GREENER | Carolyn Monastra, The Witness Tree

I’m not sure how I first found Carolyn Monastra’s blog, or when. She writes that she started the blog in September 2011 as a component of a new photographic project, The Witness Tree, dedicated to images of landscapes affected by climate change.

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One of Monastra’s images of felled trees along a beach in Tonga.

Although she maintains a fairly conventional web site, she made a smart decision by chosing the blog format, which allows her to include conversational narratives about her search for these impacted landscapes. (If one wanted to create an itinerary for a global adventure or two, the blog offers a number of tempting suggestions, including local cuisine.) The flora, fauna, and humans of a particular biome, after all, suggest the effects of change, and the stories they tell often lend themselves to words. It is landscape, however, that offers visual evidence, and the way things blend with each other and within the photographic frame create perspective, push us into appreciating, maybe even having, points of view.

Carolyn Monastra, Coconut trees being killed by rising sea levels (in Tonga)
Coconut trees being killed by rising sea levels. By Carolyn Monastra

Monastra’s photographs are not harangues, nor artificially strident. They are eloquent, honest, and often disturbing testimony to the damages being wrought on ecosystems around the world.

From Monastra’s photographs during a trip along Rio Negro and the Amazon rainforest.

She received a MFA from Yale, coming to it after being in social work for a number of years. Not the typical background for a photo-world insider. The combination does, however, make for an interesting blog that is also worth looking at, and has resulted in appealing photographs worth reading about for their implicit meanings as well as their surface pleasures and technical accomplishment.

(I should note, too, that I am strongly affected by trees, and Carolyn’s use of trees as symbols of climate change has great resonance for me. I wonder if she’s ever seen Jeff Krueger’s study of trees that have witnessed historic events? Or Janelle Lynch’s “portraits” of tree stumps in her Akna project (in her book Los Jardines de Mexico (Radius, 2011) and soon on display at the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, FL)?)

Carolyn Monastra’s blog, The Witness Tree
Monastra’s web site

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