Trees of Life

Anyone visiting New York probably hasn’t come for the trees. So Mitch Epstein’s new photographic project, the trees of New York, seems puzzling at first. Even more so when we see these images are in black and white, not normally the choice of a photographer known for his color work .

However, on viewing the pictures at the Sikkema Jenkins and Co Gallery on 22nd street first hand, they become quite intriguing.

For a start their taken with a large format camera and are big, at least 6 ft tall maybe larger, which naturally encourages us to look more closely at them. I’m afraid my thumbnails are not going to really do them justice but in real life they are very beautiful and more importantly, thought provoking.

So often we view nature as a backdrop for something, be it animals or human beings and their creations.

Rarely do we see trees in an urban environment as ‘the stars’ as we do in Epstein’s work. In this series, the silent trees shelter the tiny people underneath their branches. They feel almost as if they are holding our world together, just by the nature of their longevity.

The black and white helps stop the jarring colors of an urban environment (think shop awnings and garish clothing) distracting us from them. While at the same time making the trees feel more interwoven with their urban setting.

In short these images are a great tribute to the cities silent witnesses.

I’d just like to add a thank you to the excellent Sikkema Jenkins & Co Gallery, which kindly allowed me to use these  images in this post.Incidentally, I found an interview with Epstein where he elaborates more eloquently than I about how he came to create these pictures.

If you wish to see more of Mitch Epstein’s work you can at

All images copyright Mitch Epstein / Black River Productions, Ltd. Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

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