May 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

Two different glimpses into photography's range

'Blue Poppy' was shot at night at the Redford Gardens in Quebec. (Linda Rutenberg)

Two shows at opposite ends of Metro Detroit, as different from one another as they can be, illuminate photography’s past, present and astonishing range.

At the University of Michigan Museum of Art, “An Eye on the Empire: Photographs of Colonial India and Egypt” will be up through June 29, while “The Garden at Night: A Photographic Journey” comes down June 1 at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores.

Taking the latter first, Quebec photographer Linda Rutenberg has assembled a stunning body of work comprising plants shot using only moonlight or a hand-held flashlight. (Her husband, Roger Leeon, does the lighting.)

It’s an interesting departure for an artist perhaps best known for her affecting portraits of Canadian places and landscapes. Rutenberg’s book, “The Gaspé Peninsula: Land on the Edge of Time,” comes out in June.

The artist’s Gaspé photos typically involve snowy monochromes with only occasional bright bursts of color. By contrast, the garden series is all about nature showing off in a rainbow of deeply saturated hues, and a reminder that inky black night sets off color far more dramatically than daytime shots.

Doubt it? Just check out Rutenberg’s other-worldly “Blue Poppy.”

For this show, Rutenberg and Leeon covered 35 of North America and England’s greatest gardens, including Kew Gardens and Chicago Botanical Garden.

For something completely different, step back over 100 years with “An Eye on the Empire,” sepia-toned historic shots from the British colonies of India and Egypt. If you’ve yearned to see the ruins at Luxor before the site was overrun with tourists, here’s your chance.

Exoticizing foreign people and places, of course, developed a bad reputation over the 20th century, as the recognition dawned that such marvels don’t exist solely for the delight of visitors from the world’s wealthiest countries.

With this handsome, small exhibition, feel free to put down your political correctness for a spell. These pictures, whether of the fort at Zevaca-Agra or of four half-naked Indian men relaxing after work, will transport you to a fairy-tale past.

Want to pretend you’re a character in “The Jewel and the Crown,” recently arrived in India for your colonial duty? Go right ahead. Nobody will know.

'The Garden at Night: A Photographic Journey'

Through June 1

South Cottage, Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, 1100 Lake Shore, Grosse Pointe Shores

$5 admission to garden, grounds and South Cottage (kids 5 and under free)

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday

(313) 844-4222

'An Eye on the Empire'

Through June 29

University of Michigan Museum of Art, 525 S. State, Ann Arbor


11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday

(734) 764-0395

Four men relax after work in Francis Frith's 'India Series,' part of the U- ... (University of Michigan Museum of Art)