Gretchen LeMaistre

LIVE BURLS,  collaboration with Kirk Crippens

Redwood preservation and the history of photography in the U.S. are closely intertwined. Before the aggressive logging of the19th century, redwood trees grew abundantly on the Pacific coast. Carleton Watkins’ 19th century photographs of Yosemite and of logging were influential in congressional dialogue that resulted in securing land for our National Park Service.

Today less than five percent of old-growth redwood forest remains in the Northern Hemisphere, most living in the Redwood National and State Parks. The California redwoods of today are timeless emblems of natural glory, but also of manifest destiny and entitled consumption. Even the protected trees of the parks are subject to threat of poachers seeking to profit from the burls' rare and exquisitely patterned grain. Because much of propagation happens through its burls, just one poached tree can impact an entire grove ecosystem. Decades may pass before the full extent of the damage can be assessed.

In 2013, we learned of a sudden increase in poaching incidents, and contacted park rangers who led us to the shorn trees in the forests. We chose to reference conversations begun by Watkins and other early masters by photographing these trees using an 8x10 camera with black and white film. The photos in this gallery are scans of silver gelatin prints.


Click here to view Datz Museum Of Art interview about the collaboration.