Trees of Life

Magnum photographers explore the majesty of trees

Magnum Photographers

Stuart Franklin Crown shyness in the 'kapur' tree (Dryobalanops aromatica), one of the dipterocarps that, as they mature in the forest, develop mutual avoidance. Kepong Forest Reserve. Malaysia. 1997. © Stuart Franklin | Magnum Photos
Gueorgui Pinkhassov Soviet Union. Tallin, Estonia. Circa 1980. © Gueorgui Pinkhassov | Magnum Photos
Peter Marlow The Queensland Wet Tropics. UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Australia. 2004. © Peter Marlow | Magnum Photos
Alec Soth Johnny Cash's boyhood home. Sleeping by the Mississippi. Dyess, Arkansas. USA. 2002. © Alec Soth | Magnum Photos
Peter van Agtmael Detroit, Michigan. USA. 2009. © Peter van Agtmael | Magnum Photos
Chris Steele-Perkins Village of Yamakoshi, near Nagaoka. Japan, 2010. December. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum Photos
René Burri Pampa, Argentina. South of Buenos Aires. 1958. © René Burri | Magnum Photos
René Burri Man exercising on a beach, not far from the port where nuclear submarines are stationed. Fort Lauderdale, Florida. USA. 1966. © René Burri | Magnum Photos
Bruno Barbey South of Agadir, Tiznit, Morocco, 1987. © Bruno Barbey | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. USA. 1987. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos
Trent Parke Opossum jumping from tree. Newcastle, N.S.W. Australia. 2004 © Trent Parke | Magnum Photos
David Hurn Florence, Arizona. Cactus Forest Road. 1980. © David Hurn | Magnum Photos
Abbas Baobab trees stand guard, monstruous and familiar giants, over tombstones in the Catholic cemetery of Fadiouth. Fadiouth, Senegal. 1988. © Abbas | Magnum Photos
George Rodger Palmeries of Kerzaz near the Great Western Erg. Algeria, Sahara.1957. © George Rodger | Magnum Photos
Werner Bischof Pine tree in winter, Switzerland. 1940. © Werner Bischof | Magnum Photos
Larry Towell Naomi Towell stands by the window inside of the abandoned farmhouse that is just down the road from our home. It is on the eastern edge of the farm. From the pioneer cemetery on the small knoll in (...)
Jean Gaumy Prison. Walking courts. Caen, France. 1976. © Jean Gaumy | Magnum Photos
Dennis Stock In 1955 James Dean visited the town where he had spent his youth, it was just after he had made "East of Eden" but the film was not yet released. He stayed on the farm of his uncle Marcus Winslow w (...)
Patrick Zachmann Languedoc-Roussillon region. Gard department. Village of Bagnols-sur-Cèze. © Patrick Zachmann | Magnum Photos
Bruce Davidson Central Park. New York City, USA. 1992. © Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos

This Earth Day, Magnum releases a special collection of contemporary posters and fine prints celebrating the enduring importance of trees

All over the world, trees can be found that are thousands of years old. The first tree sprung up around 385 million years ago, and its continued propagation has meant the existence of humankind. The tree has provided clean air, sustenance, fuel, and shade for centuries. Over time, it has become a symbol of connectedness for many cultures; its roots symbolize connections and its branches illustrate familial ties. As Raghu Rai observes, it lends itself to the imagination. In the introduction to Trees, he writes, “I want to rise, overnight into a tree. And why not — even if it won’t last, at least my dreams will keep growing.”

However, environmental disasters and rapid deforestation at the hand of man have meant a sharp decline in tree populations. Stuart Franklin photographs the unfolding disaster in his book, The Time of Trees. His images of wilderness, forest activism and dramatic tree felling, all examine humanity’s imbalanced consumption of natural resources. Franklin calls for us to “celebrate trees,” he writes, “Not simply for their aesthetic value, but for the many and varied ways in which they enhance our world.” The Earth day initiative shares Franklin’s sentiment and aims to bring ecological awareness to areas that most need reforestation and promote the preservation of our natural heritage.

From Florida’s iconic beachfront palms as photographed by Rene Burri, to the overhanging branches of Central Park’s large pond in Bruce Davison’s image, and Trent Parke’s shots of possum nightlife in amongst the forests of Australia, the tree has often cropped up in the work of Magnum photographers. In celebration of Earth Day, Magnum shares a selection of images featuring trees from the archive, alongside a special collection of posters and fine prints to be launched on the Magnum shop. The photographs illustrate the way in which forests and trees have taken root in all corners of the earth, and ultimately, our collective consciousness.

Shop the collection here.

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