James Basson

Celebrating 300 Issues – Claire Takacs picks her favourite photos

As part of our issue 300 celebrations we asked top photographer – and much cherished Gardens Illustrated contributor – Claire Takacs to pick her favourite ever GI shots.

Top photographer Claire Takacs has been shooting for Gardens Illustrated since 2007. Establishing her own style and look she’s been one of our go-to snappers for over a decade, travelling the world and being an essential part of what makes GI.

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To celebrate our 300th issue – on sale today – we asked her to do the impossible: pick just a handful of favourites from the tens of thousands of images she’s created for us. Here are her magnificent seven:

1

Cloudehill, Jeremy Francis, Olinda, Victoria, Australia

Cloudehill

December 2007

This was the first garden I ever photographed and so perfect that it also became my first GI feature. I was photographing mostly landscapes at the time and approached the garden in the same way, working with the dawn light. There was a special kind of magic watching the light pass through the garden and having this space all to myself to experience. I was so inspired by its beauty, but at the same time, also had a deep sense no-one else was there capturing this and it was ephemeral. So, I thought, this is something I can do! And it started me off on my long journey to pursue being a garden photographer wholeheartedly and start travelling the world. GI was the ultimate place for me to be published and this garden and the kind opportunity, owner and designer Jeremy Francis gave me, to enter his garden at 5am will always be very special to me.

2

Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden, Capetown, South Africa

Kirstenbosch

January 2010

This was such an incredibly exciting trip to visit South Africa on a media tour to shoot several gardens for GI. I couldn’t believe my luck landing this opportunity. Kirstenbosch was breathtakingly beautiful, both for the amazing flora and the backdrop of Table mountain. This was such a beautiful morning there and I was so glad to get this shot while the light was still soft, to show the garden as it sits in its wider setting. My favourite gardens to shoot as those with stunning natural landscapes beyond, going back to my love of landscape. It’s always fascinating to capture that sense of place.

3

Lotusland

Lotusland

January 2011

This was such a memorable shoot. It was completely surreal to have this extraordinary garden to myself for a few hours in the mist. I loved it, but ran around as quickly as I could to capture as much as possible before the harsh light started to break through. This garden has so much atmosphere and is so unique and a testament to human creativity.

4

Urquijo-Kastner Salamanca garden, Spain

Urquijo-Kastner

January 2017

I spent five extremely memorable days with Miguel Urquijo and Renate Kastner photographing several of their projects. The gardens were all quite a way apart and I have fond memories of Miguel preparing the gardens right up until the moment when I photographed. What I really love about my work is the connections I make with people along the way and it’s been so nice to keep in touch and be able to share the work of great designers, such as these. I loved the apparent simplicity of the garden and the sense of movement, which to me just seemed to flow out so seamlessly to the surrounding landscape.

5

James Basson, Côte d’Azur, France

James Basson

January 2020

This is one of my favourite regions of the world. I spent a few months here this spring and loved connecting with James and his talented team, who are doing something really special here and showing what is possible with dry gardening. I remember driving past almost golf course like gardens to get here and then coming to this and being so inspired. It just feels right for the landscape and I look forward to seeing more gardens like this.

6

Andy Salter, Kent, UK

Andy Salter

April 2020

I’ve never seen anything remotely similar to Andy’s garden. His concept of being totally surrounded by flowers was so beautiful. I knew it was a special garden, so made the extra effort to revisit several times to finally get this morning light. And, I am so glad to be living in the times of drone photography, as this really captured the magic of the garden like nothing from the ground could.

7

Lur garden, Spain

Lur Garden

Published 2020

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This was one of my favourite shoots. It’s the best kind of garden, which feels like a whole world as soon as you pass the gates. It’s completely magical and surprising at every turn and again, so completely unique. It’s inspiring what people create and how hard and passionately they work. This garden was around five years old at the time. I changed my flights to get the right light for this shoot, and had such a nice few days there photographing and spending time with Iñigo and Juan and their four dogs. We had BBQ’s at night, amazing fresh tomatoes and plenty of laughs and the light cooperated in the end, so I could not ask for more!

Visit Claire Takacs Photography here. And be sure to follow her on Instagram @clairetakacs