Context as Category
©Pollarded Willows by James Kerr
The category is both a core element and binding force for any photography competition. They should direct the flow of creative ideas and help channel thematic content whilst providing a sense of cohesion.
Their central place within a competition means that organisers must find contextual and contemporary homes for new categories they introduce. For us this translates into a need to track the ever-evolving relationship we have with gardens and green spaces and the kinds of ways we choose to interact with them.
Outdoor Living is one such avenue which deserved a dedicated space for such exploration, as it meets the above criteria for what a new category should set out to achieve.
We asked Chelsea award winning garden designer and IGPOTY judge, Chris Beardshaw about the changing ways we choose to live outside:
“Over time the formal boundary between internal and external spaces has become increasingly permeable. Well designed spaces now harness the character and personality of the context that, with design flair, can create inspiring and evocative schemes rich in sensory delights.”
This desire to harness the outside world as an indoor living space, reflects our growing need to feel closer to nature. This is why design is so important, but it hasn’t got to be grandiose and lavishly expensive. The personal aspect of these outdoor living spaces are important reflections of our ourselves and how we want to feel in these new spaces.
When the balance is right, a great and natural harmony is achieved between the newly created man-made space and the organic, sometimes, untamed surroundings. What was once a desire to control, is now a necessity to preserve through sustainable attitudes. This behaviour demonstrates a gradually shifting pattern of rehabilitation and reconciliation with the way we impose ourselves upon the natural world.
From this we are able to access the first theoretical pillar of this category, which is sustainability and responsible use of land. Within the task of bringing the inside, out, we must utilise both our individuality and that of the landscape we find ourselves in, and that is where photography plays a huge role. It has the ability to draw out these interconnecting stories that combine and contrast the expanse of nature with individual human agency.
The stories that we’re looking for are ones that demonstrate the most empathy with nature. From a simple patio to an architectural aquatic marvel these constructions are becoming physical conversations rather than one-way dialogues.
The second theoretical pillar then is individuality. There are multifarious ways to live in a garden and we encourage the inclusion of people within this category to tell a story and to explicitly show personality and character at work within a garden space.
These pillars not only help to form the contextual and contemporary home we mentioned at the start, they also help us access a relationship that is both old and strikingly modern. Outdoor Living has the capacity to help us better understand our place in nature - both in our reaction to it and our acceptance of it.
In this way both theory and photography exhibit the same parallels: sometimes even the most inspiring and evocative of schemes can only be recognised within the most elegant and meaningful of contexts.