Cig Harvey has a distinct nature found throughout all her work. The punching colors and differences in tones take your breath away for the length that the photographs capture your gaze. Harvey is able to photograph just about any subject and writes with such splendor, the text creates more visuals that Harvey did not need to photograph. Gardening at Night takes the multiple forms of focus bound by writing and generates a connection between the characters in the story and the figures in the photos. Continuing from Harvey’s first book, a sense of acquaintance is present; almost as if Harvey pulled a distant memory out of the viewer’s head and made it her own to somewhat mirror it for them. A relationship forms with the woman in the text and the images seem to fit so well in different parts of the story without it needing to be said outright.
The photographs in Gardening at Night appear routine and yet the color and stare in some of them takes them to a higher level. Every season, every stage of life, every emotion is experienced during the book. You can feel the subtle shift after the page turn and do almost a double take to make sure that you aren’t wrong with what feeling you are experiencing in that new instance. It is like an examination of a singular home life for a family over the course of a year and what they experience in the secluded location they call home. Somewhere off the beaten path they decided to move to just to get away from the hustle of life in their previous town and now their lives are filled with the beautiful loud color that Harvey provides in all of her work. The text mixed in with the pages is like a second analysis of the same family, just in a different form in order for the viewer to build their own illustrations in their own heads.
The writing reads like free verse poetry. Within the book, the pages contain pieces such as “She planted lilacs then peonies by the front door. It was like a hello and goodbye each time.” and “In their bedroom in the trees the birds perched on their shoulders while they slept, their songs conducting her dreams.”. The story alone keeps the surreal photos grounded to reality. There is a level of reliability behind the text for any woman to put in her own words. A story for the ages about teaching her child her interests in hopes they can do them together, trying not become her mother but realizing one day that she is just like her, and fleeting memories of her former lover. Reading the prose almost feels like peeking into someone’s diary; dirty and wrong, but feels so good to know that some feelings about similar conflicts are shared with someone you have never met.
Gardening at Night is a relatable piece of work without trying to be. Photographs of different ages experiencing life while the writing inside describes a woman in her presumed adulthood just trying to live the life she wants for herself and her child is refreshing for everyone, especially through any hard times. The focus, contrast, and saturation of every image are so crisp and simply gorgeous. A calm, steady breath of air, Gardening at Night is a piece of realness.
Written by Madison Rich
Image Copyright: Madison Rich