Trees capture our imagination because they are rooted solidly in the earth but point ethereally toward the sky. They occupy a dimension that has as much to do with time and patience as with place and landscape. They are vertical beings to whom we attribute qualities both divine and human. Since 1991, photographer Barbara Bosworth has been on a quest to photograph America's "champion" trees—trees that are the biggest of their species, as recorded in the National Register of Big Trees, a list established and maintained by the nonprofit conservation organization American Forests. She has traveled down highways and up back roads, walked through forests and across clear-cut land, sometimes led by local tree enthusiasts, sometimes alone, to photograph trees that are remarkable not only for their size but for their endurance.
Bosworth finds champion trees in backyards, fields, and forests, near roadways, power lines, and sidewalks. Her photographs document the trees' magnificence but also show how they are markers of a changing landscape. The yellow poplar, for example, stands on the fringes of a suburban housing development, in the center of a park for the enjoyment and relaxation of residents. The western red cedar stands alone in the middle of a clear-cut, saved from logging only because it is recorded in the Register as the biggest of its kind. The trees and their surroundings tell us about our relationship with nature and the land.
Bosworth captures the ineffable grace and dignity of trees with clarity and directness: the green ash that shades a midwestern crossroads, the common pear that blooms in a Washington field, and the Florida strangler fig with its mass of entwining aerial roots. Her photographs, panoramic views taken with an 8 x 10 camera, show the immensity of the largest species and the hidden triumphs of the smallest. Some trees are dethroned each year because of sickness or destruction, but more often simpy because a new and bigger specimen is discovered; only three trees from the original Register in 1940 are still living today. Bosworth's 70 photographs of champion trees are not only a collection of tree portraits but the story of an American adventure as well.
A copublication with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson.
About the Author
Barbara Bosworth is a photographer whose work has been widely exhibited and collected. She is on the faculty at Massachusetts College of Art.
"Bosworth’s dramatic, panoramic black-and-white photographs simultaneously document our country’s evolving landscape and capture the dignity, tenacity, and singular nobility of gnarled yet graceful giants. Eloquent essays complement the stark beauty of Bosworth’s photographic paean honoring individual trees’ triumph over onslaught of time and the environment." —Booklist
"... a subtle and complex portrait of our cultural landscape, as well as our celebrated trees." —Brooklyn Botanical Garden's Plants & Gardens News
"The power of this book, its strange beauty, is in Ms. Bosworth’s glorious photographs of the trees themselves. An aloe yucca, in Georgia, like a leggy creature out of Dr. Seuss. A Sitka spruce in Oregon, elephantine in the puny woods that surround it. A gumbo-limbo in a Florida cemetery, its wide limbs a peaceful invitation. Ms. Bosworth’s art respects their integrity, even in unworthy surroundings. Let us now praise famous trees."—Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Edition
"Barbara Bosworth's striking collection of photographs reminds us that in these days of urban sprawl and tree-killing pollution, our championship trees themselves need champions. Those who read this book will surely be moved by its extraordinary images to insist on the preservation of our national heritage of trees and forests."
—Charles E. Little, author of The Dying of the Trees and Discover America
"With an extraordinary sense of composition, place and content, Barbara Bosworth isolates the best example of a given species of tree, recording its stately, statuesque portrait."
—Tom E. Hinson, Curator of Photography, Cleveland Museum of Art
"These trees assert the respect they have earned by virtue of longevity, scale and beauty. Only a deadened imagination would fail to think of the many complicated lives played out beneath their boughs. We live in a society that 'grows more urban-centric by the year,' John Stilgoe writes in his afterword to this book. Bosworth's photographs remind us of the precious peace we lose by ignoring the quiet majesty that remains in rural America."
—Anne Tucker, Curator of Photography, Museum Of Fine Arts, Houston