By Margie Ruddick
I am probably not alone in having become jaded about “wonders of the natural world” photographic anthologies; those slick and perfect screen-saver images of animal and plants just leave me cold. A book of tree photographs—big yawn, right? So what a surprise to fall in love with photographer Larry Lederman’s book Magnificent Trees of the New York Botanical Garden (The Moncacelli Press; 2012).
The visceral response I had upon encountering Lederman’s photographs blindsided me, and some of it must have to do with his unusual approach. He doesn’t seem to look through a viewfinder to settle on a visual composition: His trees are more often photographed in part rather than whole—tops are lopped off, or the photograph shows an assemblage of trunks, branches, and leaves. But the results are not abstract or overly cerebral; you can always read the whole from its parts. Shapes and colors are new, not like anything we have seen before. One imagines Lederman just standing there in the landscape, intuiting what it feels like to be with these trees, waiting for the picture somehow to emerge, then snap—it’s frozen in time.