Erik Madigan Heck: The Garden
A sumptuous clothbound portrayal of a family in Edenic reverie
In The Garden, American photographer Erik Madigan Heck (born 1983) portrays his wife and two young sons in a variety of richly colorful surrounds. The photographs draw upon Catholic iconography and other mythic pictorial traditions to develop a color-based narrative evocative of spiritual archetypes and the processes of dissolution and rebirth.
The series moves through a singular world—a fairy tale in which figures and settings become tableaux for hyper-concentrated tonal arrangements. Images are composited and oversaturated to create painterly and surreal compositions in which the familiar and fantastic are merged. Completing its aesthetic fantasy through lavish clothes, gestures of dreamlike poignancy and an Edenic environment, The Garden expresses the supramundane innocence and spontaneity that art makes possible—a life lived in the direct, immediate experience of beauty. Shot predominantly at the family’s home in New England, the series initially elicits comparisons with other contemporary photography confronting family life, such as Sally Mann’s Immediate Family or the work of Elinor Carucci. But although the subjects of Heck’s photographs are ostensibly his family, The Garden's real subject matter is color and the aesthetic possibilities of photography to create what it captures.