Looking ahead across the expanse of 2012, I’ve been reflecting on my almost three decade-long photo journey with live oak trees. It began years ago following the advice of friend and photographer Morley Baer when he suggested to “Pick something you love, then photograph it, over and over and over.” In time, he said, if I’m lucky, the depth of my feelings will begin to show through in my images.
For almost three decades this advice has guided my work. It’s been a fascinating journey, full of adventure, wonder, and meetings with remarkable people and trees, and there are still miles yet to go and many oaks yet to meet.
Pick something you love…
Why is choosing artistic subject matter or any course of action that you love important to the outcome? There are scores of pages written on the subject already. “Follow your bliss…do what you love and the money will follow…” the message is much the same. When love is your motivation, creative energy flows more readily. Love opens doors, and somehow, though I’m not absolutely sure, love seems to be our inner compass that points us in the direction of our life’s purpose. When you follow the things that you love, your creations and actions cannot help but be more personal, more true to who you are. In time, your work will be entirely your own, because the energy used to shape it contains the colors and shades of your own life and feelings.
Another thing, and this is no small thing: when we choose something we love and follow it, we begin a relationship that grows richer and deepens with time. This one thing can, and will, take our creative journey into places unimaginable. Pick something you love…the path with heart…and follow it. You’ll not be sorry you did.
New creative directions
Many of you are familiar with my detailed, black-and-white prints of Southern and Western oaks. Though in recent years, I’ve been developing new colored processes using oil paints and pastels merged with scans of aged papers to stretch the emotional range of expression. The image above is an example.
You can view more new work in the “New Work portfolio” on my website. Many of these new images also have historic details posted about the specific tree or alley for those of you who find this information entertaining (just roll over the word “details” under the photo). I’ll be adding additional images and information to this New Work portfolio regularly throughout the year.
Preserving historic trees in your area – a guide
In East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, an ordinance passed in 1996 created the “Tree Registry of Ancient, Historic and Unique Trees.” This forward-thinking ordinance is part of the Parish’s master plan for landscape development, and provides the kind of protection that could serve as an example of conservation across the country. The ordinance ensures protection not just to live oaks, but to all trees “which, by virtue of their size, age, historic significance, or other uniqueness, can be recognized as being the most noteworthy representatives of their kind in East Baton Rouge Parish.”
For more information about how to apply for a city ordinance in your city, parish or county to protect any species of tree, the Louisiana State University School of Landscape Architecture has created a model “Guide to Writing a City Tree Ordinance” for Louisiana, available online at http://greenlaws.lsu.edu/sitemanager.htm It’s likely to prove helpful for other states as well.
Thanks again, and have a blessed and green 2012! – WG