A few weeks ago my family and I decided to visit the topiary garden of Pearl Fryar, located in Bishopville, SC. It’s only about a 40 minute drive from our house in Columbia. We were first introduced to this place from a documentary we found on Netflix called “A Man Named Pearl”, and we thought it would be fun to take the kid on a day trip there. We were not disappointed. This place is a wonderland! It’s really something spectacular to see. Pearl has transformed his entire yard into a topiary garden, and it’s one of the best displays of topiary art that I have ever seen. Everything from the shrubs and bushes around his house to the trees in the yard have been transformed into works of art by this incredible man. He has done some topiaries in his neighbors’ yards, the local Waffle House that is just near his house, and the State Museum here in Columbia, but they all pale in comparison to the work he has done at his house. He truly is a local treasure.
He began the work on his house and yard in the early 1980’s, planting trees and shrubs that were “throwaways” from friends and local nurseries, and the garden is tended to and expanded upon every day. Pearl had no experience with topiaries before he began his work except for a 3 minute lesson on topiary at a nursery, which began this decades long quest to transform his yard into a work of art. There are also various metal sculptures and fountains which Pearl made himself from scrap metal and old junk he found lying around. This man is an artist in the truest sense – he took what he had and made something beautiful for all to see, and I have the utmost respect for him for that. As artists, we all seek to create beauty and make something that will last longer than ourselves, and Pearl Fryar has definitely achieved that goal. I hope to have captured the essence of what it’s like to visit Pearl’s garden in these images.
These were all shot on a Nikon D7000 with either a Sigma 20mm f/1.8 or a Nikkor 35-70 f/2.8, at ISO 100. All of these were a single exposure that was processed in Lightroom 5, as my previous USC photos were. I really like this technique and I think it’s one that will stay with my workflow for a long time. It gives a much more natural than tonemapping an image does. As usual though, the finishing touches were added with OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 8.
It was such a treat to wander around Pearl’s garden with my camera, as there were so many different compositions possible in this wonderful space. Taking photographs in a place like this comes very naturally, as I respond to the stimulation I get from the space, and it seems to “talk” to me as I wander around and look for the best composition. Learn to listen to your inner voice when you’re looking around for a shot. You’ll know when it just feels “right” for you. I hope you enjoyed this walk through the topiary garden of Pearl Fryar as much as I did!