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Gardeners' hands - Paul Debois, 2008-9

1 August 2012

‘43 Gardeners’ Hands’ is a series of portraits of some of the UK’s best known gardeners, focused on just their hands. They were inspired by the fantastic working collages from the 1920s, of botanical photographer Karl Blossfeldt. His work is almost anatomical and I wanted to produce a series of images that turned each pair of hands into a botanical specimen, reversing the effect of his work.

Sitters include TV presenters, award-winning designers, nurserymen and gardening legends such as Beth Chatto, the current Gardener’s World team, the Gardener’s Question Time panel and Alan Titchmarch. Each person has a passion in his or her field, and a character that can be seen through their most versatile tool.

The portraits were taken over a two month period, from December 2008 to January 2009, using a Canon 5D MKII with a portable white scoop and Lumedyne flash heads. As I photographed the gardeners wherever and whenever they were available, a constant setup was needed. This could be used easily and quickly, whether in the middle of a field, or TV studio.

In May 2009, the final montage was awarded first place in the International Garden Photographer of the Year – People in the Garden Category. It was exhibited at Kew Gardens through the summer of 2009, and has also been made into a Blurb book 43 Gardeners’ Hands.

Paul Debois trained as a black and white and colour printer in the early 1980’s, working for the Ministry of Defence before becoming a staff photographer at Haymarket publishing in 1985, largely for their motoring titles. Since 1988 he has been freelance, spending many years working for titles such as Car and Top Gear. He continues to work in the automotive field, but latterly has increasingly worked with natural subjects for lifestyle magazines. Paul’s original training as a printer has stayed with him and around five years ago he started producing more personal work for exhibitions. Usually based on landscape and botanical subjects, his work has been exhibited widely in London and around the UK, and in New York with the Affordable Art Fair.

Photographer since 1985, EPUK member since 2002.

See more work by Paul Debois

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