Portraits of Time

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Beth Moon, Yemen, tree, Dragon's Blood, Socotra

Stunning. Magical. Exquisite. Monumental. Timeless. These are just a few of the adjectives used to describe Beth Moon’s magnificent platinum portraits of ancient and mythical trees, lovingly photographed over a 14 year journey that crossed almost every continent.

From her website: “Many of the trees I have photographed have survived because they are out of reach of civilization; on mountainsides, private estates, or on protected land. Certain species exist only in a few isolated areas of the world.”

“I photograph these trees because they may not be here tomorrow.”

Silent witnesses to time and history, some of these majestic beings are “older than the civilisations that have flourished around them” (Michael Abatemarco, The New Mexican). Others may very well out-survive our own species. They have much to teach us about ourselves and our relationship to our environment.

Sixty of her portraits, along with essays by Todd Forrest and Steven Brown, have been published in a splendid volume titled “Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time“.

In between international book tours and gallery exhibitions, Beth took some time to answer a few questions for us:

What was the inspiration behind this project? Does this project end with the publication of Ancient Trees?

Connecting with the natural world fuels me on many levels. As a child I was outdoors from dawn until bedtime, and playing in trees was a big part of my day. I remember a favorite oak with a comfortable nook in which I spent many afternoons. The world can look different from that vantage point! So trees were a natural subject choice for me, but I wanted to find the oldest ones because I was interested in their age and their strategies for survival.

It’s hard to say that I’ve finished with this project because someone is always telling me about a remarkable tree that rouses my curiosity. Lately, inspired by studies that link tree growth with starlight, I’ve begun to photograph trees under the night sky called Diamond Nights.

Beth Moon, baobab, Botswana

What is your process? How long do you stay in each location? 

I do as much research as possible which makes it easier to deal with unforeseen challenges. I try to allow a day or two minimum to take advantage of light on the best angle. When possible I like to camp nearby the tree, which allows me to be there as the sun comes up and sets.

What do you think is the single most important thing artists can do to address climate change? What gives you hope?

To make change happen on a global level, everyone needs to play their part. It all starts with awareness; a dialogue begins. That is the part of the artist. Channeling great passion into art can only help incite the politician and the law maker into taking action.

I am hopeful and very inspired when I see the reforestation that Sebastian Salgado has done with his homeland property in Brazil and the Big Life Foundation that Nick Brandt has initiated in Africa. I am equally encouraged with the attention that these tree photographs have garnered and find it very encouraging as I continue to explore new paths of awareness.

All images by Beth Moon, taken from her website.

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Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

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