When I was an editor at Washington Spaces, I was fortunate to meet Jim van Sweden of the renowned Oehme van Sweden landscape architecture firm — he is known for the “new american garden” aesthetic, and you can see the firm’s work notably at the Martin Luther King Jr. and World War II memorials downtown.
Jim allowed us to feature his weekend home on the Eastern Shore a few years ago, and for that purpose, we hired a wonderful architectural photographer, Thomas Arledge. Here’s an example of his work, which focused on the house and its architecture.
(All Arledge photos republished here with permission from the photographer)
My day there with Jim, and the images Thomas produced, are among the most memorable for me during my tenure at the magazine. And that’s why I was thrilled earlier this year to see the house and its landscape featured once again in Landscape Architecture magazine.
Roger Foley, the noted landscape photographer who’s shot more than 60 OvS gardens in his career, shot the images for this story — his second time there after first photographing it in 2003 when the gardens were less mature than they are now.
(All Foley photos republished here with permission from the photographer)
I am stuck by the immense talents of these two photographers, and the way their perspectives, when applied to the same house, illustrate their distinctly different approaches — Thomas from the viewpoint of the architecture, and Roger from the landscape. Their combined work, in turn, gives us the most complete sense of van Sweden’s beloved Ferry Cove.
Let’s start on the front walk. From the very beginning, each photographer shows us where the focus is. Roger, for example, was assigned to illustrate the home’s native grasses and plantings, rich with the earth tones of autumn:
The home’s structure and its hardscape are more prominent in Thomas’ version of this walk:
When you first walk inside Ferry Cove, you’re nearly knocked over by the effect of the front hallway, leading you back into an enormous living space clad in glass on the far end. Both photographers captured this view, but at different times of day, giving the same space a vastly different feel:
Thomas shot this one during the day, when the light wood rising up on each side positively glowed:
In Thomas’ picture, you’re seeing the wood, the rugged cinder block, the brushed plywood floor, and the midcentury furniture beyond that is framed by windows. The nature outside nearly looks like a painting — a strong but supporting act.
Not so in this evening image of the same space from Roger:
Right away, you see the setting sun, the water, and the grasses through those enormous framed windows. It’s like the sun itself is illuminating that daybed.
Same thing here with Roger’s shot from the kitchen:
Roger uses architecture as a stage for his nature shots, as you see above. With Thomas, it’s the other way around. Both results are striking.
Here’s another example from inside the living room: Roger shoots so you see how the space is a stage for everything outside:
While Thomas, below, focuses exclusively on the interior spaces and its vintage-modern furnishings and art (van Sweden had huge “barn doors” built on sliders to open up into his bedroom — nothing in this house stoops down to our lowly scale — everything designed by DC architect Suman Sorg is towering):
Jim van Sweden intended for nature to be the star attraction in almost every space here, so in this image that Thomas shot of the guest house bathroom, you can’t help but keep looking through this broad space to the meadows beyond:
Tables turned, Roger captured the house as a dwarf amid the mature, flowering and wild gardens that surround it:
I’ve saved my favorite comparison for last: The snake sculpture that serves as a hand rail into the pool out back, which Jim commissioned from the same sculptor who did the bronze work on the World War II Memorial in DC. Same hand rail, two completely different images.
Here’s this one from Thomas:
And this from Roger:
It’s not often that we are treated to the work of two incredible photographers such as Roger Foley and Thomas Arledge, and how they interpret the same house and grounds in their own unique styles. These images illustrate how a photographer’s eye, his style of making pictures, and — indeed — the specific requests of his client play into the final product. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is true, and each beholder at Ferry Cove has translated it into myriad facets — all of them breathtaking.