Geoffrey James (1994-04-08)

Geoffrey James
Practice: Photography
Date of Lecture: 1994-04-08

James_Geoffrey_w01Castello Balduino, 1990 © Geoffrey James

“Viewing Olmsted”

Over the course of six years, photographers Robert Burley, Lee Friedlander and Geoffrey James photographed the work of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), the work commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. The resulting exhibition and publication Viewing Olmsted examined some of the parks, campuses, cemeteries and estates that Olmsted was responsible for creating. The three photographers photographed in 74 different locations over the duration of the commission, including Central Park in New York, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, the Arnold Arboretum, Boston, the Biltmore, North Carolina and Mount Royal, in Montreal. Enabled to return to the sites several times, during different seasons and over the course of years, the photographers were able to examine how Olmsted’s work changed through the year, and how it was daily affected by its visitors. This project led to the eventual creation of the CCA’s archive of some 940 photographs that not only provide numerous portraits of the work of Frederick Law Olmsted, but also facilitate a dialogue about the importance of landscape architecture in the urban setting.

Viewing Olmsted traveled to the Equitable Gallery, New York, the Wexner Centre for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Mass and The Field Museum, Chicago.

Geoffrey James is best known for his black and white panoramic views of sites as diverse as the asbestos mines of Quebec, the cultivated parks of Frederick Law Olmsted and the formal gardens of Europe. He has participated in numerous exhibitions, including Documenta 9 in Kassel, Germany, and has also had published several books of his work, including The Italian Garden (1991), Asbestos (1994) and Running Fence (1999). His recent book, Paris: Photographs by Geoffrey James (2002) won the Rolof Beny Prize. James was also the 2002 recipient of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize.