As the start of December approached, photographer Peter Moriarty was eagerly waiting for a delivery of 90 boxes holding 10 copies each of his new self-published book, “Warm Room: Photographs from Historic Greenhouses.” Its release coincides with an exhibition at the Cantor Gallery at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and is the culmination of a 25-year plus project, although the roots of some of the images goes back much further.
Its cover features the Royal Palm House, “probably the most famous single structure in the world for a greenhouse,” according to Moriarty. It was taken at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in a suburb of London and serves as a perfect example of the majestic hold greenhouses have held on our senses, both visually and sensually, for ages.
One of his Palm House prints is presented in a negative format to fully present the skeleton and design of the building. “It shows the structure off more than when you’re getting the three-dimensional cues about the space,” Moriarty said. “You can see that it actually looks like a boat form, flipping it, and seeing the way the bands are.” There might be a reason for that. During his research, he learned, “They actually had an Irish boat builder involved with the construction.”
While most recent photographs of the world’s greenhouses and gardens are reproduced in color, Moriarty chooses not to take that route. “Black and white allows me to abstract a little bit from the scene and to really then control the print in a direction where I want to take it,” he explained. He feels the same way about reproducing his work as silver prints versus digital, while acknowledging that digital reproductions can also be manipulated intimately.