About this project:
The Witness Tree is a photography project of places that are being affected by climate change. From the melting ice of Antarctica to wild fires in Australia, I have targeted locations that represent a diversity of natural environments and cultures to demonstrate that this problem is indeed a global epidemic. As an artist deeply motivated by issues in the natural world, I draw attention to these precious and precarious environments before they are irrevocably altered. The damage may not always be visibly obvious, but all these locations, and the people who live in or near them, are being affected in numerous ways. These places not only bring us solace with their beauty but they also provide some of life’s basic necessities: water, food, and shelter.
I first began working on this project in 2010 after an artist’s residency in Iceland. I was astonished how much some glaciers had melted since my previous visit to Iceland five years earlier. I have photographed 19 U.S. states, in 17 countries and on every continent. I have met many remarkable people who have shared their stories with me. Although many of the landscapes I visited were beautiful, the stories were not: I heard tales of loss of life, property, and valuable natural resources. It was and continues to be a bittersweet journey.
An integral part of this project has been my ongoing research: reading books and websites, attending seminars, and speaking with specialists. It is important to me to be informed about climate change so that I can relay accurate information to my audiences.
What is a Witness Tree? How I chose this project title:
By tradition, a witness tree is used in land surveying to mark a property corner that cannot be reached because it lies off a cliff or in a body of water. The term also refers to trees that have witnessed historic events; i.e. an old honey locust that existed during the battle of Gettysburg. For this project I am photographing many trees that are observing the changes in the land around them. In essence, my eyes and my camera are also acting as witnesses. The resulting pictures will serve as permanent documents of these precious and precarious environments that are being affected by climate change.