Linda Rutenberg – ChatterArtist May 2013

Our ChatterArtist for this month is Linda Rutenberg, a Fine Art photographer from Montreal whom I met last year at Photo Plus Expo. My friend Jill Waterman introduced us, since Linda was on Jill’s panel about night photography. But the reason I selected Linda for this month’s bulletin is not because she likes to photograph at night, but because she photographs gardens and is a Taurus, born May 13 – how perfect is that? You may recall I featured a whole bunch of garden photographers a couple of years ago, and I have to say, that was one of my all-time favorite issues!

Globe Thistles, Reford Gardens, Quebec – where the project began… © Linda Rutenberg

Linda didn’t set out to photograph gardens at night; it came about by accident really, as many great ideas and projects do. She was shooting for Landscape Architect magazine at the time and had been sent to shoot a garden festival at the Reford Gardens in Quebec. It was agreed that she would shoot in the early morning when the light was best, so as the gardens were locked at night, she asked if she and her husband Roger Leeon could literally spend the night in the garden parking lot in their 1982 Westfalia camper, thus they would be there ready to go when the sun rose. However, the garden at night was all too tempting, so with flashlights taped to their tripods, off they went to explore after dark. What they witnessed beneath the moonlight was so mesmerizing, Linda knew right then that she was on to something. Remember Taurus is the sign associated with our senses, and clearly, Linda’s senses were extremely heightened by her nocturnal expedition!

Japanese Garden (left) and Heliconia or Lobster Claw (right), Brooklyn Botanical Garden © Linda Rutenberg

Now since then, the project has grown and Linda and her husband Roger have explored numerous gardens all across North America. The 1st book The Garden at Night published with Chronicle Books in 2007 included 16 US gardens and 4 in Canada. From there the project evolved into a yearlong study of The Montreal Botanical Garden, resulting in book number 2 and a 6-month exhibition aptly titled After Midnight and published by Verve Editions in 2008. As Linda herself said, the next logical path led them to England – Land of Gardens and Gardeners Galore! I should know, I grew up there, and yes, everyone loves their gardens… So naturally, they had a plethora of beautiful gardens to select from, resulting in the book The English Garden at Night published by Thames & Hudson in 2009.

Calla Lily, Montreal Botanical Garden © Linda Rutenberg

However, one particular garden kept coming up in her research, and that was the Eden Project, located in Southwestern England, in Cornwall. Not your archetypical English garden, for sure, but more of an environmental and social project that combines conservation with art and nature, and a mission that certainly spoke to Linda. So much so that she reached out to them and was granted a residency during which she could spend time creating her own images of the project.

Umbrella Topiary, Levens Hall, England (left) and Biomes, Eden Project, Cornwall, England (right) © Linda Rutenberg

Next up will be another logical progression in the garden theme, and that is The Japanese Garden at Night. But before you start to think that gardens is all Linda photographs, not so fast. Linda has not only been a passionate photographer for the past 30 years – she is also a dedicated teacher and continues to lecture and give master workshops and classes. She was the co-founder and artistic director of Galerie Mistral in Montreal, and the owner of a darkroom rental facility called Camera Lucida Image Center. Linda has created images for a total of 15 books and her work can be found in galleries, museums and private collections all over the globe.

Tulips, Montreal Botanical Garden © Linda Rutenberg

She is currently working on a landscape series on the Gaspe Coast in the wintertime, a very remote area with not a lot of vegetation, and due for publication next year. So from the oh-so familiar darkness of those nighttime gardens she is now stimulating herself to capture the beauty of all that white snow and ice-cold water! As she says herself, “Quite different and quite challenging…”

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