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Cultivating happiness: The artist finding joy in gardening

Cultivating happiness: The artist finding joy in gardening

Words: Cecily Layzell

Photos: Lou-Lou van Staaveren

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From tending a window box to maintaining a rambling backyard, gardening is known to improve mental and physical wellbeing. Dutch photographer and artist Lou-Lou van Staaveren used her family’s plot near Amsterdam as a starting point to reflect on our relationship with nature as well as the simple pleasure of planting a seed and watching it grow.

The project, which started three years ago, has yielded a playful collection of photos in which Van Staaveren documents the plants and people in the garden through the seasons. Some of the images are more experimental, incorporating hand-painting or digital manipulation techniques.

This interaction between observation and intervention is where Van Staaveren finds much of her inspiration. “The photographer and gardener both slide along this scale of control, with intervention at one end and observation at the other. Sometimes you intervene, sometimes you don’t. [As a photographer], I keep going until I like what I see, and I think that’s what a gardener does as well.” 

She called the project Pleasant Place, a reference to the literary concept ‘locus amoenus’ which describes an idyllic space of safety or comfort. It’s a fitting title at a time when many people are turning to gardening to combat anxiety and connect with nature.

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