB: I thought, I can just do this myself: self-publish it,
and sell it out of the back of my car. But I showed a
draft to a book packager, Melcher Media. They were impressed, and they brought the publisher on board.
PDN: How did getting a publisher change the project?
SB: It didn’t change the project artistically, but they
gave us important guidance about what the cover
should be like.
PDN: Like what?
SB: My original version of the cover was more playful.
The publisher felt it was trying too hard to be modern. They also changed the title, which was going to
be something more esoteric, but they said I absolutely
had to have “garden” in the title for marketing reasons.
PDN: Are you a gardener?
SB: I’m not. When I first started, I was so naïve about
gardens that I would label images with color and tone
kinds of words. I was really driven to shoot gardens
because of color and composition. I started [photo-
graphing flowers] when my husband was sending me
flowers in the middle of winter. I sent some of my im-
ages to Amy Vischio at Westport magazine. She even-
tually gave me a garden assignment. [Editor’s note:
Vischio is now creative director for Moffly Media, own-
ers of Westport and several other lifestyle magazines
There was something about that quiet intimacy of
walking through gardens by myself, with no art direc-
tor or assistants, like I’m used to when I shoot interiors.
It was a very personal experience, and I kind of got ad-
dicted to that.
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PDN: Can you describe your esthetic?
SB: I try to convey to the viewer the real emotion or tone
of the space I’m in, and what it feels like to be there. I
compose the image in a way that’s really well organized,
so the viewer’s eye can train on an anchor, and absorb
the rest secondarily. Often when I see garden images
that look like a mish-mash, it’s hard for people to understand them. So I try to have some structure to my images. I’m focused on tone and the interplay of color. I try
to shoot symmetry if that’s in the garden, but I don’t try
to create that if it’s not there.
PDN: So it’s more about evoking a feeling than telling
the story of a garden?
SB: For me it is. Telling a story is important, but for me
it’s about conveying the mood of it, and the story is
like a subplot.
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PDN: Does your approach vary according to the type
of garden you are shooting?
SB: My approach is pretty consistent. I almost always
shoot at dawn because weather is so unpredictable in
the afternoon. In the dawn light, even if it’s overcast,
I feel there’s something magical about that hour. The
images are consistently stronger, and there’s something about the quality of light that feels more natural.
Unless it’s pouring rain, I go [to shoot garden assign-ments]. When I first started doing this, in one instance