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My Love of Topiary

My Love of Topiary series is one of several COVID projects.. Many of us took to walking during the long months of isolation. I personally went on countless walks through many of San Francisco’s uniquely flavored neighborhoods. With my converted Polaroid SX70 Alpha 1 in hand, I began the process of recording San Francisco's Topiary, which you will find many throughout the city.. Shortly after I started documenting my nearby neighborhood shrubs, I realized .color and shape both had to have equal representation. It was also Important to shoot on the brightest days as Polaroid films perform best in bright light. I shot on the freshest instant film possible to ensure consistency in the series.. The final touch was to add color gels to the lens and flash, making the topiary especially bold.

Topiaries hold fond memories for me. I was introduced to the topiary through a friend of my Grandfather, Cosimo La Barbara. Cosimo was a self-taught gardener who could never turn down a hearty bucket of free horse manure. He labored for hours shaping the wire cages used to guide his untutored shears. I thought his creations were more akin to shrubbery or living sculptures than topiary, but regardless of what others thought, he believed he was onto something and always considered himself on the leading edge of the "modern topiary movement" -- as if there were such a thing.

Cosimo also believed that fences make for good neighbors. However, he couldn't bear to install such an eyesore, so he shaped hedges to act as a fence as well as a diluted form of topiary. He invested hours crafting somewhat geometric boundaries between his property and adjacent homes. His squarish and roundish designs were not at all the fanciful topiary, as that depends on patience, a steady hand, and trained shearing. In spite of his crude attempts to create a natural barrier, his results would always bring the neighborhood together in admiration of his topiary.

 

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