Urban Trees Project

If you read my last blog post, or follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve been doing a new project recently. After much faffing, I’m finally getting some images online.

Unsurprisingly, the project’s focus is the wonderful world of trees. However, these are quite different images from my normal work, with a different focus. Instead of focusing on a specific location, the aim here is to examine trees in urban environments, and the relationships between nature, buildings, streets, and people.

Living and working in London, it’s really easy to miss these little treasures as we’re all so busy. My slight obsession with trees saw me paying more and more attention to their forgotten, but essential presence. London can be a grim, oppressive place at times, with little open spaces or green areas. So the trees by buildings, on roads and pavements, help break up the swathes of brick, concrete and glass.

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The above image is of the tree that started it all really. It’s just out the back of my work building, and I pass by it most days. The scene has changed a lot in the last couple of years. There used to be a school behind the blue boarding, and since then it has been demolished and construction of a new (probably quite tall) building has recently commenced. I was always struck by its slightly odd placing; just unassuming on the corner, on its own. The removal of the school building and the security boards only served to highlight this tree even further, so the project began from here.

I wanted to do something that didn’t rely on light, or conditions. I wanted something that was solely based on subject, relationships, and composition. When working with landscape photography, people often comment about the quality of light or atmosphere, and it can be frustrating receiving comments on the few elements that are out of a photographer’s control.

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So far I’ve taken 6 rolls for this project (more on that later), and I’ve not strayed any further than 20 minutes away from the office or my commute. I’ve barely touched the sides. The more I look into this and the more images I take, the more I realise that this project is not going to be a short one. There’s just so much to work with, so much diversity and so many unique elements that can be brought together. So this is a project I’ll be undertaking on a slow-burn. I’ll trickle images online as and when they’re ready.

Hopefully this project will encourage people to consider the wealth of nature around us that isn’t specifically in woodlands, countryside, mountains, or by the coast. Even in the most unenvironmentally-friendly place in the country, nature has a place.

The end goal for this project would ideally be some kind of book. I think it would work well and will look into the options when it is ready to do so. I expect that will be some time, since there is so much to capture and consider. I would really like to spend a year or two more, visiting a broader range of locations before I begin to think about any of that stuff really. I expect that publishers may not be willing to take a punt on someone so unknown, so self-publishing may be the way to go.

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If you were wondering why these images look so different in style to my previous work, that’s because I’ve ditched digital for this project. I’m using my 50-year-old Praktica Super TL (35mm), with Portra 400 as the film of choice. This was a conscious (non-hipster) decision on my part to get a naturally grittier look that complements the subject. The camera is considerably smaller and lighter than my DSLR, easily slipping into my pocket, making it convenient to work with.

It took me a little while to get used to some of the technical difficulties/restraints that using budget equipment from a long time ago, but after some experimenting and compromising, I’m quite happy with the results. Do let me know what you think, although I understand this project won’t be for everyone.

Go take a look at the project images so far.

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