My passions for black & white photography and trees were partnered in this project – photographing New Mexico Champion Trees.
For much of my photographic life, I have loved making portraits of trees. I have been especially attracted to older trees, with a lot of character. Gnarled and weathered from all they have lived through, they seem immortal.
On reflecting how many of our oldest trees today are in jeopardy of being cut down or dying due to disease, climate change or wildfires, I began documenting “champion” trees in New Mexico, where I make my home. In this era of extreme weather conditions due to global warming, trees are threatened more than ever. In New Mexico, we are deep in drought conditions and wildfires are commonplace.
To qualify for the status of a New Mexico State Champion, a tree needs to be nominated and meet criteria based on circumference, crown spread, and height. The New Mexico State Forestry has furnished me with location information.
The first tree I photographed for this series was one that had already died. The Horse Chestnut in Santa Fe had died in the last year. I photographed the tree before, during and after it was cut down, in the late summer of 2013.
In Summer 2013, I photographed the Rio Grande Cottonwood in Albuquerque. The American Forest Foundation crowned this tree a National Champion in 2013.
Many of these Champion Trees are nestled deep in the mountains of New Mexico, and not easy to find. However, photographing these trees as I am able may be a years-long project.