Review by Douglas Stockdale •
Inspired by the early work of Eugene Atget, the sublime gardens of the French emperors became the subject of Christine Riedell’s first self-published monograph. These expansive “gardens”, which are almost the size of a National park here in the United States, are located in the general region around Paris. Her subjects included the French gardens of Chantilly, Fontainebleau, St. Germaine, Sceaux, Tuileries, Vaux, and Versailles.
In her attempt to visually capture these garden vistas, Riedell employed a panoramic camera that broadly takes in all of the details and yet only hints at the magnificent grandeur envisioned by the landscape architects. Some of these gardens are measured in miles (kilometers) in its breadth, where today many use a car or other transport to experience the full extent of the beautiful grounds. From my experience, I know that these Royal gardens can be visually overwhelming to the senses.
These were intended to be small secluded worlds that had allowed the French Royalty to entertain and extensively avoid contact with the harsh realities of life being endured by the common man/woman. The gardens are populated with statues, fountains, expansive walk-ways, and mini-gardens, essentially a walking art museum that was intended for the Royal few and for their sole benefit, only to be shared with their peers. Expected to be unseen were the army of support staff and gardeners whose constant vigilance maintained the Royal illusion of peace and tranquility to be found in these places. It appears that each garden’s design and grandeur was intent on bettering the predecessors garden in a Royal version of one-upmanship.
Through Riedell eyes we see that these gardens appear to be in a state of good repair while revealing that these have also become a bit rough around the edges; the chairs are askew, statuary are showing their age and lack of maintenance while some have taken on some addition contemporary markings added by the new citizenry, the pond’s surfaces are layered with debris and the weedy lawns are lacking the fine manicure of the past.
Lacking any Royal supervision to do otherwise, Riedell takes us on a private tour of what lies behind the garden’s crumbling façade. She provides hints as the the infrastructure that was required to support such massive garden endeavors. We are led on an unvarnished tour of these grand gardens that reveals their poetic grandeur in the light of contemporary circumstances.
The leporello design book provides an equally massive, visually poetic reading, a visceral representation of the experience of walking in these large gardens as the book’s pages spread out to an impressive 11” high x 27” wide image for each photograph. My one picky item regarding this book deign; since the two book covers are not physically attached, it can be tricky to hold this oversized leporello photobook.
For Going Out I Was Really Going In – Christine Riedell
Photographer: Christine Riedell, born Los Angeles and resides in San Francisco, California
Self-published, San Francisco, California, copyright 2019
Hardcover book, blind embossed, with Silver Foil stamped slip case, Leporello bound, four-color lithography, image index, printed by Fine Books, the Netherlands
Photobook designer: -SYB- (Sybren Kuiper)
Lithography: Colour & Books (Sebastiaan Hanekroot)
Book binder: FopmaWier boekbinderij (Wytze Fopma)