Documenting Britain

Gardens and Empires

My photographic practice is concerned with the evolving relationship between politics, landscape and art histories. I intend to continue my ongoing exploration of the politics of gardening, examining the relationship between formal public gardens and empire.

The same picture


I left Leeds with too much luggage to carry the geraniums, so when my mum visited last month she brought me the Mother Plant and a selection of her descendants. I met her off the train to help carry the two boxes, their handles made with twisted up carrier bags and gaffer tape. I remembered another plant in a plastic bag, the first photograph I made that still means something to me. In 2006 I followed a group from the Leeds Irish Centre as they ascended Croagh Patrick, a holy mountain in the West of Ireland, which has been a site of pilgrimage for over 5000 years. The group had carried to the summit a Yorkshire Rose, wrapped in a Morrison’s carrier bag and a pink blanket, to plant at the top. This photograph became the pivot of my project, Roisín Bán, which explored the connections between Irish emigrants in Leeds and their connections to ‘home’ – three small villages in County Mayo, not far from the mountain.

Unwrapping the geraniums on my living room floor, I reflect on the questions that run through all my work: about notions of us and them, here and there, cultural purity and processes of hybridity. These inquiries have taken me to Spain, Morocco, Palestine, and now back to Leeds, sometimes in the city but usually in nature. As I look at the snaps I made with my phone, I realise I am making the same photograph, over and over again.

It smells of Spring today, and so, with some trepidation, I start to clip and cut, splice, and tether, as I continue (for now) the Red Jan Line.