My tutorial with Nigel went well with two ideas pitched for discussion. Nigel liked them and challenged me to shoot them both.
The first idea is a statement about the future if deforestation isn’t arrested. The sketch below outlines the idea, but the basic elements are myself wearing something that aids breathing, a tree that has lost its branches and appears to be bandaged, and a deforested, dead, landscape as a back drop.
The picture is going to be a montage, greatly influenced by Peter Kennard, but in this montage all the elements are either purposely shot for the assignment or are library shots from my own archive of images I’ve taken over the years.
The image attempts to show what will happen if we cut down all the trees, which are essential to life on earth as trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and we need oxygen for our own survival. “Forests still cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area, but swaths the size of Panama are lost each and every year.” (http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation-overview/- 8/11/14).
By bandaging a tree I am making a statement on the token efforts mankind currently undertakes to ‘fix the problem’, which is more at the level of first aid triage and therefore similar in scale to that given to a victim at the scene of a road accident. We maybe saving or replacing trees but no where near the rate they are being lost. Bleakest estimates from National Geographic is that the majority of rain forests have only 100 years to live.
The image style will draw on movie posters of old B movies similar to the work of Cindy Sherman where she has re created sills that looked as if they were movie posters.
In putting together the elements for the shoot the first real problem was finding a suitable tree devoid of branches still standing. Autumn is the season where a lot of tree surgery takes place in the UK and through a contact in the Scouts I have access to a small wooded campsite where several trees are scheduled for felling. Three of these trees have already had their branches removed ready for felling. The logistics though of covering a full size 40 foot high tree in bandages would take some planning.
To minimise the risk and avoid having to personally climb the tree I am considering making a scale model of the tree using a similar method to the Japanese miniature art of Bonsai. This involves using a branch from the tree that mimics the trunk and branch pattern of the full sized tree. As I will only need a trunk and it will be covered in bandages just the shape of the branch will be the deciding factor in choosing my scale model tree. The branch selected will be from the same tree as the one standing so that I can blend the ‘branch’ photo with the image of the standing tree. The Bonsai art works due to the science of ‘fractals’. This is the name given to the natural repeating pattern present in all living things.
In looking for a suitable landscape to illustrate my barren lifeless earth I recalled images of a forest fire at Yellowstone Park USA which once extinguished left a forest of dead trees. My visit there in 2006 gave me the opportunity to photograph the devastation.
The image I have chosen as a base for the back ground is one of the set from Yellowstone park. The trees in the foreground had been killed by the volcanic chemicals leeching into the ground and into the plants.
Having got my key elements for the picture the next step was to create a rough draft and obtain a gas mask or some sort of breathing apparatus. A friend who engages in Live Action Role Play, strangely, possesses a military gas mask which he has agreed to lend me for the shoot.
The mock up of the image, without a tree bandaged and using an image of a gas masked person taken from the internet as a substitute for myself, was assembled. I also decided to add in an image taken in Beijing of a factory belching smoke to add to the apocalyptic scene. Lastly I decided to tint the whole image a yellow – mustard colour, synonymous with Mustard Gas a lethal weapon used in World War 1.
The draft image is below
I welcome feedback prior to the actual shoot!