This autochrome is one of about seventy-two thousand that were commissioned and then archived by Albert Kahn, a wealthy French banker and pacifist, between 1909 and 1931. Kahn sent thirteen photographers and filmmakers to fifty countries “to fix, once and for all, aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is no longer ‘a matter of time.'”* The resulting collection is called Archives de la Planète and now resides in its own museum at Kahn’s old suburban estate at Boulogne-Billancourt, just west of Paris. Since June 2016, the archive has also been available for viewing online here.
The garden is far more formal now, with a clipped boxwood parterre in a geometric pattern around a fountain. There’s a more recent photo here.
From over the wall I could hear the laughter of women
in a foreign tongue, in the sun-rinsed air of the city. . . .
. . . the sound filled up the garden and lifted
like bubbles spilling over the bricks that enclosed them. . .
Today, I wanted to show you her garden on the ground — on a mid-summer morning, a few days ago.
Sibylle says that the garden at the back of her rowhouse is 450 sq. meters (4,844 sq. ft.) and “close to town,” which would be Dusseldorf.
I love the combination of clipped boxwood with the mix of flowers and grasses that, lit from behind, conjure up a sliver of meadow.
Above is the garden in May (with Sibylle). In the post, she wrote: “Do not go out in the midday sun in the garden, but only in the early morning, when the back light streaks across the tulips; it looks great.”
All the above photos: ©Sibylle Pietrek, used here with permission.
I see the wild flowers, in their summer morn
Of beauty, feeding on joy’s luscious hours. . .
— John Clare, from “Summer Images”