Photographs by Stacy Bass, courtesy the photographer. Photograph of Stacy Bass by Pamela Einarsen.
Stacy Bass is definitely a morning person.
“There’s something about the dawn,” she writes in the introduction to her new photography book, “Gardens at First Light” (at home books, $60, 224 pages), due out May 5. “For me, it’s the perfect time. It’s quiet, reflective and kind. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I knew the dawn would be my muse, but then it just was.”
Bass — a Westport resident whom WAG introduced to its readers in June 2012 when she published “In the Garden” — elaborates on this in our recent phone conversation.
“I think I discovered accidentally that the light was best (at dawn). People have the misperception that you should photograph gardens in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest. But then you have a lot of shadows you don’t have early or late in the day.”
Day’s end, however, doesn’t necessarily bring the peace or the freshness that “rosy-fingered dawn,” so beloved by the poet Homer, can. So daybreak it is for Bass, who rises at 3 or 3:30 a.m. and ventures out when it’s pitch-black so that she can arrive at her destination 20 minutes before sunrise. (All of the 12 residential gardens in the book are in Connecticut though the locations have not been identified for privacy’s sake.)
Bass uses a Nikon D4, which lets her see what she shoots quickly and adjust accordingly. Not that her subjects are going anywhere. Indeed, it’s one of the big differences between the book and her professional work as a photographer of interiors. There she’s surrounded by colleagues helping her move a lamp to and fro so it doesn’t appear to be growing out of the sofa, she says with a laugh.
Alone in the garden, Bass is the one moving about, capturing settings that are thick and wild or stately and manicured, graced by nature’s handiwork or dotted with man’s in the form of sculpture, furnishings, pools, structures and ornaments.
In a sense, “Gardens at First Light” is a natural outgrowth of “In the Garden.”
“In the first book, we had 18 gardens with an archive of 60 or 70,” she says. “These are gardens we felt should’ve been in the first book but there wasn’t room.”
In another sense, however, “Gardens at First Light” offers the reader a departure. Not only are the diverse gardens “very different” from those in the first book but the approach is different.
“The only criticism we got of the first book — and it happened more than once — is ‘I’m a real gardener, and it left me wanting more,’” Bass says.
That has been rectified through writer Judy Ostrow’s in-depth profiles of “The Edible Garden” or the garden “On the Rocks” or the one that’s “Coming Up Roses.” There’s a “Garden Reference Guide” in the back with drawings by James Gerrity “for those who want to dig deeper into the landscapes.”
For those of us, however, who barely know a petunia from a peony, Bass’ alchemy, achieved in the veil of diffuse light, transports us to another garden — Eden — and another dawn, that of creation.
Stacy Bass’ “Gardens at First Light” will have its New York City launch May 5 at Lillian August, 12. W. 20th St. in Manhattan, and its Connecticut launch May 7 at White Birch Studio in Westport. For more, visit stacybassphotography.com.