An exhibition of Ancient Skies, Ancient Trees author Beth Moon's work opens at the Verve Gallery of Contemporary Photography in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
By Beth Moon
Photographer Beth Moon revisits the world’s oldest trees in the darkest places on earth, using color photography to capture vibrant nighttime skies
Throughout much of the world, night skies are growing increasingly brighter, but the force that protects the remaining naturally dark sky, unpolluted by artificial light, is the same that saves its ancient trees—isolation. Staking out some of the world’s last dark places, photographer Beth Moon uses a digital camera to reveal constellations, nebulae, and the Milky Way, in rich hues that are often too faint to be seen by the naked eye. As in her acclaimed first volume, Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time, these magnificent images encounter great arboreal specimens, including baobabs, olive trees, and redwoods, in such places as South Africa, England, and California.
In her artist’s statement, Beth Moon describes the experience of shooting at night in these remote places. An essay by Jana Grcevich, postdoctoral fellow of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, provides the perspective of a scientist racing to study the stars in a world growing increasingly brighter. Clark Strand, the author of Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age, takes a different tack, illuminating the inherent spirituality of trees.
Portraits of Time
By Beth Moon
Mesmerizing black-and-white photographs of the world’s most majestic ancient trees.
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Beth Moon’s fourteen-year quest to photograph ancient trees has taken her across the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Some of her subjects grow in isolation, on remote mountainsides, private estates, or nature preserves; others maintain a proud, though often precarious, existence in the midst of civilization. All, however, share a mysterious beauty perfected by age and the power to connect us to a sense of time and nature much greater than ourselves. It is this beauty, and this power, that Moon captures in her remarkable photographs.
This handsome volume presents sixty of Moon’s finest tree portraits as full-page duotone plates. The pictured trees include the tangled, hollow-trunked yews—some more than a thousand years old—that grow in English churchyards; the baobabs of Madagascar, called “upside-down trees” because of the curious disproportion of their giant trunks and modest branches; and the fantastical dragon’s-blood trees, red-sapped and umbrella-shaped, that grow only on the island of Socotra, off the Horn of Africa.
Moon’s narrative captions describe the natural and cultural history of each individual tree, while Todd Forrest, vice president for horticulture and living collections at the New York Botanical Garden, provides a concise introduction to the biology and preservation of ancient trees. An essay by the critic Steven Brown defines Moon’s unique place in a tradition of tree photography extending from William Henry Fox Talbot to Sally Mann, and explores the challenges and potential of the tree as a subject for art.