- FAO and UNEP. 2020. The State of the World’s Forests 2020. Forests, biodiversity and people. Rome. https://doi.org/10.4060/ca8642en.
Using 4x5 film and a large format camera, I photographed forests in two U.S. states and climate zones to visualize local environmental consequences.
“When Trees Are Dying” is a photography project that explores human impacts on forests. Covering 31 percent of world’s land surface, forests are major carbon sinks and remain one of the most critical ecosystems to preserve. Key to biodiversity, forests are also crucial for water and oxygen supplies, food production, livelihoods, and mitigating the effects of climate change. Still, deforestation and degradation continue at alarming rates, which, alongside higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, lead to increasing average and extreme temperatures across the globe.1
Depending on their geographic location, trees face a variety of climate change impacts—from rising temperatures to drought, fires, invasive pests, flooding, storms, sea level rise, and saltwater intrusion. Using 4×5 film and a large format camera, I photographed forests in two U.S. states and climate zones (North Carolina and Massachusetts) to visualize local environmental consequences.
I used specific photographic processes to represent different impacts. To invoke warming, I used solarizing prints in the darkroom. For drought, I employed solarized prints that I then roasted in a kiln. Sea level rise was represented by mirroring gelatin silver prints; and saltwater intrusion by adding sea salt from the North Carolina coast. The resulting photographs are presented as an installation in both color and black and white.
The process of photography itself creates a plethora of carbon emissions, including traveling to locations, shipping materials, and employing supplies such as paper and darkroom chemicals. With this in mind, I tried to stay local as much as possible to emit as little carbon as I could. The first part of the project was photographed in Massachusetts while I was attending a residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and while working as a visiting researcher at Harvard Forest in 2019. The second part of the project was created near my home in North Carolina.