Among Trees by Sean Kernan
When starting out on this tree project, I was leant a number of books of tree photography. Whilst they were good and useful, I also searched for art photography books. ‘Among Trees’ by US photographer Seam Kernan is not simply a series of photographs of interesting trees, it goes well beyond a record of a specific tree. It provides the experience of being there with the tree or trees in its location. There are woods, forests, parks, historic places, rainforests, hills and mountainsides.
The book contains monochrome images, mostly in landscape format, many panoramic or at least long top edges. The trees are from different parts of the world that Sean has been lucky enough to visit. One of the common themes is that he has kept his camera level, so that there if very little in the way of converging verticals. He isn’t afraid to crop the top or sides of trees, as he’s capturing the essence of the tree or trees rather than providing a complete viewpoint. The species, location, aspect (rural v urban), weather, time of day, differ, as does the format and cropping. Sean has used infra-red film for some of the shots.
What struck me were the square cropped images, which are fewer, but work well in my opinion. I was also taken with the patterns and shapes that he achieved using bare, leafless boughs and trunks.
In addition to the photographs, the forward by writer Anthony Doerr is enlightening, as he looks at what trees mean to humans and our relationship with them as well as why artists (photographers) strive to make images of them. In his own introduction, Kernan writes about how he didn’t have a carefully laid out plan for this work, which is something I can relate to. He stresses how artists and writers use the process of creating to research and find out more about the subject.
His story about Mondrian is an example of this:
‘There is a story that as Mondrian was painting over some old canvases he had lying around, a friend reproached him for covering up perfectly good pictures. Mondrian’s response was “I’m not trying to make pictures, I’m trying to find things out”.’
Another quote in the introduction is from the poet Charles Wright:
“I write to find out what I have to say’
Sean Kernan is a photographer, writer, and teacher who came to photography from theatre. He is the author of two monographs, The Secret Books (with Jorge Luis Borges) and Among Trees, with Anthony Doerr, a book on creativity called Looking Into the Light , and In Stone, on the sculptor Darrell Petit.
Hardcover : 160 pages
Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.4 x 0.8 inches