Leaning Pine

On Tuesday I was in Canterbury on a lonely road near Hanmer Springs driving, travelling on my own. I’d seen a lot of landscape over the previous few days but these sturdy pine trees, all with a precise lean to the left, totally captured me. The prevailing winds in this area are admired for their force, there is even a settlement called Windwhistle. This wind, over the life of individuals such as those in this forest, have, bonsai like, shaped them. I’ve never seen anything like it, their powerful trunks, all at I would say, 15 degrees from the vertical.

This particular forest is very tidy and precise. The trunks have been groomed, the timber has less knots that way. But equally importantly, in this forest there are black cattle grazing on the undergrowth and making it lawnish. One is there as a small black dot right in the middle of the picture. I thank them because they helped this photo concentrate on the tree torsos and helped in giving this landscape, for me, a rush.

When I was little I used to go to the movies every Saturday, in a tiny Northland town called Ohaeawai, this was post-war rural New Zealand. The programme always included a black and white newsreel. For only a few minutes, one Saturday night, I might have been about 10, there was a clip about a garden in Japan where a gardener was, at the top of a tall elegant ladder, using equally elegant scissors, tenderly clipping the dead needles and twigs from a very large pine tree. Over decades it was being made into a work of art. The gardening ethic could not have been more different to that in which I was being raised. Those few electric minutes educated me in a way that has enriched my life.


A couple of postings ago I raised the subject of how one of my themes
concerns size, more specifically, just how big is the subject that
we are looking at. Here is another example of a photo that illustrates that point.

About 18 months ago I discovered that there was a major grower of bonsai in
New Plymouth. Although he is unable to be too public about his collection because
of the danger of being robbed, he was generous towards me in allowing me unlimited access to his beloved plants. This Japanese pine he has been growing for about 40 years.

The photo is small and I printed it in quite a large edition with the aim of it being an
inexpensive Christmas photo, although as much as I like it, it did not really sell that well.
It is possible that its time will come, perhaps not.

I’ve written on this topic partly because I have a number of students e-mailing me with questions, and ‘what are my themes?’ is one of the most common. Another one is ‘what are your influences?’