News + Features on In Training
Portraits of Slow Growth on Tokyo Weekender Magazine
Visualizing the Meditative Lives of Bonsai Trees on National Geographic's PROOF blog
Zen and the Art of Bonsai Maintenance on Slate's Behold blog
Photos of Historic Bonsai Masterpieces on Atlas Obscura
In Training: A Documentation of the Slow Art of Bonsai Trees on Spoon & Tamago
On the Beauty of Bonsai Trees on American Photography's Pro Photo Daily
This was not what I thought my first book would be.
As a photographer based in Washington, DC, I’m fortunate to meet and photograph many interesting people and have my photographs published in magazines around the world. I love this work - trying to make a meaningful connection with my subjects in the brief time we have together. And I love the challenge of trying to come away with a photo I’m happy with every time.
But often my time with my subjects feels limited and rushed, with little chance to make a real connection.
Last year I decided to try something different, something that felt difficult and uncertain and cut across the grain of how I worked as a photographer. I decided to slow down.
I’ve loved bonsai trees since I first saw one almost twenty years ago at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. I’m humbled when I think about the commitment of generations of bonsai masters who care for these trees. I see so many parallels to photography in how the bonsai masters work. The way they’re able to visualize an inner harmony to a tree and train it to reveal its essence, not so different from how you compose a photograph. But what I love most about bonsai is the empathy of its practitioners that is reflected in these trees. Practitioners who care for and maintain trees that will outlive them, that will eventually be watched over by someone else, long after they’re gone. A writer once called bonsai “a proxy for our hopes of the future, a post-dated love letter.”
And so, on a cold October day in 2014, I began photographing these trees. There were no deadlines, no PR person telling me to wrap up. Just the tree, my camera and a few lenses, trying hard to find my own bit of harmony in the viewfinder. In those long hours of slow, almost meditative photography, I remembered some of the things I loved about taking pictures, about the feeling of taking a good, hard look at something and deciding how I should respond to it in a photo. But also during those first few months, I fought against the part of me that wanted to work quickly, that tried to avoid difficult questions I needed to ask about what makes a good photo.
I’m working with one of my favorite designers to create a beautiful, hand-crafted book of my photos. I hope this will be a book that rewards a long, slow look, that can be returned to again and again.
I’m calling it “In Training”.