Denmans Garden collaborates in a variety of ways with local artists and makers, be that through hosting events and workshops, showcasing work in the gift shop and garden or through providing inspiration and materials. This year we have been showcasing and interviewing some of these artists on our blog to find out more about their work and inspirations.
Mimi Connolly is photographer who works on both private commissions, collaborations and for many different publications and she is a member of both the Professional Garden Photographers Association and Garden Media Guild. A prize winning photographer with a passion for plants and the natural world, Mimi has been photographing gardens globally for over a decade, working throughout the seasons and aiming to capture each location’s essence, spirit and individuality.
On 26th November this year, Mimi won the Garden Media Guild’s prestigious Portfolio Photographer of the Year award and some of her stunning photographs of Denmans Garden are featured in the December issue of The English Garden magazine. Her photos really capture the ethereal quality of the garden in winter.
I started my journey by photographing friends and family’s gardens on analog film at weekends, alongside working in the Film and IT Industry back in the day. Needless to say which one I stuck at! However I have always been drawn to floral art.. creating my first piece of botanical artwork for hotel interiors aged five. (Perhaps with help!)
When I first started in photography I was developing the film myself, both colour and black and white at home…How things have changed, but it is still something I love to do.
I have a self-built mobile office which I take to location, so that when I am on the road I have a base, a place to stay for the early morning shoots and somewhere to process digital photographs. All my electric here is off grid, powered by the sun. This is something really pleasing, as I am always trying to minimise my environmental impact and any affect on the sites I visit.
Nature is a real wonder! My inspiration usually comes from what is right in front of me – You can’t ask for anything more…from getting lost in the golden light flooding through droplets in the trees, to the microscopic stars in stigma and sepals. However, there are of course traditional photographers I admire and whose work I have enjoyed over the years, mostly black and white. As part of the Professional Garden Photographers Association, it’s always encouraging to see what other members are up to, as its otherwise a very solitary job. A particular inspiration in recent years has been Gary Rogers, who was always at the end of the phone in some far-flung garden and full of motivating stories; it has been a great shock to have lost him in 2021.
For me, my work is really about capturing and sharing the spirit of a garden. This means I need to truly get to know the garden like an old friend, often seeing it multiple times in different seasons or lighting, before I photograph for the first time. Every garden I visit is completely different – not just in design, endemic planting or soil types but also in the vernacular, seasonal light and weather conditions. It helps to be aware of the sun’s movement and geographical orientation.
I first visited Denmans several years ago and it took me a while to observe and decide which season I would most like to document. Meeting Gwendolyn van Paasschen & being shown John Brookes’ beautiful studio we discussed options. In the end, for the feature in The English Garden, I was totally drawn in by the colour and form still present within the garden in the midst of winter.
There are so many viewpoints and different angles at Denmans from which to witness the vistas created by John Brookes and the extraordinary esoteric plants of Joyce Robinson. I feel there is that underlying spirit of them both in the garden and you can feel this as you move through each garden room. I am particularly drawn to the contrasting areas of formal straight lines versus sweeping curves. A match few could make work so well.
It’s a garden for which it would be difficult to choose a favourite area, although I have fond memories of a moment within the dry riverbeds as dawn burst through the Birch trees, flooding the garden with warm light on a cold day and highlighting the curves of the beds. Taking my mind off the biggest challenge… it being -8C that morning!
Each shoot is filled with unique memories and conditions. Spending my time alone in some of these most tranquil locations really is one of the ways I switch off. I always think myself lucky to have a job that allows this and is so varied despite the instability. When I am not in a garden or landscape I fill my time with running by the coast or spending time in the sea. I have also just taken up oil painting which has been both a challenge and a joy.
I hope to continue revisiting Denmans and documenting it in different seasons; there is also a rumour of an exhibition somewhere in the future so watch this space!
www.mimiconnolly.com @mimiconnolly_photography #thegardennomad
For more about Mimi’s work go to www.mimiconnolly.com @mimiconnolly_photography