Into the Woods: Trees in Photography

Alfred Stieglitz | Ansel Adams | Awoiska van de Molen | Henri Cartier-Bresson | Edward Steichen | John Davies | Martin Barnes | Robert Adams | Agnes Warburg | Tokihiro Satō | Tal Shochat


Into the Woods: Trees in Photography

Alfred Stieglitz | Ansel Adams | Awoiska van de Molen | Henri Cartier-Bresson | Edward Steichen | John Davies | Martin Barnes | Robert Adams | Agnes Warburg | Tokihiro Satō | Tal Shochat


V&A, London

02.02.2018 - 22.04.2018 Tucked away in a secluded corner of the V&A, Into the Woods: Trees in Photography surveys the evolution of photographic craftsmanship through the lens of humanity’s enduring fascination with trees. Comprising works by 40 celebrated photographers including Agnes Warburg, Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tokihiro Satō and Tal Shochat, the selection showcases milestones in early technological developments alongside surrealist, scientific, experimental and highly abstract approaches. Whether experiencing nature in primal wonderment or meditative solitude, the artist’s unique perspective is present in each image. Awoiska van der Molen’s monochrome study of looming branches from the series Sequester (2011) penetrates the encroaching shroud of dusk using a long exposure. The velvet matte quality of the print enhances the foreboding impression of an engulfing darkness and the artist’s profound isolation. Bae Bien-U’s contribution from the series Sonamu (Pine Tree) (2014) expresses a sense of mystery, clarity and contemplation which draws upon the ancient symbolism of the pine tree in South Korea - gnarled, lichen-encrusted trunks and intricate arrangements of light and shadow are captured with an inky, calligraphic softness.


Many works interrogate human interactions with the environment - witnessed in the lurking, grave-like stumps of Gerhard Stromberg’s Coppice (King’s Wood) (1994) or the gangly silhouettes of trees backlit by a murky suburban expanse in Robert Adam’s On Signal Hill, overlooking Long Beach, California (1983). With these environmentalist undertones, the show marks the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest and the launch of the 2017 Charter for Trees, Woods and People, which aims to guide policy and reconnect people to British woodlands. Through a diverse range of analogue, digital and printing techniques, the exhibition records the minutiae and grandeur of the natural world, rallying a much-needed attention to the woodlands and forests of our changing planet. Text by Verity Seward Published in Aesthetica Magazine Issue 81 February / March 2018


© 2020 by Verity Seward