In most religions, trees are central to the idea of wisdom: the Tree of Knowledge or the Bodhi Tree for example. Trees are also essential to the idea life and the circle of life. In Genesis, there is the Tree of Life and in Norse mythology there is the world tree, Yggdrasil. But what do trees see?

My project is to discover the trees, their growth through the different seasons, while keeping a balance between beauty and reality in mind. Despite my mythical inspirations, I am not working as a painter or a teller of fairytales. I think of myself as a watcher of the daily world. Thus, the red haired girls represent the relationship between time and human reproduction (the human circle of life). Although trees are very important to me, a tree alone cannot speak without human presence.

The title of this project is “First There Was Nothing.” I was first inspired by a Zen analogy which asks you to try and discover new things in the same forest that you pass through every day. Thus, many of the images were taken in the same place — practically in my backyard — but at different times, in different seasons, over the course of years and years.

Besides trees, I have always been fascinated by water. Whenever I am seeking calm, I return to the Norwegian waters. My images of the reeds and the water points to nature’s pictorial qualities. I think of the waves and the reeds as nature’s brushstrokes on the canvas. The randomness and abstraction of my water photographs combine the playful and poetic that is present in nature. Even though nature itself always changes, it also remains the same — there is an eternal playfulness in its being which I love.

In the end, whether photographing trees or water or people, I am trying to engage with the fundamental wholeness of nature, the way that things are linked together.

— Marius Schultz

See all of the winners and finalists here:
LensCulture Portrait Awards 2014.