Flowers and Scenes
Pairing Images With the Essence of the Vineyard
By Amelia Smith
Lynn Matull-Gardner has an infectious enthusiasm for the Vineyard. Through her camera lens, she focuses on the Island’s beauty and delights in the vibrant colors she finds here. Her coffee table book, Martha’s Vineyard in Flowers & Scenes, pairs photos of flowers with other scenes, picking up on colors and design elements that link the two together.
It’s a labor of love that began when she first came to the Vineyard on a weekend getaway, a visit which ignited her passion for photography, which had always been part of her life.
“My dad was an engineer at Kodak,” she says. “He worked there for about 25 years, from 1975 until he retired, which was just before digital photography came into play. He always gave cameras and film as presents. It was always something that was there and available to me, but it wasn’t until I came to Martha’s Vineyard that I got obsessed with taking pictures of flowers and scenery.”
Lynn grew up in southern Ontario, near Toronto, and in Rochester, New York, and is a dual Canadian-US citizen. “As a kid, I had different art projects and was always trying to do something creative,” she says. “Toronto is a beautiful city on the shores of one of the Great Lakes,” she says. “It’s a wonderful city to visit, big and cosmopolitan.” She also enjoyed photographing all the cool things there. She loved visiting the Yorkville section with its art galleries, trendy retail shops and restaurants.
Lynn sees the Vineyard as another hub of creativity and artistry. “Artists congregate there, and people love to be there,” she says of the Island. She first came here in 1995, on a weekend date with her long-distance boyfriend, who is now her husband. “We went to Aquinnah and fell in love with it,” she says. On her first visit, she was struck by the beautiful flower gardens and flower boxes everywhere, and the way people had made an effort to make everything look more appealing.
Her sister-in-law and her husband bought a house in Edgartown around 2000, and invited Lynn and her husband to visit them. They’ve returned many times since, staying in different parts of the Island. Off-Island, Lynn lives in Canton, MA, not too far away for a quick visit any time of the year. Her professional background is in apparel marketing and merchandising, but in 2020 she got a Master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Stonehill College, where she’s now an adjunct professor, teaching marketing principles. Her background in marketing informs her view of the Vineyard. “I’ve always had an interest in supporting tourism,” she says. “I think everyone works really hard on Martha’s Vineyard, especially during the busy season, and I want to support that.”
One of the touchpoints in her book is the West Tisbury Farmer’s Market, a great place to see Island-grown flowers and produce at their best. “The Farmer’s Market is one of my all-time favorite things. We always have to time our visits early enough to get there and get food and wander around,” Lynn enthuses. She misses the old location at the Grange Hall, where things were closer and had a particular kind of charm, but appreciates the adaptation to the new location, and how it allowed the market to continue in 2020 with less crowding. “The flowers are so spectacular,” she says. “The vendors put in that little bit of extra effort to make it visually appealing, which is part of the general creativity you see throughout the Island.”
In the back of the book, she credits many of the long-attending vendors at the market and other iconic Island locations like Alley’s General Store and Morning Glory Farm. These notes give the reader a guide to where each photograph was taken, and notes on the flowers and plants in the facing images. One of the early spreads in the book juxtaposes colorful sand buckets on State Beach with bouquets in tomato cans at the Farmer’s Market. Pink, orange, and yellow draw the eye in both photos, with splashes of royal blue. On the next page, an autumn arrangement of a pumpkin and a flowerpot with variegated foliage stands across from a deeply orange Menemsha sunset. “When I’m over there, I race around to get a sunset,” Lynn says. “That array of color is just fantastic. Any time I see the combination of reds and oranges I get so excited. I feel like there needs to be more hype about the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard in the shoulder season.” A picture of a yard in Edgartown with bright autumn maple leaves at The Vincent House and Gardens in Edgartown stands across from a Farmer’s Market display of sunflowers and zinnias, with squash and zucchini, on a red and orange tablecloth that echoes the leaves in the opposite image.
Of course there are summer images, too, and a scattering of sunrises as well as sunsets. “I need to take advantage of the sunrise a little more often,” Lynn says. “You can get such beautiful images.” One early morning she captured a picture of a yellow kayak on the dock by the Edgartown lighthouse, with horizontal bands of yellow sunrise above it. Across from that skyscape are bold sunflowers at the market, leaning out toward the viewer. “When you bring different things together, that’s when you get the most opportunity and innovation,” Lynn says.
Another stand-out image is a string of brightly-colored flip-flops hanging on an Edgartown porch railing. The pinks and yellows are echoed in the sunflowers and lilies on the opposite page, evoking warm summer days. And of course, since this is an island, the beach is never far away. One image is of tall stacks of beach rocks by the cliffs in Aquinnah. “You can’t go there and not just be in awe of the beauty,” Lynn says. She first saw beach cairns like this in Vancouver, and is in awe of the attention that people put into building them.
A close-up of a conch shell’s spiral stands across from a wooden table with scallions, collards, and purple kohlrabi on a wooden table. Lynn’s father was an engineer, but his hobby was woodworking, and Lynn acquired an appreciation of wood as a material from him. “The texture of the wood shelves at Morning Glory Farm is such a pretty image,” she says. “It ties in to all the beautiful wooded areas on the island as well. My father could pick out the different types of wood from their grain.” Elsewhere in the book, there are pieces of driftwood, and wooden crates at the Farmer’s Market lending their character to the displays there.
“The way artistry in all its different forms is embraced on the Island – it makes me want to be there all the time,” Lynn says. Another Island event she enjoys is the annual scarecrow contest held by the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. She photographed a scarecrow of Schroeder from Peanuts, with Woodstock perched on his red piano, all on hay bales in front of a store in Vineyard Haven.
Lynn’s photography has evolved over the years. When her kids were younger, she often photographed them, but now they’re grown and she turns more of her attention to flowers and landscapes. She has also left film cameras behind. “I’ve switched over to digital,” she says. “The digital darkroom is so cool, I love finding the right balance to make the colors come alive. I’m drawn toward vibrant, intense colors and capturing those on a bright sunny day just really makes me feel good.” In the middle of the book, she pairs the cover shot of a sunset at the East Chop lighthouse with a cluster of flowers in milk cartons on a red-and-orange tablecloth. “That particular sunset, I think pairs with the elements of the other image, taking something that was bright and making it even brighter,” Lynn says. “The tablecloth, sunflowers, the vibrancy of that pairing, and the bright blue vehicle in the background make me happy.”
Speaking of blues, hydrangeas are another favorite. “People think of the blue hydrangea when they think of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, it’s kind of the iconic flower of the area. I do have a hydrangea bush that in a good year will have an array of colors. It just amazes me that one bush can have that kind of array. I took my macro lens to see all the individual flowers within that ball of flowers, and that I can grow it and not kill it is pretty fabulous.” Despite her deep appreciation of flowers, Lynn is not a gardener.
“My thumbs are not green,” she says. “I take pictures of other people’s accomplishments. We’re in a great neighborhood, but our property is very wooded, so flowers don’t do very well here. I do plant crocuses and enjoy seeing them every spring, with their signs of life. I plant them up by the street so that other people can see them, too.”
Lynn originally created this book in 2016 as a thank-you gift for her sister and brother-in-law, who have hosted her visits to the Island so many times. At the suggestion of Matthew Tombers from Edgartown Books, she added an introduction and made the book available more widely. Lynn has also created a guest book, notepads, and notecards with Island images, all of which can be found on her website at: imagesblooming.com. You can find more of her work on Instagram at: www.instagram.com/imagesblooming or on her Images Blooming Facebook page. This book, along with her Guest Book with Images of Martha’s Vineyard and some of her other products, are available for sale at Rainy Day, Edgartown Books, Alley’s General Store, Katama General Store, at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, and Juniper in Edgartown.