This week’s Getty Voices has featured Villa photographer Tahnee Cracchiola. Her charming prose and gorgeous photographic moments have been a delight for us to share. But, being the kind and reflective person Tahnee is, she wanted to give back to those her first piqued her interest in observing, learning, and living with a smile.

When I was a little girl my dad, a nurseryman by trade, would take summer strolls with me in our backyard to peruse our strawberry patch and see how it was faring through the season. I would wait for him on the back porch in the early evening to arrive home from work, ready for our ritual. He would come take my hand in his—my tiny fingers could barely wrap around one of his rough and thorn-punched fingers—and we would search together to spot that signature red fruit. I’d watch Dad gently rake through the leaves until his palm would surface with at least two or three perfect strawberries. He’d hand them to me with the intent for me to eat them on the spot! And I did with great delight and a huge smile.

The talented Grounds and Gardens team of the Getty Villa. Back row, left to right: Pablo Rodriguez, Leonardo Luna-Lopez, Carmen Corona, Aureliano Guzman, Rogelio Oropeza, Lorenzo Gutierrez, Eduardo Mireles, and Juan Romero. Third row, left to right: Efrain Perez, Daniel Ramos. Second row, left to right: Amilcar Perez, Pedro Macias. Front row, left to right: Michael Dehart, Elvia Castillo, Rony Carranza, Alfredo Campusano, Anne Watson. Photo: Ellen M. Rosenbery

During those early years, I learned from my dad (and my grandpa, who founded and owned Marsh’s Nursery in Pasadena) that if we cultivate the land and help it grow, it always gives back. Today I’d like to give back and say thank you to the incredibly talented men (and woman!) of the Grounds and Gardens crew of the Getty Villa. This team performs backbreaking work every day. They elegantly trim, groom, sweep, rake, cut, haul, dig, harvest, and expertly beautify the full site and gardens. And it’s all done with a smile!

For two years we worked together side-by-side in the heat and in the rain. I had the pleasure of photographing to the beautiful melodies of gardeners whistling nearby. (Now that is a true moment when nature and humans synchronize!) The team was extremely supportive of my daredevil feats, like being 8 months pregnant photographing in a tree, or standing on a 10-foot wall to get the perfect shot. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Efrain and me

I give a special mention to Getty gardener Efrain Perez. He is a passionate employee who takes his job very seriously. He always says hello and greets each fellow employee and guest with a smile, an occasional hug, and sometimes a bundle of lavender. The success of the images of the hummingbird nest (below) goes to Efrain. Imagine the scene of me, eight months pregnant, in the rain, standing on a chair with a camera in one hand, and the other on Efrain’s shoulder. He stood there with his steel-toe boot under one foot of the chair so it wouldn’t sink in the mud, while balancing that chair and my weight for 15 minutes…all with a smile.

Hummingbird nest at the Getty Villa

Baby hummingbirds bursting out of their golfball-sized nest at the Getty Villa.

Newly hatched swallows in their nest at the Getty Villa

Newly hatched swallows in their twig nest at the Getty Villa.

On any given day, Efrain would come into the studio with great excitement: “Come, come! I’ll show you. Let’s go! Let’s go!” He would take my hand in his—yes, rough and thorn-punched—and lead me out to the gardens. He would gently pull back the foliage to reveal a nest of baby swallows. And there I was, a five-year-old once again discovering nature!

Thank you for reading along this week as I’ve expressed myself and shared my work and passion for photography and wildlife. I am grateful.