Meet Simon Griffiths
Meet Simon Griffiths, Garden photographer
Simon Griffiths is one of Australia’s best-known garden photographers.
He’s also a gardener, and his new book ‘Garden Love’ features his own garden in Kyneton, Victoria, as well as favourites from around the country.
Interview: Robin Powell
Meet Garden Photographer, Simon Griffiths
You’ve been a photographer and a gardener most of your life. Is a camera a good garden tool?
The best way of editing the garden is to take photographs of it. You can improve your borders by photographing them: in winter when you’ve chopped everything back and you’re dividing things, you can use your photos to work out what changes you need to make.
I think it was the great naturalistic designer Piet Oudolph who suggested that you should take photos of the garden in black and white to work out textural contrasts without being distracted by colour.
Yes, but photos help you with colours too. It’s also useful to take pictures of other people’s gardens. If I see a combination I like, or a plant,I’ll take a photo of it, just for my own reference - not to appear in a magazine or a book.
So the gardens you’ve photographed have influenced your own garden?
Definitely. You take something away from every single garden. I shot a garden the other night which wasn’t to my taste at all, but I even there I liked the way they had butted up some of the paving stones. There’s always a positive -in every single garden.
How do you approach a garden to photograph?
Ideally I’ll shoot a garden in the evening for a couple of hours and again in the morning so I can get the light from two directions. At either end of the day you get long shadows and the light is softer and more interesting than in the middle of the day. If I have to shoot in the middle of the day, I’ll schedule a cloudy day. I walk around the garden first, see which way the light is, and make a plan of attack. Generally I’ll do wide shots first, then come in for the tighter shots, then when the light is really falling I’ll choose four or five shots to re-do. I’lltake maybe 600 shots and edit it down to 40.
How has drone photography changed garden photography?
I love drones because they give you the relationship of the house to the garden, and in big gardens, you can work out how the different parts of the garden relate to each other, and how they are set it in the landscape. Of course, it can be overdone. You just need one or two drone shots to set the story.
What makes a garden good to photograph?
Design helps -a focal point and a strong axis, or some symmetry or strong lines or shapes.
Do you have that in your own garden?
The summerhouse was one of the first things we did as looked at the back of a neighbor’s horrible shed and needed something else to look at. The garden started to come together once we had that focal point and the two perennial borders that lead up to it. Beyond those design bones we’ve been as informal as possible, and crammed in the stuff we love: sometimes designed gardens get a bit boring.
Do you get to spend a lot of time in your garden?
We live out here a lot and my office has a stable door, so I can throw open the top and when I’m processing garden shots in there, it feels like I’m the garden.
What’s the idea behind your new book?
It’s all about my favourite gardens and favourite people, the people who have influenced me.
‘Garden Love: Plants, dogs, country gardens’ by Simon Griffiths is published by Thames & Hudson, $60