View obscured. Plants in the tropical house at the Auckland Wintergardens seen from the outside. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

View obscured. Plants in the tropical house at the Auckland Wintergarden, seen from the outside. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

I seem to be developing an obsession with the Auckland Wintergardens. More particularly, with the interface between flora and architecture, interior and exterior, exhibition and concealment. A few weeks ago, I found myself pondering the display of exotic plants for human entertainment, or:

the human impulse to capture nature and to use our considerable intelligence and skill to maintain species of life in artificial environments made to simulate their own, in order that we may enjoy those species on our own terms. (Nature Confined)

Yesterday, driven from the pavilions by a busload of very noisy tourists, I found myself thinking about the plants pressed up against the building’s exterior windows. From inside, these are the wallflowers, the backdrop to carefully managed displays. They are the hardest-to-reach and the least likely to be stars of the show.

Anthurium leaves behind glass; tropical house at the Auckland Wintergardens. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

Anthurium leaves behind glass; tropical house at the Auckland Wintergardens. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

The pavilions themselves are showing their age. Built almost 90 years ago, the Wintergardens are like a once-majestic theatre — still putting on a dazzling show for the visitors, but behind the scenes it’s all starting to look a bit faded.

'round the back. Area behind the Tropical Pavilion, Auckland Wintergarden. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

’round the back. Behind the tropical house, Auckland Wintergarden. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

I’ve always rather liked the theatrical metaphor for life, drawn from the sociology of Erving Goffman (1922-82). The language of theatre makes sense to me as a way of understanding everyday life (performance, audience, script, props, costumes — even the distinctions between front-of-house and back-stage).

And while we each enact personal performances, we do so within our society, where politics, culture and morality are themselves performed. In this social theatre, some people, groups and ideas are given starring roles. Others are marginalised; relegated to the chorus, to non-speaking parts, or even denied the stage altogether.

As both audience and players, it is our responsibility to understand the staged and constructed nature of social life, and not to forget those squeezed to the fringes — only visible if we really look.

This post was written for Sally D’s mobile photography challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.

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Wallflowers and set dressing: behind the scenes at the Wintergarden

16 thoughts on “Wallflowers and set dressing: behind the scenes at the Wintergarden

  1. Su, we definitely have a camaraderie about the intersection of nature and human nature. Your concentration on architecture and nature is an app one–one I savor too. Your images are strongly provoking and tell the tale. Those leaves are a delicious image that is nearing abstraction. Happy Photo Challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sally. Yes we do seem to share both an aesthetic and a philosophy of nature. I’m spending more and more time in urban parks these days where the tension between nature and humanity seems very visible.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge: Black and White (Early Spring Awakening) | Lens and Pens by Sally

  3. I can see why you find this place interesting. My mind went to a weird place because in B&W and the plants pressing up like that, it’s reminds me of the movies where there’s an asylum and people are pressed up against the glass. Or maybe they would be zombies. 🙂

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

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