“As a film director, I feel it is my job to always be telling the viewer what to think about an image or moment,” says photographer and director John Jencks. “You have to be very specific about each emotional bead on the chain of your narrative as you pass them on to the audience (which is not to say the bead has to be obvious, just specific). With photography, I think there there is more time within an image for there to be a bit of back and forth with the viewer, you can allow a little more space for the viewer to put a bit of themselves into the picture.”
And there certainly is that “back and forth” in Jencks’ stunning new photographic series Walking in the Universe, a set of images showing the renowned Garden of Cosmic Speculation, designed by landscape architect Charles Jencks (John’s father) and Chinese garden designer Maggie Keswick.
Located in the Scottish borders, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation explores fundamental scientific concepts through captivating sculptural installations, as well as showcasing Charles Jencks’s signature swirling landforms. There’s a beguilingly cinematic quality to Jencks’ photographs, destabilising the viewer within the swirls and expanses of the landscape. “The Garden of Cosmic Speculation was designed with the 18th Century idea of ‘using nature to describe nature’,” Jencks explains. “This concept takes the physical laws of nature and expresses them in landform, aluminium, water and wood. The idea is that it’s all very well for a scientist to work out E=MC2, but how does the non-scientist relate to that concept? If you see the concept expressed in physical form, then it becomes relatable on more human (aesthetic or emotional) terms.
“In a garden, there is a constant balance between design and nature. You plant a semi-circle of acers and only three of them take. The minute you decide that an area where moss has grown for 30 years will be a moss garden, all the moss dies. Not to mention the fact that everything just keeps growing all the time! Part of the great pleasures of a garden is finding the places where this balance produces unplanned views, perspectives or moments.”
The images are being sold to raise money for Just for Kids Law. Jencks explains why: “I think it’s revolting that legal aid budget has been slashed and so I’m doing my best to plug the gaps. Just for Kids Law provide legal representation for some of the most at risk people in our society and I do what I can to support them.”
Walking in the Universe is on show at Sladmore Contemporary in Mayfair from 16 January 2018.