about the book

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 last year, 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. 

And so after a year of thinking hard about this project, making dozens and dozens of trips to photograph the bonsai, and editing down thousands of images I’m asking for your support.

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”. I hope you’ll agree to be a part of this journey with me