Carolyn Parker Photo Interview

This is an interview about my work hosted by photographer Camilla Emond.


Hi Carolyn,
Thank you for doing this interview today. I am a huge fan of your work and, of course, the lovely roses you share with us.

Where do you call home?
Lafayette, CA in the San Fransisco Bay Area.

How many years have you been a photographer?
Since 1990 when I visited Italy.

Did you go to school or are you self-taught?
Self-taught with an art and design background.

How do you describe your style?
Effulgent. Clean- I can't help it- one day I realized that everything I do or design has a clean look to it. It's not intentional- I'm actually sort of messy- it's in my cells.

How did you get started?
I proudly showed a friend of mine some 4x6's that I shot of rose arrangements. He said, "These are terrible, you should ask my dad for some tips." I was crushed and looked and looked at those pictures trying to figure out what he meant. I called his dad, who came over and told me I needed to use a tripod, because the images I wanted required f16 at a 1/2 or 1-second exposure (we're talking film here). He also showed me the effectiveness of shooting level with the subject. These simple tips led me on a path of constant experimentation and discovery.

Who or what inspires you?
Roses at every stage- all of life resides within them. They led me to this moment.

Five words that describe you? Passionate, exuberant, persistent, adaptable, awestruck.

Favorite photog? Victoria Pearson- she's a house and garden features photographer, whose work I've seen in many magazines. She captures the image with heart and magic.

What makes a photograph good? A clarity of intention.


Carolyn is an author too, and has two books published- tell us about them.

I have to answer this one in third person-
An ex fashion designer, with an art school background, and fondness for roses, finally has a chance to garden. The results inspire photography. After three years, her photography improves and she thinks all her efforts, in both gardening and photography, were meant for more than her own enjoyment. In the spring of 1990, she travels to Italy, with camera, and for two weeks blissfully photographs gardens etc . . . She audaciously thinks, I will do a book on Italy! (Hmmmm) When she returns home, her own garden is a blazing sea of bloom. She sees it with new eyes, and realizes that all her inspiration resides just outside her door.

She spends the spring of 1991 shooting every day in hopes of creating a portfolio to take to stock houses and publishers in New York, approaching them much the same as she did fashion contacts, in her previous career. With eleven appointments booked, off she goes. One stock house (FPG, now called Getty) contracted to represent her, and one publisher (Harry Abrams) asked her to send back a hundred slides to show editors.

Three months later, an Abrams editor calls asking,"How would you like to do a lush little book titled The Poetry of Roses, where you choose the poems and do all the photography?" (Sounds too good to be true doesn't it? Well it was not without major challenges {from the publishers end}, but she won't go there.) Our photographer said yes, of course, and spent a year on the project, falling even more in love with roses.

It was a thrill, when the book came out, obviously she wanted to do another, and so did her editor. She worked for months on one idea, and her editor handily rejected it. That was that? Well, for that publisher anyway. She worked on other ideas that didn't gel at all. Then one spring day, in the garden, an idea came for the next book, almost fully formed. She felt she had received an exquisite gift, and spent the next eight years working on R is for Rose.

When the book was finished, she realized she needed an agent to find a publisher. She spent 6 months (she kids you not) writing a non-fiction proposal. In only two months, she had a lovely agent, but it took two years to find a publisher! C'est la vie.

This is a long answer for a blog, but let me end this question with a few words about receiving the finished books for the first time. I'll use second person this time–

Imagine your creative, blood, sweat, joy, and tears (slides and manuscript) all wrapped up in a box, and placed in the mail. It goes off to the publisher, and your contract says they (the publisher) have all the design and decision making power. You don't even have input on the cover, or for that matter, the title. You hope, with all your heart, that it turns out to be a high quality book. The wait (about a year) is excruciating.

Thankfully, I was not disappointed
Gear at a glance:
Two canons- 20D and 30D- one wears an AF macro f 3.5, the other a basic 18-55 zoom. I have a big time Canon EW-8324-70 zoom, but it's heavy and should be used with a tripod. My first book was done with a 35mm Minolta SLR, and my second book with a Hassleblad. Before I went digital, I almost always used tripods. Now I can barely stand the thought of using one.

Favorite lens and why?
Macros are my favorite, because they act as an extension of me, taking me into secret realms of beauty and concentration- the outside world ceases to exist.

Something you are still learning? I hope I am ready to learn something every day. I'm also fearful of learning new things though. I have a video camera that I've had for three years, and never used, because I don't want to learn the technical aspects. Learning is a constant in today's world. In 1993, I had a friend type the manuscript for my first book- the learning curve from there to here- yikes! Yesterday, for the first time, I used the adapter that goes with my four-year-old macro.

If I wasn't a photographer/author I would be...
I won't even go there- I've been, am, so many things and enjoy being a photographer the most.

Two wishes?
One is too private, and the other I am embarrassed to say.

If you could have breakfast with someone, who would it be?

You Camilla, outside on a sunny, pleasantly cool morning in Montana, and after breakfast we would take a photo walk.

Advice for a newbie?
Study photographs that you admire- try and figure out how they were accomplished. Be ready to solve problems- adaptability in the moment is a must- try to make the next picture different and, or, better than the last. Love it all.

What is your favorite part of photography?
I have no favorite part, but I will say that the kind of photography that I do, with set-ups and all, is often exacting, grueling, and breathless. I'm thrilled that digital allows many shots because I am after the unknown quotient. Whether or not I achieve that, is not for me to say, but I am often overwhelmed by the scent of roses.

Thank you's been a pleasure.



Miriam's Old Roses Garden

Monsieur-Tillier-Rose Miriam made a garden

From some land that slanted down a hill.

            A creek ran through.

                        Beyond the land—

                                    A bay—a view!


A garden, yes, a garden

Filled with roses.

This became her passion,

And in her usual fashion

Of no plan left unfulfilled,

She planted roses

            Down the hill—

            Round the hill—

A dozen, a hundred, a thousand!


Roses, roses, large and small,

            Short and tall—

Some reaching to the

            Tallest tree,

Some peeping from the

            Sheltered niches.

A plethora of riches!

No whim of nature

            This creation

Each petal patterned to

            Its perfect whole.


Roses of exquisite hue

Breathe out their lovely scents

            All through

            The garden.


A garden meant to be

            A haven for the needed bee,

A sanctum for the squirrels

            And birds

With seeds and nuts



She may sit within a

            Hidden bower

Surrounded, enveloped by

            Her flowers.

Does she think her loving

            Toil rewarded?

In this garden she has

            Singly made?

She has raised old roses

            From their grave—

Their long-lost loveliness

            Has shared

With everyone who

            Showed they cared.


The roses bloom and spend

Their lives with wild abandon.

            They fade too soon.

The joy—the peace

            To know

The everlasting spring

            Will bring

Their flawless beauty

            Back again

To Miriam’s garden.

By Thelma Behrens (Miriam's sister)

I love the photo at the top, and had planned to include it in my December Rose of the Month post. However, the picture's impact would be lost among all the other images. So I thought about including it, by itself, with a poem. But what poem would do it justice with a quick search? Then, yesterday, I received this poem about Miriam Wilkins in an email from Thelma Behrens' granddaughter, Emerald Behrens.

The poem is a gift to all the people who knew Miriam Wilkins, and to those who will learn about her in the future.

Rosa Monsieur Tillier


Honoring Rosarian Miriam Wilkins


Dear Friends–
There is so much in the old rose world to mystify and entrance us. Now as the roses spring forward and buds of known and unknown beauties form, I find the old excitement rising, filling me with wonder. The old world goes oft awry, but there is always the comfort of the garden.
Miriam Wilkins


Radox Bouquet Rose

Miriam Wilkins was a rose mentor to many, including myself. This morning, after learning about her passing, I wanted to somehow honor her in the garden, with my camera. A combination of morning dew, and light rain from the day before, jeweled the old fashioned roses she loved so much, and they sparkled for her.

Rosa Sericea Pteracantha 

Monsieur Tillier Rose 

Happenstance Rose 

Little White Pet Rose

More About Miriam

Miriam's quote, at the top of the page, was taken from the second issue of the Old Roser's Digest, which she founded for the Heritage Roses Group. For those of you who don't know about this remarkable and inspiring rosarian, here are a few articles that you might enjoy:

Miriam Wilkins' Roses for Sale In this ad for the sale of Miriam's roses there is a poem by Miriam and pictures of one of her most favorite roses, Common Moss.

Miriam Wilkins' Parting Gifts This is the day of the sale of roses at Miriam's garden. I am so happy I was able to capture the people, some of the roses and the joy of the event.

Miriam's Old Roses Garden  Miriam's sister, Thelma Behrens, adored Miriam. In this post there is an exquisite poem she wrote about Miriam.

Celebration Rose Bouquet This is a long gorgeous post about harvesting roses at Miriam's house for a display bouquet in Miriam's rose tureen. This was Friday in 2012. As you can see from this post and the one below 2012 was quite a year for the Celebration.

Harvest Day for the Celebration of Old Roses The day before the Celebration in 2012, we are at The Friends of Vintage Gardens property, cutting blooms for the display tables. It was particularly fun for me because I was harvesting to make a spectacular display in a large tiered basket. 

Celebration 2015 Wrap Up  This post begins with harvesting at my house and ends with pictures from the Celebration that includes a masterful bouquet by Virginia Keane.


Thank you Miriam, and rosily !