Since the Neolithic Revolution (c. 10,000BCE), subsistence agriculture has been practiced by most every culture and in extremely diverse climates, from the tropics to the arctic. People have turned to farming and growing food for themselves for a wide variety of reasons, from the practical and economic to the political and philosophical. The methodology used and the produce cultivated vary widely depending on the culture and climate; this ties these spaces to the landscape they are found in and the people that are growing them. They become gardens.
Such gardens are an important contrast to industrialized agriculture. They have persisted even as industrialized techniques become more efficient, with the humble garden’s popularity often being punctuated by cultural contexts. During the World Wars, for example, allotment gardening or ‘Victory Gardens’ were booming throughout the USA, ostensibly to increase domestic productivity and thus support the war effort. Recently, gardening has become popular in the face of globalization due to trends such as the slow food movement, which have led to renewed philosophical interest in self-sufficiency and local or organically grown food. Increasing food prices caused by increased demand and food shortages have encouraged gardeners to grow their own food for more practical reasons in the developing world, in places such as Cuba (due to political isolation) and Mongolia (due to geographic isolation). And as populations continue to rise and the climate changes, it seems inevitable the importance of gardening will become even more apparent and popular.
With this in mind, I set about documenting the variety of gardening traditions around the globe. From countries ranging from Cuba and Japan to Mongolia and the EU, I have photographed subsistence agriculture, urban allotments, and community-based projects or “gardens” interpreted quite broadly. The gardens I have found have been incredibly diverse, from rigorously utilitarian to entirely aesthetic, with a huge range of techniques being used by those who till the land.
My interest in these gardens, however, is not technical or instructional. Instead, I have sought out spaces that I feel provide a unique context to explore and examine practical solutions, problems, and questions relating to globalization. The sites I have chosen to photograph often portray horticulture at an intimate scale: found along the margins of human settlement, these patches of earth are often separated from the surrounding landscape and the observer by a fence for privacy and protection. Land ownership is often tenuous, between our ideas of ‘public space’ and ‘private land.’ I aim to weave together these plots of land around the world as I portray the many stark contrasts I have found in these sites. Through these photographs, I strive to relate the spaces of these gardens to the world beyond the garden’s fence and my photograph’s framing. I hope to depict a world where the natural and the civilized are not thought of as mutually exclusive dichotomies, but as ideas and places that can sustainably coexist.