Control & Cooperation

In the series Control and Cooperation, Joelle McTigue examines the rituals of gardening and the creation of public spaces that represent how a community wants to be viewed. The work responds to the history of each public space and how it embodies the power dynamics of practical, leisurely, and spiritual pursuits. Restructuring the landscapes, McTigue transforms close-up snapshots into aerial botanical gardens. Control and Cooperation addresses the constant movement of how perception can change.

Interview

The Collective

[TC] Could you explain the process by which you produce your images?

[JM] My street photography evolved during my travels when I became enamored with the history of the grand gardens across Europe. The gardens, their history, and how the land is re-purposed inform how I deconstruct and rebuild my photos. I digitally take the photos apart and re-stitch them together to collapse the perspective and emulate an aerial point of view. The outcome is closer to a digital painting than a photograph.

Read the entire interview here.

Leipzig, Germany

Market Days

When I reflect on my time in Leipzig, I’m reminded of a parallel universe feeling. A day wandering my neighborhood, I felt misplaced in time – imagine 1980’s hardcore punk New York mashed with Portland’s farmers market crowd against a backdrop of Gründerzeit architecture. It was not uncommon to see four-foot mohawks pushing six-inch mohawks in their strollers, stopping for craft ice cream with their fresh picks from Marktplatz.

The main square draws traders from all over Saxony for weekly market days and grand celebrations. Wooden stalls roll out to showcase talents and wares during the city’s Christmas Market, Easter Market, and Wine Festival. The October Market Days usher in the autumn season by celebrating Saxon history with historic charm. In addition to the square lighting up with traditional autumn goods, the square fills up with artisans, showpeople, dancing in the open air, and, in grand German tradition, the Hopfengarten beer garden.

Directly in front of the square sits Germany’s most important town hall, Altes Rathaus. The grand building dominates an entire length of the main square. For more than 400 years, it’s been at the center of festivities. It welcomed Saxon princes, patrician weddings, and court proceedings in its early years. Today the Old Town Hall houses the Museum of City History.

Aberystwyth, Wales

Parade

As my black cab pulled up to the airport, the cabbie asked me where I was headed, “Wales!” “It’s beautiful there, which city?” “I can’t pronounce it. There are a lot of constants and few vowels.” Of course, I was serious, but it made the cabbie laugh.

On one of my adventure days, I took the bus as far as it would take me. Ninety minutes later, I arrived 30 miles away in Aberystwyth. Ready for breakfast, I meandered over to the high street to find a bakery. In the United Kingdom, the high street is both literal and figurative. We call it the main street in the US. In Aberystwyth, it’s North Parade. It’s the center throughway of the town and the commercial shopping area. In the 1860s, urbanization created a need for a centralized shopping area because people needed a place to purchase their food.

Women of the early 20th century sought a place to venture out independently. This gave rise to tea shops and department stores on the high street. Through the rise and fall of disposable incomes, the decor and customer service were at their peak. So I was happy to have a traditional Welsh breakfast, even if it meant I took only a bite of blood sausage.

Valencia, Spain

Monastery of Santa María de la Valldigna

When I lived in Valencia, my landlord was a local librarian and history buff. So he offered to take me on a tour to learn about local culture. On one of the trips, he took me to the Valldigna valley between Valencia and Gandia.

He told me the monastery monks gave the land by royal decree to create a Catholic hold for the region. This was a political move to help push the Moors from the valley. For nearly 540 years Monastery of Santa María de la Valldigna was an important monastery in the Cistercian order.

In 1835, the rise of the ecclesiastical confiscations of Mendizábal changed the future of monasteries in Spain. This legislation led by economist and prime minister Juan Álvarez Mendizábal under Queen Isabel II of Spain privatized the lands and turned the monastery over to a rising middle class. A local revolt ensued to protect the monastery. However, like many other monasteries in Spain, this was also abandoned.

For 156 years, the monastery fell into disrepair until the city of Valencia decided it should be restored. The Valencia Community passed a statute calling it “the spiritual, historical and cultural temple of the ancient Kingdom of Valencia. It is as well a symbol of the grandeur of the Valencian people.”

The buildings are still undergoing restoration and will one day be “a cultural center of reference and point of sentimental union,” according to its website. You can find its location on the Route of the Monasteries of Valencia, just north of Barx.

Gandia, Spain

Procession

My local history buff/ landlord/ tour guide took me to breakfast before touring the city of Gandia. My landlord was as curious about America as I was about Spain. His friend had vacationed in Los Angeles and told him a crazy story he needed to confirm. While staying at a hotel with a breakfast buffet, his friend wandered around looking for the wine. When he asked a hotel employee where to find the wine, the employee responded, “It’s 9am!” So, with almost perfect precision, our waiter delivered the first craft of breakfast wine.

We visited Los Borja Ducal Palace, a residence that played an essential role in the Italian Renaissance, the union of the Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile (Ferdinand and Isabella), and the Catholic Church. The rise of the Borja family began with Alfons Borja, who became Pope Callixtus III. His nephew Rodrigo became Pope Alexander VI. His great-nephew Cesare became Captain-General of the church’s armies and inspired Niccoló Machiavelli’s The Prince. His great-niece was a suspected murderer. Whereas Alfonso’s great-great-grandson, Francis, chose to abandon his Duke of Gandia title to live simply as a Jesuit (Society of Jesus) monk. In Gandia, he founded Real Colegio Escuelas Pías, less than a quarter-mile from his birthplace.

We watched the Roman Catholic brotherhoods organize the public ritual march down Carrer de Sant Francesc de Borja outside the doors of Real Colegio Escuelas Pías. During the last days of Lent, clergy and penitents celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus with a procession of religious statues, a giant cross, and colored hoods and robes. The colors identify the affiliation of the brotherhood, while the hoods allow the person to repent in private. This event and brotherhoods date to the 14th century and many of the traditions maintain their medieval take on spiritual hopes and biblical interpretations.

Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade Military Museum

Serbian military history spans over 1,100 years alongside the rise and falls of controlling empires. The Belgrade military museum resides in Kalemegdan Park, the city center’s green space.

Belgrade sits at the junction of the Danube and Sava Rivers. The Danube stretches from Germany to the Black Sea in Romania. Several early human cultures settled along the river before being used as a primary route for conquers.

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror sailed up the Danube to steal Belgrade from the Kingdom of Hungary. Mehmed II’s 70,000 men arrived to attack the Fortress of Belgrade [Siege of Belgrade (1456)].

The Fortress of Belgrade is a military architectural achievement. Built-in the Middle Ages, there were three lines of defense. A double wall and four gates protected the lower town, military camps surrounded the palace in the upper city, and the palace protected the inner castle.

It took Mehmed II’s army a week to penetrate the walls. The defenders set a wall of tar on fire that burned into the night. Two thousand of Belgrade’s peasants took this opportunity to defend themselves. They moved up the rear of the Ottoman army along the Sava River and attacked, crying out, “The Lord who made the beginning will take care of the finish!” The peasant’s attack was countered, but when the Sultan realized he was under attack from both sides, he and his men retreated into the darkness.

The fortress turned into a public event and cultural center in 1952. When I lived in Belgrade, I discovered Balkan-Mexican fusion burritos. It may seem off-putting to add pickled items to a burrito, but it became addictive. I’d often buy one for lunch when I’d spend the afternoon in Kalemegdan Park watching tennis matches down between the walls, studying the history, or browsing the stalls of local goods.

The military museum (founded 1878), located within the fortress, displays ancient and modern memorabilia from Serbia’s long history of conflicts with the Romans, Greeks, Hungarians, and Ottomans.

Lampeter, Wales

The Black Lion

When I arrived in Wales, I was excited to speak English again after several months in the Balkans. So, excited that it had slipped my mind that they speak Welsh in Wales. As my bus rolled through Cardiff, Swansea, and Carmarthen, I hoped the labels at the grocery store were in English. The grocery store was a ritual during my first week in a new town. It was time for me to explore and figure out my staple foods for the next several weeks. I constantly spent an obscene amount of time in the store on those first few trips.

While roaming the aisles, I noticed the cashier watching me. I thought she was making sure that I either put the item I was inspecting back on the shelf or into my basket. While she was ringing me up, she finally spoke, “You’re one of the Americans, right?” I hesitantly responded, “Yes,” but internally, I was bursting with excitement – English! From there, she began to gush, she had heard there were Americans in town, but she had never met an American before, “you sound just like the movies!” 

This market town, known for its horse fairs, sits literally on an intersection in the country’s middle. Every time I walked into town, I passed the Black Lion Hotel. I noticed several “insert color Lion” inns and pubs as I explored the country. Inns constitute a significant part of United Kingdom history.

These public houses, along with alehouses and taverns, are rooted in the culture. In Wales, a lush country with rolling hills and not a lion in sight, I wondered how “Lion” became a popular name. Many inns opened for travelers as early as the 14th century when most travelers couldn’t read. So, they used a pictorial representation of a historical event, notable person, ancient association, local point of interest, or the land owner’s family coats of arms to identify their business. The lion from the family’s coat of arms was the most popular choice.

The color was added to distinguish the similarly named inns near each other. For example, one would become known as Red Lion and the other as Black Lion. Red Lion is the most common pub name in the UK. It’s ranked third in Wales, while Black Lion doesn’t enter either top ten list. By the time the United Kingdom instituted liquor licenses (known as “premises license”), the law had required all business names written in English, the official language.

Before inns, travelers would stay on the floor of alehouses. Inns were purposely built along transit roads and railways to attract and accommodate weary travelers. The public houses contained several basic bedrooms above the pub and a coach house for the horses and buggies in the back. I vowed to stay in an inn before I left Wales. My wish came true when I realized my bus from Lampeter, a town several miles away, departed at 5 o’clock in the morning. The only way to make the bus was to stay in the village and walk. The Black Lion Royal Hotel was perfect. It opened in the 18th century had a proper coach house in the back and a fireplace in the pub. Unfortunately, it closed in September 2017, one year after staying the night.