A book that shouts for you to open it with its green luxuriance of plants and trees. ‘It has the vulgar attraction of a bulb catalogue,’ was an initial jokey comment. Nevertheless, it has been ‘most charmingly’ done and it has a beautiful cover. In fact, ‘it makes you incredibly keen to open it.’ And once you have, there are more surprises because ‘it’s been extraordinarily cleverly produced.’ The book is almost an apologia for nature within the confines of a city park. Above all, it has its very own photographic rhythmicity.
Our Nature was conceived as ‘a major international photographic project about the meaning of the city park and our relationship with nature in an urban context.’ Over the course of the past six years Janine Schrijver visited parks in places as diverse as Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, London, Berlin, Antwerp, Barcelona and Vienna in Europe and Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai and New York in other parts of the world, photographing pieces of wilderness and urban landscapes.
The end result is virtually the creation of two books in one. Note the conspicuous green fold-outs concealing two parts that open in opposite directions. Ultimately the physical layout of the book seems to consist of three different components. The close-ups of the plant life retain something idyllic, but when you start nosing around in the fold-out sections you come across people, too: park users hemmed in by the city. Finding the right text for each park calls for some detective work, and in fact text has been as good as left out – but that doesn’t detract from the pleasure this extraordinary photobook provides. It’s playful and serious and commands admiration as a splendid wake-up call for the importance of our cities’ green lungs.