2 February – 18 March 2018
British photographer Kate Friend has selected a number of plants native to England for a series of striking ‘portraits’.
Having spent the spring and summer of 2017 touring a selection of England’s greatest gardens, Kate Friend presents a photographic study of some of the country’s native plants, chosen in collaboration with head gardeners at Chelsea Physic Garden, Great Dixter, Houghton Hall and Fern Verrow.
For each photograph, a stem was isolated from its growing environment and photographed in a studio setting, inviting the viewer to focus on form and colour. With a nod both to the Japanese rikka (standing flowers) tradition and to Gertrude Jekyll’s still life photography of the 19th century, the aesthetic focusses as much on what is left out as on the little that is allowed in.
While Friend’s selection criterion was that the plants were native to England, they revealed a complicated history: exploration, trade, colonialism and early globalisation have resulted in England’s rich and diverse international plant community, with the eclectic nature of the final portraits proving a comment on England’s multicultural botanical heritage.