Stephen Robeck

2021 Red Dot Miami

Tree Portraits

Mostly we see trees from a distance, and often take them for granted. If you
search the internet for “portraits of trees,” you’ll find wonderful images, though
mostly they capture the entirety of a tree including roots, trunk and canopy – the
whole tree. But a portrait is typically an image of a person, usually depicting just
the face or head and shoulders. This makes sense because faces tell us so much
about who a person is, or was at the time the portrait was made. It captures
something that feels complete even though most of the person is not seen.
One day walking through Central Park in New York City, I came across a London
plane tree whose bark was a riot of color and texture, but I couldn’t see how to
photograph it. The more I tried to capture the whole tree, the less I saw of the
bark. Small details of the bark were an option, but that approach seemed too
abstract. Then I thought, what if I could take a series of overlapping images and
paint them together in the studio? The result was Plane Tree Study, a composite
made from six iPhone photos.
Since then, I have photographed trees in many places, from the Brooklyn Botanic
Garden to the High Sierras in Yosemite. Each of these images is made from over a
dozen separate photographs covering a bit more than the full circumference of
the tree. Capturing the individual images is often a challenge, and painting them
together seamlessly is slow, tedious work. But each end result is a view of a tree
that is otherwise impossible. And while we don’t see roots, limbs or canopy, we
do see the heart of the tree in a unique way – a portrait with its own
unmistakable character.
With this body of work I feel I’m just beginning. The search for new trees to
photograph is limitless, and I look forward to continuing this celebration of the
natural world.

On Exhibit Now

The artist

The artist

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Andrea VelascoAstete the Artist

Andrea VelascoAstete the Artist