Called Garden Variety: Photography, Politics and the Picturesque, the show is part of the PHOTO 2021 festival and was put together by curator Isobel Parker Philip, who says even the Gardens’ name is political – they are the Royal Botanic Gardens. To her, the gardens are also a symbol. “It is a Botanic Garden which features introduced species in a colonised country. That in itself is an indication of the political status of a space like this.”
The eight photo exhibits in Garden Variety are spread over two kilometres, their placement very deliberate. The work of New Zealand artist Yvonne Todd, who Parker Philip says “crafts seductive images that also unsettle and unsteady the viewer”, was a logical fit for the Gardens’ 19th century rockery, with its grotesque but beautiful structures. Luke Parker’s photos sit outside, next to the Melbourne Observatory, because his work focuses on astronomy.