I started photographing trees in about 2011, while completing the Old New World series. Being a person who walks down the road and sees plants (others see houses or cars or people) it seemed a thrilling idea to photograph trees – could I make images where trees were the subject of the photograph? What lay beneath the surface of the idea?
As I worked I became aware of how much we use wood. It seemed that one day a tree could be growing and the next – poof – split into lumber for a house or fence palings. Working with botanical ecologist Jonathan Kennett I realised how much our cultural choices have determined what the tree landscape contains, and how much of a commodity trees are. Our cities often contain beautiful tree settings, yet, if you look a little deeper, what grows in a city or the country may be a choice of inhabitants or councils acting on the values of the time.
Jonathan has researched how critical trees are to human and planetary survival, and how the New Zealand’s tree landscape has often been shaped by the need to clear land for agriculture, use species for building and commerce, or plant trees that reminded northern hemisphere settlers of home.
Photographs contain their own mystery and associations. The work aims, as much as anything, to show us the trees we live with and to perhaps think about the choices that led to them being there.
Bent is showing at Photospace Gallery from 22 February to 15 March 2014 during the International Festival of the Arts. The Photospace show is an extract of the 68 colour photograph series of Bent. A limited edition book and catalogue will be available.
The work was made between 2011 and 2013 in locations around New Zealand.
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