“Portraits of Time” is a series of portraits of ancient trees from around the world that explores time and survival, celebrating the wonders of nature that have endured throughout the centuries. This fourteen-year project has taken me on an exhilarating journey to many parts of the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
The criteria I use for choosing particular trees are: immense size, great age, and notable history. Locations are researched by a number of methods: history books, botanical books, tree registers, newspaper articles, and information from friends and fellow travelers.
Few of these trees have signposts or any markings/recognition. Indeed, they often grow in unexpected places, seemingly unaware of their surroundings, as if they exist in another world. Many of the trees I have photographed have survived because they are out of reach of civilization; on mountainsides, private estates, or on protected land. Certain species exist only in a few isolated areas of the world. For example, there are six species of baobabs found only on the island of Madagascar, and the mythical dragon’s blood tree grows only on a tiny island in the Arabian Sea.
I have photographed many of the oldest yews in the United Kingdom, as well as the bristlecone pines in the mountains of California (some of which are nearly 4,000 years old). These monumental trees exhibit a heroic presence not usually found in younger trees. Hidden in the grooves of their tattered trunks is a perfection of beauty derived from an age that comes with its own threat.
Standing as the earth’s largest and oldest living monuments, I believe these symbolic trees will take on a greater significance, especially at a time when our focus is directed at finding better ways to live with the environment. By feeling a larger sense of time and developing a relationship with the natural world, we carry that awareness with us as it becomes a part of who we are. I cannot imagine a better way to commemorate the lives of the world’s most remarkable trees, many of which are in danger of destruction, than by exhibiting their portraits.