San Francisco, CA 2013
There’s some passage in an interview with Robert Adams (of which I don’t feel like finding at the moment) where he relates to the interviewer how trees act as a metaphor for humanity in his work; the destruction of their environment becomes our own destruction (see his clear-cutting images if need be), the Cottonwood on the side of the road is your neighbor down the street. The utterly articulate way he describes this has always stuck with me. And I’ve often wondered, where do the trees and bushes in our cities fit into this metaphor? How do they come to represent something about a particular, urban lifestyle, in such a way that the Cottonwoods of Colorado and evergreens of Oregon represented something for Adams? A portrait of a tree in a median becomes a portrait life in the city.
A part of me anthropomorphizes them and i begin to pity the shrub struggling for light in our alleyways. I imagine their cousins in the suburbs, and their evermore distant cousins, the ones who don’t hear the drone of the freeway at night, laugh at them, watch them with condescension as styrofoam gets lodged in their branches and oily rainwater is the norm. It can hardly be an enjoyable life. Largely ignored. Hardly considered to be a living thing. Reduced to the lowest form of decoration.
They are the passengers on the bus with us, who just happen to be going the same way we are, and when we get off, they’ll soon disappear into oblivion.