Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Staycation Visit to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

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During our May Staycation, which I’ll write more about elsewhere, Holly and I returned to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens for the first time in 8 years. The Magic Gardens is a unique exhibit of mixed media, mostly mosaics, by local artist Isaiah Zagar who also incorporates some works by other artists to create a diverse and varied experience. His work can be found throughout the city, but his largest installation is the Magic Gardens.

The Magic Gardens is not far from where we live so it’s somewhat a shame that we don’t visit more often. It’s not very large, but the work is so intricate that there are always new things to discover.

Given the nature of the exhibit, it’s a wonderful place for photography. I was debating which camera to bring and ended up playing it safe with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L lens. I say “play it safe” because I wasn’t sure which combination of film and film camera would work well in that environment. I also knew I’d probably want to take more than 36 shots and didn’t want to concern myself with having to stop and reload film (or having to bring 2 cameras). The Mark IV is reliable and given the large images it produces, I had a lot of latitude for cropping and editing.

I took 52 photos of the Magic Gardens. Here is a selection of those photos.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Philadelphia's Magic Gardens
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

When we went, there was another exhibition, Hecho en México, featuring Mexican folk art.

Among others, it featured works by Luis Valencia

And by Joel García.

Hecho en México exhibit at Magic Gardens
Hecho en México exhibit at Magic Gardens

I looked back at the pictures I had taken there during our visit in 2013 and was interested to see that there weren’t a lot of duplicate photos. Given the amount of detail in the art, there are plenty of choices for subjects. Plus, it seems like some things have changed over the years.

At the time, I had my Canon EOS Rebel T3 and the lens it came with, an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II.

My choice of subjects and approach was different that time. I was more interested in mosaics that included words.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens 2013
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens 2013

I also focused more on close-ups. Part of that could have been due to the slightly greater reach of the 18-55mm lens. But another part of it was that we had gone on a chilly day in March as it wasn’t very crowded so I felt more comfortable taking my time for close-ups.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens 2013
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens 2013

Seeing how different my pictures were between the two visits, I want to make sure we get back to the Magic Gardens again before too long. Next time, I may want to try using one of my film cameras.

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