In 300 years, every last tree will be gone. But there is still time to do something about it.
This project is based on the premise that images can serve a purpose in their ability to capture attention and communicate a full and complete message in one instant. The intention behind this photo collection is not to directly attack the majority who benefit from the use of wood – the pictures inside are not dramatic depictions of tragically ruined forests or scattered log piles in a desolate landscape. Instead, its emphasis is directed toward the aesthetic qualities of living trees, relying on the use of images to engage the eye. Despite the immeasurable importance of trees, their constant presence makes them easy to forget, and they have become a part of life’s backdrop. The purpose of this small book is to bring trees out from the background and up to the forefront before it is too late – to amplify a sense of urgency that trees themselves cannot communicate – “we are here, but not forever”.
The work I’ve done for my final project this semester has been both a struggle and a pass time. There have been days when several images tun out great, while others have yielded hardly any decent results at all. There have also been many hybrid days, where the work is a struggle but the reward is notable. Sometimes, photos come out well completely by mistake, while other times images that I have been planning in my head for days turn out to be impossible to achieve in reality.
Regardless of the difficulties (and fun) that I have experienced, I have realized that the subject of trees is something that I can see myself digging deeper into in the future. I can sense that the work I have been doing this semester is still unrefined, as if there is something more that I could be doing given the enthusiasm that I’ve come to realize that I have for making tree-related images. It’s weird that I hadn’t really caught on to it sooner, but now that I have, perhaps my enjoyment for it will grow into a honed purpose. I don’t doubt that at some point I will get into something else as a photographic subject, but for now I’ll find it difficult to ignore my “tree phase” now that I know I’m going through it, and I’ll probably be conscious of it every time I photograph a tree.
Although I feel that my project could stand to be more focused, I also feel that – at least internally – I have a clearer purpose than what might come across given my current progress with the project. I, like many, want to have the ability to use imagery to not only communicate my message, but to grab attention and alert viewers to the existence of a problem. As I’ve shared previously, trees will essentially become extinct within a few hundred years given the current rate of human consumption. My original intention was to bring attention to this fact through words, but my project has since morphed into image-based communication. Hopefully the message of the finished project will be as effective as I am able to make it.
Over the break I decided to do a couple of different things for my magazine project. The first thing I did was take two sets of tree-related night photos.
Secondly, I decided to take a set of tree pictures with black and white film.
I have a few more ideas left for my magazine photos, but I intend to begin focusing on layout and writing very soon so that I will know what gaps will need to be filled image-wise.
This week I had trouble deciding between several artists featured on the Annenberg Space for Photography website, so I decided to follow the lead of a few different ones.
This artists photographs close up texture photos of tree bark, which I decided to try out.
I also decided to make a similar image using eucalyptus leaves from different types of trees. In my magazine, these will be labeled so that the type of tree associated with each leaf is known to the viewer.
Lastly, I was also inspired by Carol Ring to put together some pictures of various parts of trees and put them together into one piece.
This artist takes texture photos of natural objects and mirrors them so that they are symmetrical. I decided to do something similar with various types of tree bark.
I based my assignment on this artist last time and had enough fun with it that I wanted to do it again with a focus on trees. It is possible that I might be able to use these for my magazine.
I have always been interested in topics involving trees, especially for their aesthetic qualities. I somewhat recently realized how often trees feature in the photos I have taken in the past and how attached I am to the subject. I am actually surprised at how long it took for me to realize that the topic of trees is a very natural topic for me to choose for this project.
Trees are everywhere. They can be found abundantly in parks, cities, beaches, parking lots, deserts, tundras and a variety of other landscapes. It had been thought until very recently that there were somewhere around 400 billion trees on the planet, which is around 57 times as many people as there are on earth. In a recent “tree census” led by Yale university, however, it has been shown that there are actually over 3 trillion trees on earth, a number vastly different from the previous estimate. This number alone is astounding. To put this into perspective, counting one trillion seconds into the past would land someone around the year 30,000BC. Additionally, a person could have spent one million dollars every day since the year 0 and still would not have spent one trillion dollars, not even close. Three trillion trees is an unbelievable number. Even so, over the course of human civilization almost half of the amount of trees that once stood have been cut down, and 3 trillion is what remains. Not only has society greatly diminished the number of trees on the planet, but people are still going at it. Every year, 15 billion trees are felled while only 5 billion are grown to replace them, resulting in a net loss of 10 billion trees per year. At that rate, the earth will run out of trees entirely within 300 years.
The fact that no one currently alive will personally witness the day when our planet runs out of trees does nothing to slow the tree-cutting momentum that has built up over so many years of civilization. But everybody loves trees, so who would really want to see this happen? I feel that with enough public exposure to facts like this as well as a deeper shift toward environmentalism, the loss of trees can be brought to a halt, and I would love to make a contribution to that movement. With my magazine I intend to address the significance of trees as the magnificent and efficient organisms that they are. I hope to drive home their importance for life on earth in how they affect society, urban environments, the atmosphere, soil erosion, and the world as a whole while using their beautiful qualities to capture attention. Were this to be an actual magazine, my aims would also include spreading awareness of information that centers around the idea that trees are not a boundless resource to be wasted.
There are many artists that I can draw inspiration from using sites such as the Annenburg Space for Photography, Nature Photographers’ Network, the In Celebration of Trees exhibit as well as some painters such as Melissa Graves-Brown and others on online galleries (for example, there are many tree-inspired works that have been shown in the art galleries of Bozeman, Montana). In addition to artistic inspiration, I feel that scientific facts can be inspiring on their own. I have been doing research already using some scholarly studies to add to my knowledge on the subject and to gather ideas for the types of articles I would like to write. Researching topics will allow me to write pieces that add depth to the photos that I produce for the magazine. Photos are already very informative and lovely to look at, but the meaning that words can provide will help to make my magazine more interesting.
By the time I have completed this project, I hope that I will have acquired a deeper knowledge of how significant trees are to the world as well as an improved artistic sense. I feel that this project will help me to become better at writing, research, photography, layout and art in general, and I am very excited to start working on it.
Depending on my financial situation by the time this project is finished, I would love to have it printed as a physical magazine via Blurb.com so that I can have a hard copy, but I was thinking that I could also upload the magazine online to the class blog in case something like it might ever catch some other tree-lover’s attention. Even before the entire magazine is completed, it might also be a good idea to make individual posts regarding specific articles and photos that I feel might be interesting to others. Although I doubt too many strangers would be compelled to read bits of my magazine, I feel that the information presented in it will be applicable to anyone who might read it as trees effect most of the world’s systems. Because the topic might appeal to anyone, I would like to promote it as both an artistic and educational look at the importance of trees in the hopes that anyone even remotely interested in the topic might like to learn a bit about trees and feel inspired to take action. I would hope that any viewer of my magazine might continue to remember not only the imagery and tree-related information, but also feel impacted by the importance of organisms that are so omnipresent that they slip easily into the background and are forgotten. Perhaps a viewer of my magazine might remember to notice and appreciate trees as more than just a pretty backdrop, and see them as precious things that should be treasured and protected from extinction.
Below is a quick “sketch” of what the magazine could look like. All of the images seen on the inside pages have been taken from the internet.
Lastly, here are the tree-related photos that I took for this week’s assignment:
If possible, I wanted to work on a magazine revolving around misconceptions about environmental issues (or general science communication on a chosen topic). I would of course choose a topic more specific than “environmental issues,” or perhaps would target the specific issue on a particular topic. For example, if my magazine focuses on environmental misconceptions, I could do an issue on misunderstandings about climate change or recycling or sustainability. I think that a topic like this could work for photography as the topics are general enough that getting photos for it would be possible, but specific enough that photos would easily make sense with the articles presented. However, I wasn’t sure if I should be focusing way more on depicting artistic aspects of a chosen topic. If that is the case, then I am still not completely sure what topic I would like to pursue.
In order to get started and (hopefully) be inspired, I went out to take photos and find out what kinds of things I would feasibly be able to get decent images of. This approach led me to take a lot of photos that fall into the popular “decay” category of photography, which several people in the class have already chosen to do. After taking the photos, I later decided that I would prefer to avoid this topic as it is already widely covered by many artists and, although the concept and aesthetics of the topic interest me greatly, I would rather use photography to speak to an audience about their understanding of environmental issues. I would be especially interested in communicating the urgency with which issues such as climate change should be addressed as it is likely the greatest threat to the way humans live. I could write all day about climate change/sustainability/water scarcity/”extreme” weather and other topics that many people have understandable misconceptions about. I love reading/listening to pieces that promise “everything you knew about _____ is wrong!” because it’s endlessly fascinating how so many “facts” are just out-of-context bits and pieces fastened together and reframed into something so misleading that it effects the way people eat, think,socialize, use resources, conduct business, write laws and run campaigns.
I understand if this does not fit with the topic, however. If that doesn’t fit then I would love to do a magazine on trees that focuses on more artistic matters. I love photographing trees and I do have a decent amount to say about them. After going through some old photos recently, I realized that trees are a very common subject in the pictures that I take, so it shouldn’t be any stretch at all to produce a variety of images and write all about them. In fact, as I am writing about this I am developing a more detailed mental picture of what I could do with trees as the main topic of my magazine. I could write about their environmental/scientific, societal and emotional significance, how quickly we could run out of trees entirely, basics on how they function, their evolutionary history, their differences from other plants, their effect on soil, erosion, atmosphere and everything else. Okay, I just changed my mind, I think I’m going with trees. If I have to get more specific then I will definitely be able to do that. I could do a Southern California issue with a piece about the benefits of green spaces in warm climates, a special “treelist” featuring a selection of native trees in some of Southern California’s many different climates along with images and brief descriptions as well as some other bits that have to do specifically with trees as they relate to Southern California.
Unfortunately, my decision on what to do with my magazine did not come to me until today (Wednesday) on campus, so I could not include any images relating to the magazine I now want to make. However, I included some of the photos I took this week as I attempted to figure out what I wanted to do for the project in order to show that I put in effort to get images and come up with ideas.