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How is 'aliveness' measured; how is it valued? This is the fundamental question I'm trying to answer with this work. When I first started shooting photos for Dendrochronology 98074 in March, 2015, I wanted to chronicle the changes rapidly taking place as my community, about 14 miles east of Seattle, lurched out of economic recession. As my neighborhood exploded with growth, swaths of forest were getting cut down all around me, usually in order for housing developments to go up or for lake views to be cleared. At first, I shot many of the pictures on my iPhone, casually recording a changing corner or lot. As I kept working on the series, I started using a DSLR, and the stumps became a kind of overarching metaphor for time, change and the arc of a life. I have now documented nearly 150 of them, and am in the process of putting them together into an archive, visual documents of both the living things that existed once, albeit in a different form, and of acts committed sometime in the recent (or not so recent) past.
"Dendrochronology" refers to the science of determining the age of a tree by studying its rings in cross section. As I've continued making images for the project, questions have come up: Why was a particular tree or group of trees cut down? (sometimes this is obvious, sometimes not.) Is a stump dead or alive? Peter Wohlleben, author of The Secret Life of Trees, a best-seller in Germany published last year, goes into great detail outlining the interaction of trees within the forest environment, and of stumps in particular, and the shared chemical exchanges that go on underground, out of sight.
The changes caused by the felling of a few trees aren't often obvious, but incrementally add up. In my own neighborhood, situated uphill from Lake Sammamish, the increased downhill water runoff caused by tree removal and increased surface pavement has caused unprecedented (and unplanned for) flooding for houses further downhill, causing citizen complaints and a minor headache for the local city council. I've documented some of these interactions as well.
The fact that the remnants of these trees exist all around us– like ghosts, in plain view yet nearly invisible– intrigues me. Their "invisibility" is an apt metaphor for the way forests are inexorably being cut down little by little globally, seen but often overlooked. Unaccounted for in a world that has no final tally at any given time for what forests are left and what effect that might ultimately have on the planet as a whole, they mark an open question: how much more of this can the planet accept?