Sima Eliovson



Her husband Ezra Eliovson, for twelve years president of the Johannesburg Photographic Society, took the photographs for her books and together they undertook botanical and photographic journeys. Nothing is as valuable to a garden writer as a resident professional photographer, and it shows in her books. ‘‘He was ahead of his time in leading the way forward in local technical photography,” their son tells me. ‘‘He developed photos using a four colour process, in extra large size, in his dark room at home.”

However, he died at the age of 53, and only half of a very close-knit team remained.

Sima - ‘‘a very resourceful person”, almost the first thing Robin says of his mother - started taking her own photographs. In the poignant Acknowledgements to Proteas for pleasure (1965) she wrote: ‘‘ least half of the photographs were taken by my late husband, Ezra Eliovson. The remainder were taken by myself on a Hasselblatt [sic] camera, once I had learnt to operate it.”

She was then a single mother of three sons. With a mother this knowledgable, it is no surprise that Robin recounts a family anecdote concerning himself as a four-year-old, following his mother and friends through her garden, and pointing out to the adults the coral trees (Erythrina spp.) by their Latin names. (I have a more-or-less similar anecdote). ‘‘Another short story: we were taught not to eat seeds such as Castor. I took some of these seeds to school one day for ‘show and tell’ and my teacher popped one into her mouth and I told her she would die. I went home and told my Mom and she promptly contacted the teacher's husband. The teacher was rushed to hospital and with my Mom's help the teacher survived.” >>