I have been studying photos I shot of Roberto Burle Marx landscapes. They tell the story of a renaissance man mining inspiration, from modernist art and the deep roots of Brazilian fauna and culture.
Roberto Burle Marx landscapes design gave him international recognition. He was the first landscape architect to have a retrospective show in Museum of Modern Art, 1991.
Pianist, plant collector, painter, garden designer and much more
But Burle Marx had a lot of other creative interests that he excelled in. He painted on canvas, wood and large swaths of cloth in a modernist post cubist style which had bold colors and tropical forms. He worked in ceramics and tiles. He was a pianist and trained singer. He was a plant collector and would dive deep into the Amazon region searching and learning about the rich Brazilian fauna. He was strong, energetic, forceful and a great entertainer. His birthday’s were celebrated with ornate sculptural decorations which he would actively direct and adjust.
When Denise Otis, House and Garden editor, and I visited him to photograph his home and creative retreat, Sitio; it was scheduled close to one of his birthdays. There was lots of pre party activity, with different floral sculptures of Brazilian style being created throughout the property.. The extraordinary New York florist Ronaldo Maia, also Brazilian, a good friend of Burle Marx, facilitated our visit as well as the beautiful preparations.
Roberto had project of various kinds going on all over the property. There were extensive collections of plants he had collected and was propagating. High above the house and garden was the a collection of stones and pillars. Roberto was hoping to make a temple like folly with a wonderful view across a broad valley. There were easels set up with canvases in the process of being painted; stacks of tiles of various strong colors for a wall piece he was creating on. Ever so often he would stop at an old grand piano standing in the reception lounge and play.
The photos are all part of my present work to make them available to the public and collectors. My print site is growing and represents some wonderful gardens around the world, many of which are no longer existing.
I can understand why the Dutch in 1637 were mad for tulips. Initially they were mad because they loved them so much, that tulips were selling for more than gold.
The bulbs, which originated in Persia and Turkey, were being hybridized by the Dutch into new forms and colors. The Dutch were so successful at creating the desire for these new bulbs that everyone went mad for tulips. Anyone that is who had the money to buy them. Sadly, also many people who did not have the money, were spending the equivalent of a years wages or the cost of their homes, to buy a Tulip bulb.
First Financial Bubble
Investors assign this ‘Tulip Mania’, to be the first financial bubble and as a prime example of people getting carried away while their investing and ending up with out a real asset. Within a week many people became bankrupt when the bubble burst. Then people were mad for Tulips, because they lost everything. They had been a symbol of wealth which faded very quickly.
Tulips are very reliable bulbs and the Dutch are still bringing great flowers to the market. Tulips have a strong form and color and can be predictable in their blooming time. They are loved especially in municipal plantings to provide great blocks of unified color. I especially think of the beds on the central divide of Fifth Avenue in New York city, with strong splashes of vibrant colors. Or the round fountain garden in the Conservancy Garden of Central Park with the huge plantings of tulips.
Strong Colors and Reliable
Tulips, are also wonderful individually. They bring such a strength of color that I decided to photograph some for fun in 90s and Galison Books created notecards with them. As I am going through my archives of photographs during lockdown these jumped out to me. I am going to start a new section on my ‘prints page’ of flower portraits so large prints of them are available for wall decorations.
Finding images for large wall prints
Going through old four by five film brings to mind all the wonderful opportunities I have had to capture and record beautiful gardens and homes. I am excited to now be able to share those images in another form as wall hangings rather than books and magazines. Beautiful large prints are beautiful especially for private and commercial spaces. I hope you enjoy watching www.mickhalesphotography.com, the print site grow.
Photographing a tennis court in Montauk, seemed normal enough, until I walked into the house and knew this was beyond Tennis. I should have known with the talented team of Ghislaine and Jaime Vinas designers, I would be entering a super fun space.
The whole project had gathered steam and became the fully kitsch, tongue in cheek, ‘Floritauk Tennis Club.’ Greens, yellows, blacks all collide into a fun mixture for a morphed Florida/ Montauk private Tennis club. The tennis house took up one side of the tennis court and sat way below the main house in the hills of Montauk, NY.
Published in Interior Design
This shoot was published in Interior Design magazine in August 2020. Mick Hales is mostly working on his archives at the moment while we are in lockdown. Pulling out stories shot for magazines or books on four by five film and converting it for digital use. This has been a dream of Mick’s to have the opportunity to bring his early photography work to be available for people to hang in their homes and offices. You can see what is already up on the site here https://www.mickhalesphotography.com.
More about Mick Hales.
Mick is also working part time as a chaplain in an elderly community in Florida, called Freedom Village. Every week he produces a video for their Sunday Vespers service which enables him to use his fun images taken with an i phone.
Earlier on in his photography life, Mick, always had a camera with him, no matter what. Sometimes that was a Leica, as he used to photograph more incidental street images in London. He also used a 4 by 5 a lot and built a shoulder hanging carry case to hitch hike with it around England as a photography student at the London College of Printing.
Revisiting published locations during Covid 19: Saint-Gaudens
Mick Hales is revisiting photographs of Saint-Gaudens for his print gallery. Mick photographed the Summer home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens for a story published by House and Garden magazine Dec 1985. Saint-Gaudens was an American Sculptor, active at the end of the nineteenth century and part of the Cornish Art Colony. He developed relationships with the architects Stanford White and Charles McKim and also the painter/ decorator John La Farge. They collaborated on many projects together.
Gardens and studios
Mick Hales is now adding to his new print site. Many of these classic published photos are available for people to hang in homes and offices.
Collecting Images for Print Site
Mick Hales enjoys revisiting his Saint- Gaudens images because the Covid 19 virus makes travel very difficult. Spending time digitizing images has its benefits. Photography has changed in so many ways since large format film but it still involves timing and a talented eye. Shooting in the misty mornings and through the late afternoons into dusk, is still the way to go.
Saint-Gaudens’ parents moved from Ireland to New York, his mother being Irish and his father French. His father started a footwear business in New York. As a young teenager Augustus starting learning from a French stone cameo cutter Louis Avet. Later, the French influence in his life drew him between living in Paris and New York. He was also influenced by the French artist in Paris Henri Chapu and Italian Donatello. In 1868 he entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, until the Franco Prussian war when he moved to Rome. There he began to sculpt in earnest and completed his early work of ‘Hiawatha.’
The Neoclassical style of the mid 19th century started to change towards the more naturalistic Beaux-Art and Saint-Gaudens followed. Some of his notable commissions were Abraham Lincoln, The Puritan, Amor Caritas, Robert Louis Stevenson and the Sherman Monument. President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned him to redesign the 10 and 20 dollar gold pieces in 1905. Saint-Gaudens work is recognized internationally, on the very small coins or up to his larger monuments.
One of the striking features of Cornish is the ever present form of Mount Ascutney. It’s eye catching shape is an important terminating feature in views and landscape design of Cornish houses. The life style of outside activities; dances, poetry readings and social gatherings always have Mount Ascutney in view. The light hearted ‘play time’ feeling at the colony is still alive. Mick’s photographs successfully show the spirit of the place where an ‘Arts Renaissance’ was underway; introducing a naturalist freedom within Classical boundaries.
The Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, the sculptor’s gardens and studios in Cornish, are open to the public seasonally. There are Covid 19 restrictions to be aware of.
Stef Albert Bothma is a designer, painter and musician and works on the international scene. He is frequently in New York and used to live in the city with a view over the North end of Central Park. He has now settled in the Tuscany town of Lucca, Italy, after working to decorate part of a Palazzo in excellent style and taste. New York Cottages and Gardens magazine features the story in their
December/January 2019 issue.
A breath taking place to be.
CT Cottages and Gardens May Issue features a Japanese influenced retreat garden designed by Chris Zaimer and the owners, photographed by Mick Hales.
Approaching this garden one is confronted with an enormous Rhododendron round set conventionally in a sloping lawn, however, the recent addition of a Japanese styled garden hidden on one side of the house is where the owners’ heart lies. The designer Chris Zaima collaborated with the owner to create a peaceful retreat which incorporates several Japanese garden elements but still feels it is rooted in the Connecticut countryside.
A Selection of Books Photographed by Mick Hales
City Green: Public Gardens of NYC. Jane Garmey, Monacelli Press. 2018
New York Living: Reinventing Home. Rizzoli Books. 2017
Living Newport: Houses People Style. Bettie Bearden Pardee. Glitterati Press 2014
Bouquets with Personality. LucindaRooney. Mick Hales Stewart Tabori and Chang. 2009
Gardens Private and Personal. GCA book. Mick Hales. Abrams 2008
Flower Arranging the American Way. WAFA. Mick Hales. Abrams 2009
Private Newport: At Home and in the Garden. Bettie Bearden Pardee. Bulfinch 2004
New York Apartments: Private Views. Jamee Gregory, Charles Davey. Rizzoli. 2004
Antique Garden Ornaments; Two Centuries of American Taste. Barbara Israel. AbramsMick Hales was born in England and grew up in Pakistan and Nigeria. He studied photography at the London College of Printing and moved to New York in 1982. His first commissions in New York were for Oscar De La Renta’s wife, Francoise, at House and Garden magazine.
After one and half seasons of photography, City Green: Public Gardens of New York, has finally been published by Monacelli Press. Written by Jane Garmey and photographed by Mick Hales the book highlights some of the wonderful public gardens in the New York area. The green spaces to those living or visiting the NYC area are such a resource, from the pocket parks like Paley Park, to the full blown internationally respected Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and Brooklyn, New York has a wonderful diverse wealth of gardens.
One of the great moments are when the blue bells are in full bloom in the Brooklyn Botanic gardens.
As a garden photographer, timing is essential, to be on location at the right time for the garden and for the daylight can cause exciting travel moments. I remember one shoot I did for House and Garden Magazine of the Tea House at Marble House in Newport, I drove like crazy to arrive before the sun rise, but it was worth it as the Tea House and Marble House were lit with the warm first light. Sometimes you have to make the most of what ever weather a particular day offers, because the travel to get to a garden involves complicated schedules.
John Rosselli and Bunny Williams were kind enough to host the signing at the John Rosselli Antiques show room, March 20th 2018. Even though there was another North Easter coming into the city that evening, all the books on hand sold out. Be sure to get your own copy of the book so you can find a nice garden the next time you have time in NY city.