The Urban Forest
For hundreds of years, aristocrats would set aside a large portion of their land for the purpose of recreation. This piece of land contained much of what was found in the surrounding wilderness as well as exotic flowers, trees, and shrubs were usually imported from foriegn countries and were planted in the private gardens of the wealthy owners. During the early 19th Century in Europe, the middle class began funding construction of their own public gardens or parks. One of the first such gardens was the Birkenhead Park in Liverpool, England. The park was designed by Sir Joseph Paxton and was finished in 1847. In 1850 Frederick Law Olmsted visited the park, and in 1857, he designed New York’s Central Park, which was completed in 1863.
Today, public parks are scattered throughout our communities, and serve many functions. They serve to beautify the community and to provide a place of exercise, relaxation, and recreation for those who visit these parks. They often serve as a refuge for animals. The parks can also educate us about nature.
The park brings a bit of nature to the city, but it is a contained nature: trees are planted in specific places and are neatly pruned, grass is kept trimmed, “weedless” flowerbeds are grown and nurtured, and the fallen autumn leaves are raked and cleared from the ground. In the wilderness, none of these things are done to the landscape, and in this setting, it is considered beautiful and natural. In the urban setting, however, unpruned trees, and long, unkempt grass are considered an eyesore.
The parks photographed are all “mature” parks. They all have existed for some time, and therefore represent more closely what the landscape architect had envisioned when the park was first planned. They represent what I feel about the landscape in the urban environment.
The Lumen process is serendipitous, unpredictable and liberating. Some plants record their leaves’ vein structure on the photographic paper with great detail and exactness, while others wither very rapidly from the solar heat, leaving ghosts of themselves on the paper as they die. I have learned what colors will be produced by certain exposure times, but something new happens every time—a new color is produced, chlorophyll from the plant is pressed into the paper—and is never again replicated. The ever-surprising nature of this process is what draws me so intensely to it. I escape the exact, precise nature of working with the conventional camera. Collaborating with plants and the sun to create these prints, I find my place in Nature, and the plants’ place in art.
Water (besides oxygen) is one of the most important elements to all life. The human body can’t survive without water for more than 3 days; sometimes less. Not only can water give life, but it can take it. It is paradoxical the relationship water has with life and death. I love to hear it flow as it cascades through the landscape; it is a soothing thing to hear after a stressful and tiresome day.
Water is one of my favorite things to photograph. I love the way the light reflects off of it. These photographs are as much about showing the movement of the water, as they are about the light reflecting off of it. I prefer to photograph in low light situations: overcast days, when the sun is about to set or rise, and even sometimes at night; during these ephemeral moments, I am able to attain longer exposures, making the water appear feathery and blurred. When I go out to make photographs, I often drive until I feel a particular place has potential, or I will go to a specific area, leave the car, take my photo equipment and walk, observe, and photograph. There is something almost spiritual about being out in the wilderness recording on film what God has created.