Heirloom Harvest. Modern Daguerreotypes of Historic Garden Treasures. Amy Goldman (Author), Jerry Spagnoli (Photography), M Mark (Afterward), 2015. Bloomsbury. 192 pages. List price US $85.00/CAN $97.00. Hardcover. ISBN: 978-1-62040-777-6.
Heirloom Harvest is a book of three distinct parts, each of which can stand alone. The first, fruits of the earth, is a glimpse into the author’s history with a house that “seemed quirky and off-kilter” and the farm that she quickly came to love. This part is a tale of the loving- and time- consuming restoration of the Abraham Traver house and the careful planning and planting of the area surrounding it. It is both a history of a farm home in the Hudson Valley of New York and a course in horticultural planning that has taken nearly twenty years to come to fruition. Goldman provides background about her gardens, greenhouses, orchards, and their production. The text and the photography are absorbing and like most well-written texts this one leaves you wanting the story to continue. The photography of Jerry Spagnoli showing images of the Abraham Tavner house and the current rendition of the farm is interspersed throughout.
The second part, the plates, contains in excess of 100 daguerreotype plates of heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruit. These are striking, varied, and very beautiful. The collection that was compiled over a fifteen-year period shows each image in remarkable detail. Spagnoli joined this project with a commitment to “respect the individuality of each subject I photographed”. He succeeded in every way. Each of the photographed subjects in this section was grown by Goldman – another testament to her skill as a gardener.
The third section is the Afterword by M. Mark and is titled history, memory, photography. This part is an explanation of daguerreotype photography as well as an in-depth conversation with Jerry Spagnoli. For anyone interested in photography in general or daguerreotype, in particular, this section of Heirloom Harvest is an interesting and informative reading.
“Heirloom Harvest is an act of preservation and a way of honoring beauty, diversity and history in the face of pressures not to garden, not to save seeds” according to Goldman. The combination of heirloom vegetables and daguerreotype photography more than makes her point. This volume is one that all horticulturists will want to add to their private collections.