“Like so many before me, I went into the woods in search of adventure,” writes Anna Beeke, the photographer whose Sylvania series investigates the eerie, cinematic ambience of US woodlands in places such as Washington state. She captures woodcutters who might have stepped out of a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the rib-like ruins of a felled trunk, and gothic ferns thriving amid dense growths of red cedar and western hemlock. Her title hints at the myriad fables of shadowy or enchanted forests. “They have always been places where humans have ventured beyond the structured limits of civilisation,” she says.
In this image, Beeke delivers a cross-section of nature at work, featuring the Tree of Life, a huge spruce that has become a landmark at Kalaloch on the Pacific shoreline in Washington state. Unfeasibly, its roots span two banks of a cliff. The photo is a fairy-tale composition of muted organic hues punctuated by bright pops of humanity as two children explore the edges of the bluff.
Beeke’s series is featured in Looking at Trees: New photography of trees, forests & woodlands by Sophie Howarth, a survey of 26 artists’ work capturing arboreal treasures in Iceland, Germany, Brazil, Australia and more. “Inspired by science, folklore and mythology, these photographers lure us away from the pressures of modern life, back into a timeless world where nature envelops and absorbs us,” writes Howarth in her introduction. The children in Beeke’s shot, winding their way through the strange, coastal canopy, certainly seem absorbed and enveloped. Happily so.