East Coast Shoot, Day 1: no flowers, please

June 19, 2009

After completing the plans for Jackson and Washington Parks in Chicago in 1871, Frederick Law Olmsted showed his plans to one of the park commissioners for approval.

The commissioner, after reviewing his plans, made the following query to Olmsted in a letter:

“I don’t see, Mr. Olmsted, that the plans indicate any flower beds in the park.  Now where would you recommend that these be placed?”

Olmsted wrote back, saying:

“Anywhere outside the park.”

Indeed, Olmsted was not a fan of flowers, and was notorious for excluding them in his plans for the great parks of the United States.  Flowers, he upheld, were too beautiful in themselves to act as part of a coherent landscape, when that landscape’s purpose was to “unconsciously” affect those within it.  His goal was to have people enter into a park and be subtly washed over with feelings of ease, without having to stop and say, “Look at that beautiful flower!”

This morning marked our first interview of the shoot, with Dr. Charles Beveridge:  Olmsted scholar, editor of the Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, and author of Frederick Law Olmsted:  Designing the American Landscape, one of the most eloquently written books on the landscape artist and his works.

And so, fittingly, there was much discussion about what would appear in the background of his interview.  The team decided on the backyard of Dr. Beveridge’s DC-area home–a carefully-planned shot that included lots of lush green, but no flowers (at one point, a blue hydrangea was weighed down with a backpack to avoid sneaking on camera).

Now for behind the scenes shots.

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One Response to “East Coast Shoot, Day 1: no flowers, please”

  1. [...] you to notice the design — and, unless you’re looking for it, you don’t. The man even hated flowers because they call too much attention to themselves. You’re supposed to lose yourself in [...]

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