Night Trees NY Statement I grew up in magnificent nature – right on the Northern coast of Oregon, and then in Portland. I did not take nature for granted, rather I was of the generation where they let you loose in the morning and you returned home for dinner. We couldn’t avoid nature if we wanted. So I spent my so-called formative years in some of the most beautiful, mostly untouched nature in the world. In many areas the forests were old growth. With sad nostalgia I do remember logging trucks only able to carry one massive tree –indicating the cutting of ancient forests. I am still haunted by those memories. Now I am a committed city dweller and love New York especially. It was only a matter of time until I combined both of my loves. Hence my photographic project: Night Trees. In these photos, man is evident, but not dominant. It’s not man vs. nature. It’s a merging of man and nature; there is harmony. These photos communicate my love of nature and the city – and the complexity of the relationship. I started by shooting mostly dioramas of trees along Riverside Park, capturing the irony of having nature look artificial and constructed, as if bringing the dioramas of The Museum of Natural History back into nature. These are theatrical trees, whose naturally grand presences become highly dramatized in the city's artificial lighting. I look for “million dollar lighting packages” when I go out shooting, with up to five different, significant light sources in one photo. I only use available light: street lights, traffic lights, lights from buildings and signs, light from passing cars, the light of the moon. “Available light” in New York City is so complex, varied, layered and constantly changing – it is a show unto itself. The cloud “backdrops” reflecting city light are frequently an important part of the photos. The colors change according to the location, atmospheric conditions, distance, temperature and time of the year. All photographers have stories behind the creation of their photos and my stories are frequently linked directly to the light sources. The Bryant Park winter photos include the background of a thick fog infused with the red of the Empire State Building lit for Christmas, the yellow street lights from 42nd street, the violet glow coming off the skating rink lights below and the powerful spotlight I call “voice of God” light coming from the top of an adjoining building. There’s drama in the trees at night. I love the theater and that love is reflected in the tree photos. I want to involve the viewer in a mystery that draws them in and moves them and captures their imagination. Some may think, “these are just trees.” But we allow the ordinary to shroud the extraordinary in all that surrounds us. We say “these are just trees" when we are not really looking at what we see, not fully feeling what we see, not consciously thinking of what we see. But you can take an ordinary scene and put it on a stage with thoughtful lighting and suddenly there’s drama, it’s impactful. There’s expectation, a sense of anticipation. You wonder why we’re looking at this, why has someone deemed this important for me to look at? There’s curiosity about what will happen next, who will appear, what is the author thinking here? It’s all a cue to watch carefully because something powerful and affecting is going to happen. That’s part of my intention here. Think about what these trees have witnessed – in many cases for well over a century. Think how New York has changed and what these trees have lived through. I see them as protectors and guardians at times. In our city many homeless people stay in the parks at night and sleep on the benches surrounding them. I feel the trees’ embrace of these people and imagine they are getting some comfort from the trees in the midst of their difficulties. In fact there are studies of the measurable positive physical and psychological effects of being in parks and nature. I do anthropomorphize them. I talk to them and have ones I feel particularly close to. There’s one on Riverside Drive that I call “My Guy” and I have photographed him many times. He was “my first” in a way. He lives near “Yeshiva Boy”, who protects a Yeshiva school on 89th Street. And there’s “Octopus”, a female essence who has undulating upward arms and lives in a very dark area of Madison Square Park. There’s undeniable soul in these trees. And it is expressed more at night - dramatically so, when there are fewer humans and less activity around. The “veil” is thinner at night, that energetic wall of protection that exists between nature and man – so the tree’s essence comes through even more. That is what I aim to reveal and communicate: their spirit and their relationship with us – as co-creators and beings who deserve mutual love and respect. I believe they are always giving it to us. I first experienced the “lifting of the veil” between humans and nature at Arches National Park in Utah. At that time I was not so aware of ideas about energy and spirit and soul in nature. Yet I experienced this lifting of the veil in a powerful way when the park closed for the evening and everyone left except my friend and me. I very consciously felt a shift in energy. It was a completely different experience. It felt more expansive, open, clear and free. And while there were not many trees in the landscape, but rather rocks, the nature-spirits emerged, and I have been aware of them ever since. The irony of these photographs being printed on paper made from trees is not lost on me—the trees serve us in so many ways. But I hope to be reciprocating with these portraits of my tree friends, showing them beyond where they are rooted, so that others may experience them in a new way and feel their beauty and mystery and essence more powerfully.