The Garden Gate Project with Jason Evans

  • Photography  Courtesy of the Garden Gate Project
  • Text  Max Barnett

Can you tell us more about the Garden Gate Project and how you came to be involved with it?
The Garden Gate Project was established nearly 20 years ago. It’s a community garden for people with learning disabilities and/or mental health needs, though everyone is welcome and it’s visited by a variety of local people. I began volunteering 2 years ago to learn more about gardening, to break up my freelance routine, and because I am interested in social projects, how they are structured and managed. This is the second photography project I have run; last year we made Tool Shed Dark Room.
Photography © Jason Parker
Photography © Philip Bexon
Photography © Charlottle West
Photography © James Johnston
Besides the photography groups that you ran, what other opportunities are available there?
The Garden offers a sense of community, a gentle place to be. Alongside the obvious year-round gardening work there are a variety of arts and crafts workshops, garden produce and food related activities including a wood fired pizza oven, open days, bike rides, music events, and day trips. The kettle is also usually on…

Alongside the print workshops with Charlie Evaristo-Boyce and Jason Pay, how do you feel that participants learned new skills in creating still life imagery?
I am not sure how you assess learning; it’s not a straight forward transaction like reciting the alphabet. The workshops were an opportunity to experiment in a supportive, non-competitive environment. When you try something new, neural pathways are being opened, habits are being challenged. If nothing else we had fun, and I think it is useful for everyone to have some time to play.

Photography © Lance White
Photography © Charlotte West
Photography © Billy Budd
How do you think flower arranging promotes self-expression?
We all have different aesthetic ‘signatures’ that can be based on things like physical ability, spatial awareness, and cultural conditioning. The range of perceptive ability at the Garden has led to all kinds of self-expression, far more varied and less self-conscious than what I experienced during my time teaching at art schools. It’s refreshing and exciting to be around.

From Fox Talbot to Mapplethorpe, flowers seem to be a recurring subject in the history of photography, why do you think this is?
I guess it’s a hangover from still life painting making flowers an acceptable and easy socially approved subject matter.

Photography © Charlotte West
Photography © Ben Constable
Photography © David Hyde
Considering the premise of this project, do you think that it is important for photographers to use their craft to encourage positive change and progression amongst others?
Photography means different things to different people. I can only speak for myself and say that I enjoy the opportunity to share some creative time with my friends at the Garden. It gives me some balance with the other ways I engage with photography, and feels most satisfying. It’s a great antidote to photographing the knick-knacks of consumer culture for money.