On the occasion of the Women’s Day, the short film I made on Donatella Trombadori recalling her childhood at Villa Strohl-Fern in the 1930s when the garden was an artists’ colony was shown during an exhibition at Palazzo Farnese, the French embassy in Rome. There were many visitors during the day and it was a great opportunity for me to get a feedback on the film which will be released later this year in a new (still secret) media dedicated to gardens.

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Heavy snowfalls in Rome have made a lot of damages to gardens. There were many trees which felt down, branches that broke…

In Villa Strohl-Fern, the tunnel of roses collapsed pulling down its columns and needs to be rebuilt. A branch of the cement tree, an art piece of the early 20th century by Baron Strohl had been broken and one of the trunks of the eldest evergreen oak of the garden, which might be 300 years-old, broke and felt on the ground. The tree was already missing one of his trunks and will hopefully survive. It was the first time in 27 years that so much snow felt on the Italian capital and 2012 will sadly remain in the memory of gardeners…

What could be more beautiful for a garden photographer than exhibiting prints in the garden where the pictures were taken?

I was really pleased to show 21 images of Villa Stohl-Fern during the “Nuit des metamorphoses” event , where many other artists took part. The organizers were planning to get more than two thousand visitors and it seems they reached or beat their expectation. I got the chance to talk with many of those who came to look at my prints and the compliment which pleased me the most came from Gianni, the doorman of Villa Strohl-Fern, who is a very cultivated man who have been working there for more than 20 years. Gianni knows a lot about the garden and I think he is one of the very few people I met during my work on Villa Strohl-Fern who really understand the garden and feel it. Every time I was going for a photo shoot, he was telling me about the history of the garden, if I had seen that special light which comes during a few minutes on some trees, about a piece that an artist who was living there had done…

I made a slideshow on my website with the 21 pictures that were exhibited yesterday.

Before the opening of the exhibition, with Rome and St Peter’s basilica in the background:

Later in the evening, during the show, and after it was closed with the moon over the exhibition.

I didn’t have much time to take pictures in the last days. I am now doing the prints for the exhibition on Villa Strohl Fern that will take place on May 10.

I like that part of the job : after so much time outside taking pictures, walking, searching for the best views, I enjoy spending a few days and late evenings at home, editing, printing, framing. I recall the feeling I had when I took the picture and try to show it on the print. Some people say it changed a lot with digital but I get almost the same pleasure when working with a printer instead of a darkroom and I can also print on beautiful heavy fine art papers which was not possible in the past with color pictures.

I will soon reach the end of the photo shoot at Villa Strohl Fern. Donatella Trombadori told me the other day about an evergreen oak in the northern part of the garden, near Rilke’s studio, which would be more than 300 years old. It is located close to the part where there used to be a lake and I can imagine Rilke and other artists sitting under it, looking at the water. It is beautiful and huge, with a trunk divided from the bottom in three of four parts leading to long branches, giving the tree a wonderful shape, reminding me a Chinese fan. I also like trees that get human or animal shapes and I was really pleased to discover one looking like a dog near the entrance of the garden.

As trees blossomed in the last weeks, giving the garden unusual colors, I will go back a couple times to take some pictures before I start to print the images for the exhibition which will take place on May 10 in the garden.

The daughter of Italian painter Francesco Trombadori, Donatella, guided me through the studio-home of her father at Villa Strohl Fern, which remains unchanged fifty years after the painter’s death. Francesco Trombadori moved in the villa in 1919, so Donatella and her brother Antonello were born and grew up there. I was very happy to find out that Trombadori’s painting “Il Viale Grande” dated 1920 that I was looking for, was kept here, displayed on an easel (Donatella told me that it was the one used by baron Strohl).

If one can try to stop time and retain the spirit of a place by keeping things unchanged,  I also like the fact that a garden is alive and can’t be prevented from growing and evolving. I will keep on looking in today’s garden for what remains of the spirit, the Genius Loci of Villa Strohl Fern, despite all the changes and things which disappeared since the early XXth century : lakes, fountains, grottos, the pineta which became a tennis court…

I took pictures of the view from the windows of the studio, like I have done before at Rainer Maria Rilke’s place, and managed to catch a reflection of the garden on a 1950 nude painting by Francesco Trombadori hanging on a wall…

I will soon go back to visit Mrs Trombadori who comes here every afternoon, and will listen to her, telling stories of the times when Villa Strohl Fern was an artists’ colony.