This article first appeared in issue 290 of Longwood Chimes, from Winter 2015.
Gottlieb Hampfler began his career at Longwood as a gardener, but it was his photography of the gardens that is perhaps his most enduring legacy. Hampfler, a Philadelphia native, joined the horticulture staff on May 7, 1934. By 1938, he was indulging his passion in photography by doing freelance work.
His reputation and acclaim grew, resulting in a one-man show at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, in 1943. It was not until 1955 that he became the staff photographer at Longwood, a position he held until his retirement in 1975. Over the course of his career, Hampfler took thousands of photographs in black-and-white and in color.
In a recent interview with StoryCorps, Hampfler’s daughter, Elaine, talked about her father’s work, noting that he experimented in time-lapse photography, shot a series of motion pictures of plants, and even had an image selected by NASA for inclusion in the Outer Space-Interstellar Record on the Voyager I and II spacecraft.
Upon his retirement, the Longwood January–March 1975 Quarterly Report noted: “Mr. Hampfler’s photographs will continue to play an important role at Longwood, and will be a visual record of the development of the garden during the past thirty years.” Today, Hampfler’s photographs are increasingly relevant to Longwood, not only as an historical resource, but also for their timeless beauty. In the images that follow, we share some representative highlights from Hampfler’s broad oeuvre.
—Steve Fenton, Art Director, Longwood Gardens
—Colvin Randall, P. S. du Pont Fellow, Longwood Gardens
Images: Longwood Gardens Staff Photographer Negatives, Longwood Gardens Library & Archives.