Anne Geddes and the botanic gardens

By Jonathan Ives 11 September 2013
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Australian-born photographer Anne Geddes captured the artistic beauty found in Australian seeds.

THE COMPLEXITY, DIVERSITY and beauty of Australian seeds so often go unnoticed. However, when viewed through the lens of photographer Anne Geddes – one of the world’s most well-known photographers – the intricacies of Australian flora are brought to life in a way not previously seen.

In 2010 Anne Geddes, an award winning photographer iconic for capturing images of newborns and pregnant mothers, artistically brought seeds to life when she published a series of images depicting the elegant elements of nature in Beginnings, her most awarded book to date.

The connections between Anne Geddes and seeds

“She got interested in this whole notion of bulbs, seeds, plants and using that with her images,” says Peter Cuneo, manager of the NSW Seedbank project, a conservation initiative to collect and store seeds from across the world. “They rang the garden to see whether we had a range of seeds, and we suggested our Seedbank here at Mt Annan.”

The Australian Botanic Garden at Mt Annan, 60km south-west of Sydney’s CBD, displays over 4000 native Australian plants and is also the base for the NSW Seedbank. Established by the Botanic Gardens Trust (BGT) in 1986 as part of the international Millennium Seed Bank Project, the NSW Seedbank collects native Australian seeds as both an insurance policy against extinction and a source of high quality material for the restoration of habitats.

“We’ve got a cabinet here in the foyer which has quite an amazing range of seeds, gumnuts and capsules,” says Peter. “Anne was absolutely captivated by the display. From then on we started to work with her. We provided flowers, seed material, a whole range of things that looked visually interesting.”

Royal Botanic Gardens help show the art in seeds


Samples were also sent to Anne’s studio in Sydney where she interpreted the colours and textures, pairing the elements alongside her signature imagery of newborns and pregnant women. The result was a gift book of over 140 never-before published photographs.

Anne’s images contain an underlying message of conservation and celebration of the unique forms found in Australian flora, suggests Peter.

Professor Tim Entwisle, Director at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne agrees, saying that art projects are a wonderful adjunct to the science and practice of conservation. “They help make it accessible and reach people who may not find the science as fascinating.”

Tim says that Anne’s work allows people to view seeds in a different way, to see new things in a familiar object. “They also demonstrate the sheer beauty of our natural world,” he continues. “That’s got to be a good thing!”

Anne’s books have twice made her a New York Times best-selling author. In 2009 she was awarded the Professional Photographers of America Lifetime Achievement Award.