I sat on this project for a long time even though I love these images, in fact, there are some of my favorite images I’ve created this year. My hesitation is because I can’t discern if it’s for the visual enjoyment they bring, or for the process and memories associated with them. These are from my favorite trees in Madrid’s Retiro Park, from the first time I saw them, and each time since, I’ve shot them because they always move me. In almost every instance, my photos were touristic at best and just… not good…at their worst. I walked by them probably 1–2 times a week for almost 9 months and captured them each day in a different way trying to find an image of them that match what I felt and saw. The things that struck me about them most were, their whimsy, their beauty and their organic nature where a patchwork of strangely shaped branches gave the illusion of a single polished tree that was beautifully shaped.
Long story short, I captured this shot while avoiding something that frightened me. I set a personal challenge for myself to go to the park and ask strangers if I could take their picture. I challenged myself with 10 people or 2 hours, whichever came first. Walking to the area I had designated for myself, I stopped under the trees to take a deep breath and settle myself before stepping out of my comfort zone (…and the reptilian part of brain was trying to tell me to just turn around and go home because it was too hot and the lighting was bad…procrastination). Standing under the tree, camera in my hand, I looked up in avoidance of the challenge ahead and found a view I loved even more than the thousands I had tried while looking from the outside. I snapped a series of shots and I love them. The more I look at them the more I feel like they resemble organs of the body and abstractly they feel symbolic of so much and tell different stories depending on the context of how they are viewed.
I waited a long time to share them, to reflect on how much of my interest in them was the process and how much was the image, and recently, after two amazing photo workshops, I have realized that images like this are important for a photographer because they are some of the more creative pieces that say something about me as a photographer, beyond my technical capability, pixels, or capturing a moment, but instead is a purely creative act that touches on an essential part of my perspective and art. It’t not a definitive, fully formed statement, but it’s a step towards hearing my own voice in a photo.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge three photographers that have greatly impacted my seeing and my confidence: Olaf Sztaba , Chris Knight, and David DuChemin. All three are brilliant photographers who are also passionate and talented educators and I can’t recommend their work and workshops highly enough!