Musings on creativity for photographers and artists by Rob Hudson

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Why Tree Line should come to a natural conclusion

It is cold, for the past few hours I have been completely absorbed in photographing one remarkable tree. I hadn't noticed the growing chill of evening. Throwing on my coat, I turn to retrace my steps, wading through knee high bracken, clouds touching the hills, the valleys a fading blue. I am alone on the hillside and in a contemplative mood, in a land of sheepsong and thickening light. As I head over the protecting hill that shelter these last few high trees from exposure I begin to realise that in the two year gap since my last visit to the tree line something has changed within me, I suspect it's a profound realisation about my motivations as an artist, but not really fully formed until days later when I sit down to write and examine my thoughts more closely and the consider work I'd produced that evening.

Before I'd even stepped out that day I'd been thinking back almost two years to what my motivations were in undertaking the Tree Line project and why it needs to find a natural conclusion. Some of you may realise that Tree Line sprang directly from the Memories, Dreams and Reflections project which was an artistic response to the death of my mother. MDR was all about grieving, it was revisiting the haunts of mine and my mother's childhood. It was an exploration of memory and time - intentional camera movement indicating the blurring of these strange functions of our consciousness, the passing of an epoch and the importance of place in our development and perceptions of self.

Tree Line was about emerging out of that shadow, coming both emotionally and metaphorically from the dark into the light, it was direct in both time and in geography. MDR was predominantly set in the foot hills of Abergavenny and Tree Line on the higher slopes of Sugar Loaf mountain. It's not quite that geographically clear cut if I'm honest, in fact many of the images in TL were taken within view of the tree which makes up the final image in MDR; the last tree, alone on the slopes, looking out from on high over Abergavenny and where I scattered my mothers' ashes. 

Incidentally, I don't believe in an afterlife, heaven, hell or all those trappings of traditional religion, but it was even now a peculiar experience seeing that tree. I felt an acute confusion. How should respond? Do I wave? Say hello? Go through some sort of confessional? That's not for me, practicing my creativity would be the one thing that would have made my mother proud and happy, so that is what I do, not just for her, but also for myself. I find it completely satisfying to be immersed in the "zone" creating images, forgetting time and place and not noticing the growing cold of dusk.

So, getting back into the point in hand, why do I feel Tree Line should come to a natural end? Most simply my motivations aren't the same today as they were 2 years ago. To put it bluntly I'm over it! (At least as far as we ever can be.) I'm no longer searching for the light, fighting through a strange world of ghostly forms. I returned this week and realised I had attained the light so to speak, it was the beauty of the tree in all its strange forms that entranced me, I found myself looking for a more balanced composition, like a "proper" visual artist, more of an abstract concept, more remote from the emotional force the was the green fuse for the projects' inception. In many ways it's a successful conclusion, I am back in the world of beauty, back to appreciating things for what they are, especially in nature and landscape, I have fought off the darkness.

Before you all jump to the conclusion that I'm rejecting a conceptual approach, that I'm going to go out and take saturated sunsets (the horror!) I can reassure you that I'm most certainly not! I do however feel my future work will have matured, the ideas will be less forced, more motivated by the art instinct. I have changed, I have grown artistically, my understanding of the world has developed, but one thing I now realise is that my art may in fact be beyond explanation, even to myself and it is that mystery that will provide a further motivation to create in the future, there's plenty to explore here. As I enter middle age I may just become more abstract in thought and deed.

It is good to remember, to examine the lie of the land, to realise that life contains good times and bad, for if nothing else they help contextualise where we are now. As I leave the tree line for good, knowing that my artistic and emotional aims have been realised I shall hold within myself the thought that I have come to know intimately two beautiful trees for two very different reasons. One from darkness and another from light. And yet as I conclude tears run down my face, art you see has meaning.


  1. Sensitive piece of writing, Rob. Well done. Of course, there's plenty more work still to do, other avenues and byways, other peaks, fundamentals to be challenged, and statements to be made.

  2. A beautifully written and rather challenging article. The consequences for future projects are intriguing!

  3. Rob

    I particularly like these five images, an interesting backdrop to your thoughts. And although you may not go back to a certain kind of formula photography in your landscape , I suspect you will revist this one more often that you suspect - there are certain answers you will never find, however long you look... Enjoy the search!

  4. Sandeha, many thanks, I'm certain there are new avenues to explore (some of them might not even be composed of trees!). Ideas abound, time is short...

  5. Thank you Michael, I hope that the future projects will be suitably intriguing.

  6. Jon, Cheers, I'm sure there's truth in that and of course one project influences another or as in this case flows directly from the previous.

  7. Hi Rob, an intimate and sensitive post which made me reflect on my own motivations. Searching for clarity, meaning, purpose and light seems to involve moments of panic, doubt, loneliness, confusion and clarity but also hard work. The climb continues beyond the tree line. The hill opens up ready to be explored, possibly to get lost.
    Looking forward to your new work.

  8. Thanks James, you know if it was easy, everyone would be doing it!


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