alexandra regan toland

research narratives in artistic ecology

Street Tree Diaries

What started out as a photographic database quickly became a seasonal diary of six special street trees. The long and repeated gaze through the viewfinder allowed me to come to know every swaying branch and twig with an intimacy that seemed opposed to the anonymous, every-day world of the sites where the trees grew. Hours of detailed leaf shots gave me heightened recognition – and appreciation – for the chlorophyllic spectrum expressed by photosynthesis. The green of a basswood in April is so many shades and meanings away from an oak in August.

The 3d visualization company Laubwerk GmbH specializes in providing photorealistic renderings of trees to be used in architectural design software programs. For initial product development, the company needed multiple seasonal views and photos of color-true leaf surfaces, textures and transparencies. Since vegetation rendering software based on mathematical modeling of plant morphology already exists, Laubwerk was looking for something special and unique – trees as imperfect individuals rather than perfect prototypes. Together we agreed on six species. The choice of individuals was left to me as an artistic decision.

Project Site and Duration

Six locations in Berlin (see below) from 2008 – 2009

Project Partners / Collaborators

Philip Paar, Laubwerk GmbH

Materials and Methods

On perfectly cloudless days I returned to the same “starting positions” to gather raw colormetric digital photodata of six chosen trees. For all four seasons I created image sets using my Canon EOS 40D with a Canon EFS 17-85mm lens and a Tokina macro 100 F2.8 D lens (a beautiful tool). The sets included: whole views, branch views, leaf surfaces and transparencies of 10+ leaves for each tree, and sometimes flowers and fruits. For all photos, but especially the leaf close-ups, a custom white balance was used and a color chart and ruler were in view. As cloudless days are numbered in Berlin, daily weather reports had me in a state of constant alertness. As cloudless days also mean more hustle and bustle, traffic and commotion were sometimes an obstacle to the photographic quiet of both subject and object.

The special six

A Tilia tomentosa (silver basswood) to the right of the bus stop Köpeniscker Strasse / Manteufel Strasse in Kreuzberg; a single Quercus robur (English oak) on the lawn outside the Arena / Badeschiff on the Pushkinallee in Treptow; the first Prunus serrulata (Japanese cherry) in a row of cherry trees along the Görlitzer Ufer on the back-yard side of the Lohmühlenstrasse in Treptow; a single Ulmus laevis (European White elm) in the parking lot of the Metro supermarket, stretching over the footpath of the Berghain Discotek in Friedrichshain; a single Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust) dwarfed by the victory tower in the center of the traffic circle “großer Stern” in the Tiergarten; an Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven) on the lawn of the Zeiss Planaterium in Prenzlauerberg.


This entry was posted on August 15, 2009 by .
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