Posts Tagged ‘ book ’

You wait ages for a blog (part 2)

A lightning trip to Italy recently to shoot a couple of features – first, an unchanged 18th-century kitchen in a villa near Venice, still in use within living memory

Alex Ramsay

Then a three-hour drive to the mountains around Lake Como to stay in the sort of splendidly eccentric family-run hotel that is getting harder to find these days, followed by a day working in a lovely sixteenth-century villa, frescoed from top to bottom. Wonders behind every door – here a cupboard containing some of the family archives, going back to the early fifteenth century

Alex Ramsay

And back to catch the last of the sun and a little reward for two hardworking people . . .

Alex Ramsay

And finally, my latest book has just been published, The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto. Lots of pics, of course, and a luminously beautiful and perceptive text by Jenny Condie. As a reward for those of you who’ve scrolled down this far, I’m offering one free copy via Goodreads – see below to enter

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto by Jenny Condie

The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto

by Jenny Condie

Giveaway ends November 05, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

The Blog is Back

The summer seems to have passed in a long soggy flash, if you can imagine such a thing. I can’t believe I’ve not blogged since March – I plead far too much travel in mitigation. Repeated trips to the Veneto, to Sicily and Malta and a long visit to Japan resulted in an appalling deluge of pictures and an unwillingness to spend further time in front of the computer. I’m just back from Venice having completed my part of Gardens of Venice & the Veneto. A lot of fun to shoot thanks to the huge efforts of the author, the talented and beautiful Jenny Condie who has tracked down some extraordinary new places for our book, as well as the usual suspects. Among them are a Masonic garden with a skull-shaped grotto, a subterranean aquarium, monasteries, mazes and, this being the Veneto, more stone dwarfs than you can shake a stick at (if that’s your idea of a good time, as the great Groucho used to say). All this is just to whet your appetites – no pictures until nearer publication, I’m afraid. Well all right, just one –

Palazzo Soranzo Cappello, Venice

During my time off I found it impossible to take many photographs in Venice. Too many familiar views, too many cameras (and iPhones and iPads), too easy to take a quick snap instead of looking. I rather agree with those tribes who are said to believe that photographs steal their souls, and I begin to think that it may be true of places as well. I did succumb on occasion, though, particularly as one visit coincided with the annual Regata Storica.

Racing gondolas on the lagoon

the regata storico

Racing on the Grand Canal

the regata storico

A fanfare for a Doge

Further afield I’m working on a book on Zen temple gardens. I begin to understand a little more about these remarkable places, and how to look at them. The Japanese passion for stones became clear to me when I found this specimen, whose textured surface reveals a whole landscape.

Stone at Myoshinji

My last trip to Kyoto coincided with firefly season. Above the stream near my hotel the air was full of them, whirling up like sparks from a bonfire

Firefly

Shoden-ji, Kyoto

Todai-ji, Nara – the largest wooden building in the world

And finally, for those of you who are local, I’m sharing a small exhibition – In Our Empty Rooms – at the Sidney Nolan Trust of work made in collaboration with the sculptor Justine Cook, from the 13th-20th October. It will be a pleasure to see you at the opening on Friday 12th October, 5-7 pm. More information at www.sidneynolantrust.org

Hot Off The Press

Gardens of Cornwall is published today, with a lovely text by Katherine Lambert and (of course) pictures by me. If you know the south-west then you’ll know how wonderful these gardens are – if you don’t, buy the book and then go yourself. Now is the moment to be there. One picture below, but more can be found here.

magnolia wilsonii

Magnolia wilsonii at Cotehele

The weekend saw a quick trip to Brighton, famous for dodgy antiques and mad regency architecture among many other things. It should also be famous for the daily flypast of the vast flocks of starlings that roost under the pier, a sight that regularly draws the crowds from the slot machines and reduces them to awed silence – pictures below (clicking on them gives you a larger image):

starling flock at sunset

starling flock at sunsetstarling flock at sunset

starling flock at sunsetstarling flock at sunset

Ways With Words

Just back from a lovely couple of days doing Ways With Words at Dartington Hall, I think the nicest festival we’ve yet taken part in. A fantastically beautiful setting, of course, and a pleasing intimacy of scale about the whole affair. The organisers couldn’t have been more hospitable, and meals in particular were something to look forward to – generous quantities of food and wine, and invariably interesting neighbours to chat to (even at breakfast). Great Gardens of Britain drew a good crowd to hear Helena and myself in joint conversation with Lorna Duffin, discussing the book and the whole process of working together. We went to as many events as we could fit in – one highlight was Helen Dunmore speaking with subtle clarity about researching and writing The Betrayal, set during Stalin’s final months. Another was Peter Snow’s brilliant high-speed exposition of Wellington’s campaigns during the Napoleonic wars. Anyone who remembers him with the famous election swingometer will get the picture – he gave both the clearest and the fastest description I have ever heard of the battle of Waterloo.

We finished with a quick trip to smell the sea at Brixham, and rounded everything off by staying a night with friends near Totnes; a perfect few days away. Pics below.

Ways With Words, Dartington Hall

Readers queue for the next event - ours, perhaps?

Fishing off the sea wall at Brixham

Summer on the English Riviera

Great Gardens of Britain

Stourhead

Great Gardens of Britain is out at last and so far to a good reception, judging by the first reviews. We’ve enjoyed seeing the other European editions, too – Germany is currently in the lead for the best foreign title with Gartenlust. Should you happen to be in Devon and anywhere near Totnes tomorrow (Tuesday 12th July), Helena Attlee and I are speaking about this book and related matters at the Ways With Words festival at Dartington Hall (4.00 pm.). And if you can find a moment, we’re always grateful for reviews on Amazon!

Just one other picture with this hasty blog post, but I couldn’t resist it – freshly churned butter in the artist Anne Belgrave‘s ‘Self-Reliant Kitchen’, open as part of the local ‘eco weekend’.

real butter

Of Courts and Courtiers

A spell of feverish activity has at last resulted in my finishing The Gardens of Cornwall. The mad rush at the end was caused by a summons to undertake jury service, a potentially open-ended and unavoidable commitment. About the case itself I can say nothing at all, for obvious reasons, but it was one of the most absorbing weeks I’ve spent for a long time. Having someone’s future in your hands concentrates the mind wonderfully. The drama is intense, however trivial the matter. The faces, the body language – are they lying, are they simply nervous? And then the atmosphere of the court, all heavily grained Victorian woodwork with the hook still to be seen where the judge’s black cap once hung.

From one court to another. There’s been a royal visit to David and Sara Bamford’s carpet workshop here in Presteigne. I found myself on the royal press rota and being firmly briefed by the (glamorous and charming) Clarence House press officer as to what I might and might not do. It’s tricky, trying to photograph people and yet keep moving backwards in front of them, so that it’s as if you don’t exist and they are moving freely through an empty room. A strange illusion of total freedom for the royal couple, who are at all times surrounded by staff anxiously counting down the seconds until the next stage of the occasion.

Meeting and greeting

A pat on the back for Phil

The Cornish book finished on a definite high with a wonderful last day, an early morning at the open-air Minack Theatre, with low sun striking across the waves beating at the cliffs below the amphitheatre. More Cornish pictures to be seen here.

The Minack Theatre, Cornwall

The Minack Theatre

The ancient chestnut trees at Dartington Hall

With that out of the way I’m free to concentrate on the imminent publication of our latest book, Great Gardens of Britain, due out on the 15th of July. We’ll be holding a small event locally to celebrate, about which more information later. Helena Attlee and I are also speaking about the book at the Ways With Words Festival at Dartington Hall near Totnes. That will be at 4.00pm on the 12th of July (all information on their website, www.wayswithwords.co.uk). I hope we’ll also get a chance to tell some stories about the weird and wonderful things that have happened to us while working together on our books. Incidentally, there are a couple of good reviews of the book out now, one by David Wheeler in the current (July) issue of Gardens Illustrated and the other by Claire Masset in the July issue of The English Garden.

The present order is the disorder of the future - Saint-Just. Little Sparta, Scotland

A new feature – more Italian gardens

In tomorrow’s Telegraph Magazine (Saturday October 9th), the first extracts from Italy’s Private Gardens. I imagine this means it’s now officially out there in the wide and savage world – please be gentle with our latest infant. The Telegraph has chosen to feature some of the Sicilian gardens we visited – a good choice, as they’re not often visited and completely different to anything you’ll find elsewhere in the country.

 

stena paterno

An expectant Stena Paterno next to a Chilean wine palm in the Paterno garden

 

 

garden photography often requires patience

 

 

Behind the scenes at San Giuliano

 

 

helena attlee

The author at San Giuliano

 

I’m just back from a few days in Oslo, shooting a gigantic building in the city centre for The World of Interiors. Less than straightforward, having to shoot on film with the most mixed collection of light sources imaginable, most of which could not be turned off. The building was the size of a young power station, and it also rained continuously for three days. Not an unmixed delight, all in all.

 

laughter

actually it read 'slaughter', but I was feeling optimistic that day

 

By The Time We Got To Woodstock . . .

. . . we were roughly fifty strong. I’m speaking of course about the Woodstock Literary Festival, where Helena Attlee was ‘in conversation’ with Victoria Summerley of The Independent, talking about our latest production, Italy’s Private Gardens, (out in a couple of weeks). The interview went well – you can read one blogger’s views here.

helena attlee

Helena faces the gentlemen of the Press

It was a bit of a race to get to Woodstock, as the previous day we had driven back from a brief holiday in the Limousin – river swimming through autumnal woods and much reading.

starry night on the Creuse

Garden photography for the next book is starting to wind down, though not quite complete yet. I paid a flying visit to the Eden Project this week (horrible grey light and drizzle, sadly), Northern Ireland next and hope for a brilliant autumn to finish. (Though perhaps we won’t get one this year – don’t we need late summer heat to produce good leaf colour?)

Biome at the Eden Project

The Eden Project

dahlias

tidying up at Wisley

Finally, a film to recommend – Morris, A Life With Bells On. Very funny indeed, whether you love or hate this most peculiar of English customs.

Journey to the Bottom Left Hand Corner

To the Isles of Scilly last week, to shoot the Abbey Garden on Tresco. We took the ferry this time, in preference to the helicopter, to try to get some small sense of the isolation of these islands. After 35 miles of heaving grey-green sea and ditto passengers, you’re impressed by the determination of the Victorian garden visitors who travelled this way in huge numbers, and (at first) by sail.The Scillonian ferryThe islands were as beautiful as ever. Thick fog and drizzle had shrouded much of our journey from the mainland (and grounded the helicopter), but to our huge relief it cleared soon after our arrival, and dazzling Scillonian weather made its appearance.

rainbow over samson

Clearing weather over Samson

The garden looked great, a skilfully managed profusion of plants from both hemispheres. It’s the only place I know where agapanthus is considered a weed – it has spread itself across the dunes, where it looks amazing against silvery marram grass and the turquoise seas.

agapanthus on tresco

Agapanthus on the dunes

tresco abbey garden

The middle terrace

leucadendron argenteum

Leucadendron argenteum, the Cape Silver Tree

And finally, today saw the delivery of advance copies of Italy’s Private Gardens (actual publication date is the 7th October). A pleasure and a relief to see it at last – only elephants, I think, gestate for longer than publishers. In any event Frances Lincoln have made a beautiful job of it, as always, and Helena and I are delighted.

Time flies

As usual, I don’t know where the time has gone since my last post at the back end of May. Work on the Great Gardens of Britain continues frantically as green turns to brown across much of the country. There was another trip north in June taking in three utterly different and remarkable gardens. First was Levens Hall in Cumbria, famous for its deeply peculiar topiary. This really demands to be photographed by moonlight – I’ll try to time my next visit appropriately.

Levens Hall, Cumbria

Levens Hall

Next to Dumfries and Charles Jencks’ extraordinary Garden of Cosmic Speculation, which rewrites the history of the cosmos and of the evolution of consciousness in terms of landscape. Quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. From a photographer’s point of view it needs to be seen in brilliant light – we had one perfect evening, but cloud the next morning, so that’s also a return trip.

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

The Snake Mound and the Snail Mound

Then north-east to Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta in the Pentland Hills, a garden deeply rooted in the wider European culture, filled with quotation and wordplay.

Other news; The Gardens of Japan continues to do well, with a German edition also now due. More excellent reviews, too: from the lovely and deeply mourned Elspeth Thompson in the May edition of The World of Interiors, from David Wheeler in House & Garden and from Jake Hobson in Topiarius. Saving Churches by Matthew Saunders, is now out and contains quite a lot of my work (see below). The churches were an absolute joy to visit and work in – long may the charity (The Friends of Friendless Churches) thrive.

St Baglan, Llanfaglan

St Baglan, Llanfaglan

Old St Luke's, Milland, Sussex

%d bloggers like this: