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Portfolio and Interview: Cig Harvey – Gardening at Night

Portfolio & Interview Cig Harvey – Gardening at Night Gardening at Night, opening this Friday April 15th at photo-eye Gallery, is Cig Harvey's exquisite visual exposition on the spectacle of the everyday, family, nature, and a life well lived.

Gardening at Night, opening this Friday April 15th at photo-eye Gallery, is Cig Harvey's exquisite visual exposition on the spectacle of the everyday, family, nature, and a life well lived. Together these optical poems form a lusciously colorful winding narrative imbued with wonder and energy. Where Harvey's previous bodies of work examined the relentless pursuit to define both self and home, the images in Gardening at Night reflect on the magical state of being when your feet are planted. Gardening at Night is Harvey's first exhibition with photo-eye and Gallery Director Anne Kelly spoke with the artist about her introduction to photography and what she loves about making pictures.

Gardening at Night installed at photo-eye Gallery

Anne Kelly:     I read that you started photographing when you were 13 years old. Who or what inspired your desire to pick up a camera?

Cig Harvey:     I did. I worked in a local community darkroom on Saturdays and was obsessed with black-and-white documentary photography. My first photobook, bought in 1988, was Chris Killip’s In Flagrante. I still have the tea-stained dog-eared copy on my shelf.

AK:     Tell us about your move from the UK to Boston  and your move from Boston to Maine.

Cig Harvey & the bunny on location
CH:     I grew up on Dartmoor in the South-West of England and spent a few years living in
Barcelona before moving to Bermuda for five years in my twenties. I moved to Maine in 1999 to study with some great teachers at Maine Media Workshops and College, and then went on to be an assistant professor at a university in Boston, a job I loved, for nearly a decade. After Scout was born, we moved full time to Maine. I wanted her to grow up in the country. I also realized how important the rural landscape was for my work. I love the city but in the 10 plus years I lived there, I only ever made one picture that made it into a portfolio. My work is inspired by the landscape, light and nature even though it is very much about the business of being human.

AK:     How did teaching influence your photography? 

    I love photography. I love teaching. Photography has brought such richness and depth to my own life and I feel forever grateful to this medium. I consider it an honor to be able to help people find their own voice and tell their story visually. Also, for me, the act of making art is a very inward solitary process, from conception to final presentation, so I love that teaching gets me outside my own head. I’m very social and love to have a laugh, so teaching strikes a good balance to my everyday.

Gardening at Night installed at photo-eye Gallery

AK:     Your publisher describes Gardening at Night as having a 'delicious element of Magical Realism' — what's your interest and relationship with the genre? 

    I have always been drawn to magical realism in both literature and art. Everyday, doing ordinary things — cooking eggs, rushing to FedEx, picking up Scout from school — I am waiting, ready for something to visually interrupt me. Something that makes me gasp. Sometimes, it is a
Scratches, 2014 © Cig Harvey
natural phenomenon, like the cobalt February light at dusk in mid-coast Maine. Sometimes, it's a gesture or a gaze that halts me. Or the color of a piece of fabric or object; a color so intense and unforgettable that I have to own it, to possess it or ingest it, as a way to have it near me at all times. Sometimes the search spurs me to book a trip to Russia or Iceland, or to take my camera underwater. But for the most part, I’m searching for it in the everyday, right here in my backyard.

When I go for days without gasping, I think about ways I can make something that jolts me. Yesterday, I painted a wall gold and folded a hundred paper cranes. I pinned them to the wall and then tried to forget about them so that I could be surprised in the morning.

My camera sees things differently than my eyes. Through light and selected depth of field, that gold wall is now a desert or a sky. I use the camera as a device to play with the viewer's visual expectations, making photographs that seem like an optical illusion. I hope that my pictures are an invitation to see the world in a surprising way. They are evidence that magic exists in the real world but outside the realm of normal time and probability.

Scout & the Cape (Red Riding Hood), 2015 © Cig Harvey

AK:     Does your daughter participate in your image marking process beyond the role of model? 

    I have always been drawn to visual stories about relationship and vulnerability. Stories of fear and wonder. Having Scout has heightened both of those emotions on a daily basis. I think I have become a stronger photographer since becoming a Mum. She is four right now and I love the way she sees the world. This morning we drove past a graveyard and she was like, “Ooo statue-land.”
Being a mother is one of the themes of my newer work, but the pictures are also about my relationship with my husband, my friends and my community, and to the land.

AK:     What's your process like; how are your pictures made?

    I think of cameras just as very expensive pencils. They’re pretty but what do I have to say? I like to keep my life simple: one camera, one lens. And I insist on it being a workhorse. I take my camera out in the snow, in the rain, at the beach. It is of no use sitting on the shelf at home.

AK:     You've been animating a number of your images for a few years now. Where did the desire and inspiration to animate come from?

CH:     I have always been interested in time. It’s definitely a central theme in my work. Photography is my way of slowing time, and the animations push this idea even further. By animating only one part of the image, the result is surprising, unsettling at first, and then the piece takes on a hypnotic, almost mesmerizing quality. It is very important to me that the animations exist not just for the web. They are actual objects for the home, beautifully framed like the still images and hung in amongst them. I love this presentation as it makes the viewer go back and question what could be moving in the still images. It pushes at ideas of perception and time.

From Gardening at Night published by Schilt, 2015
From Gardening at Night published by Schilt, 2015

AK:     Can you touch briefly on your venture in book publishing?  Any advice to those looking to publish?

CH:     Books have always been an obsession of mine. I love the feel of the them, the smell of them, the potential of them. I spend all my money on them. So making my own books was an important milestone for me.

Gardening at Night working edit board 

I love the narrative structure of a book and both You Look at me Like an Emergency and Gardening at Night are very much linear stories from start to finish. Gardening is sequenced in a number of different ways; visually, by season, and by Scout’s age. I have always written as a way to access imagery but had never planned to publish the words. But in bringing text and image together, I realized how they both brought something different to the table. I loved that addition.

Publishing is a collaboration and the best collaborations are when everyone does what they are best at and feels a strong sense of ownership in the work. It’s so important to find the right team. I’m lucky. My publishing experience has been wonderful. Deb Wood, the designer, is an incredibly talented artist with a true authentic voice, and I feel very safe in the hands of Maarten Schilt of Schilt Publishing. He doesn’t cut corners. We have made two beautiful books, both of which have sold out.


Gardening at Night opens this Friday, April 15th, and runs through June 4th at photo-eye Gallery. Cig Harvey will be in attendance for an opening and artist reception from 5-7pm and will be signing a small selection of the sold out Gardening at Night monograph.

View the Gardening at Night portfolio

Purchase the Gardening at Night Monograph

Read Melanie McWhorter's review of the Gardening at Night monograph

For more information and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly at 505.988.5152 x 121 or