Trunk Show: ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM

The Aoyama Tree is a living monument to Buddhism in Los Angeles.

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THE FIG TREE
** **The Trees:
The Aoyama Tree, a Moreton Bay fig growing in a Los Angeles parking lot
The Threat: THE lack of water and nutrients due to asphalt paving; overpruning Read more about Robert Glenn Ketchum’s photos
Robert Glenn Ketchum

One of only five photographers ever featured in American Photo magazine’s “Master” series, Ketchum is one of the most influential voices in the American conservation movement. His most recent campaign aims to prevent the destruction of Southwest Alaska’s fisheries by exploitation of the area’s mineral resources

Many photographers use their work to make a political statement. Most of them leave it at that, passively hoping their pictures will simply inspire the human race to change its harmful ways. But few photographers use the medium in such a political way as Robert Glenn Ketchum. Through a series of books and exhibitions, Ketchum has put his artful images at the service of an ambitious environmental agenda—helping push important conservation laws through Congress.

Unlike most nature photographers, Ketchum can measure the effectiveness of his work in acres saved. Indeed, it has been used to support successful conservation campaigns ranging from the preservation of New York’s Hudson River Highlands to the protection of Alaska’s Tongass Rainforest from logging—in the latter case, compelling Congress to set aside over a million acres of old-growth trees. For Every Tree Tells a Story, though, Ketchum focused his attention on a single specimen. A 50-foot-tall Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla), the Aoyama Tree was planted in 1920 by its namesake, a Buddhist priest in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles, at the gates of the first Koyasan Buddhist Temple, one of the earliest in the city. It is a symbol of the long and sometimes difficult history of L.A.’s Japanese-American community. Over the years, though, it has been increasingly boxed in by the parking lot required for surrounding buildings, including, ironically, the Japanese American National Museum.

Layers of asphalt now deprive the Aoyama Tree’s roots of water and nutrients, and though a chain surrounds its base it remains unprotected from the scrawls of passing vandals. Ketchum reports that the tree has also been cut back to make it less of a hazard to cars and buildings. “You can see that its branches have been pruned heavily, and not always well,” he says. “Its crown is smaller, relative to its broad trunk, than it would have been in nature.” That disproportion is why Ketchum concentrated on the trunk. “When you back up, the tree gets lost in the large buildings surrounding it.”

The symbolism is lost as well. It’s paradoxical that a tree planted as a spiritual marker receives so little apparent reverence itself. It’s as if they paved paradise, to quote the songwriter Joni Mitchell, and put up a parking lot. Perhaps a few of those parking spaces can be torn up by wise city fathers, so that the Aoyama Tree gets the space it deserves and the long drink it needs.

Back to Main Gallery ****

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CITY OF TREES
The Trees: Louisville, KY's Olmsted-designed parks and parkways
The Threat: Highway building and severe weather Read more about Bob Hower’s photos
Bob Hower
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CITY OF TREES
The Trees: Louisville, KY's Olmsted-designed parks and parkways.
The Threat: Highway building and severe weather. Read more about Bob Hower’s photos.
Bob Hower
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CITY OF TREES
The Trees: Louisville, KY's Olmsted-designed parks and parkways.
The Threat: Highway building and severe weather. Read more about Bob Hower’s photos.
Bob Hower
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PRETTY IN THE CITY
The Trees: Japanese flowering cherries at Newark, NJ's Branch Brook Park
The Threat: Urban development and poor maintenance Read more about Yong Hee Kim’s photos
Yong Hee Kim
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PRETTY IN THE CITY
The Trees: Japanese flowering cherries at Newark, NJ's Branch Brook Park.
The Threat: Urban development and poor maintenance. Read more about Yong Hee Kim’s photos.
Yong Hee Kim
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PRETTY IN THE CITY
The Trees: Japanese flowering cherries at Newark, NJ's Branch Brook Park.
The Threat: Urban development and poor maintenance. Read more about Yong Hee Kim’s photos.
Yong Hee Kim
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AMAZING GRACE
The Trees: The American elms of East Hampton, NY
The Threat: Dutch elm disease Read more about Garie Waltzer’s photos
Garie Waltzer
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AMAZING GRACE
The Trees: The American elms of East Hampton, NY.
The Threat: Dutch elm disease. Read more about Garie Waltzer’s photos.
Garie Waltzer
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AMAZING GRACE
The Trees: The American elms of East Hampton, NY.
The Threat: Dutch elm disease. Read more about Garie Waltzer’s photos.
Garie Waltzer
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FOREST CATHEDRAL
The Trees:The old-growth forest of the abandoned Arborland tree Farm, Milliken, CO.
The Threat: Urban development, habitat destruction. Read more about Jay Dickman’s photos.
Jay Dickman
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FOREST CATHEDRAL
The Trees:The old-growth forest of the abandoned Arborland tree Farm, Milliken, CO.
The Threat: Urban development, habitat destruction. Read more about Jay Dickman’s photos.
Jay Dickman
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FOREST CATHEDRAL
The Trees:The old-growth forest of the abandoned Arborland tree Farm, Milliken, CO
The Threat: Urban development, habitat destruction Read more about Jay Dickman’s photo.
Jay Dickman
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FOREST CATHEDRAL
The Trees:The old-growth forest of the abandoned Arborland tree Farm, Milliken, CO.
The Threat: Urban development, habitat destruction. Read more about Jay Dickman’s photos.
Jay Dickman
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WISE ELDER
The Tree: A historic tulip poplar at Washington, DC's Tudor Place Historic House and Garden.
The Threat: The tree's age, which makes it more vulnerable to weather and environmental changes. Read more about Amy Bedik’s photos__.
Amy Bedik
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WISE ELDER
The Tree: A historic tulip poplar at Washington, DC's Tudor Place Historic House and Garden.
The Threat: The tree's age, which makes it more vulnerable to weather and environmental changes. Read more about Amy Bedik’s photos.
Amy Bedik
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WISE ELDER
The Tree: A historic tulip poplar at Washington, DC's Tudor Place Historic House and Garden
The Threat: The tree's age, which makes it more vulnerable to weather and environmental changes Read more about Amy Bedik’s photos__.
Amy Bedik
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ANCIENT MARKS
The Trees: The boxed pines of Weymouth Heights, in NC.
The Threat: Development, fire suppression. Read more about Frank Hunter’s photos.
Frank Hunter
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ANCIENT MARKS
The Trees: The boxed pines of Weymouth Heights, in NC
The Threat: Development, fire suppression Read more about Frank Hunter’s photos
Frank Hunter
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ANCIENT MARKS
The Trees: The boxed pines of Weymouth Heights, in NC.
The Threat: Development, fire suppression. Read more about Frank Hunter’s photos.
Frank Hunter
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ROAD WARRIORS
The Trees: Three massive bark-cloth ficuses in San Juan, P.R.
The Threat: A major highway passing directly under the trees' canopy Read more about Juan A. Pons’ photos__.
Juan A. Pons
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ROAD WARRIORS
The Trees: Three massive bark-cloth ficuses in San Juan, P.R.
The Threat: A major highway passing directly under the trees' canopy. Read more about Juan A. Pons’ photos.
Juan A. Pons
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MALL WALKING
The Trees: Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Boston, MA
The Threat: Heavy use and Dutch elm disease Read more about James Sheldon’s photos
James Sheldon
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MALL WALKING
The Trees: Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Boston, MA.
The Threat: Heavy use and Dutch elm disease. Read more about James Sheldon’s photos.
James Sheldon
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GARDEN TREE
The Trees: The Cummer Oak, a live oak at Jacksonville, Florida's Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
The Threat: Age and weather Read more about Larry Nighswander’s photos
Larry Nighswander
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GARDEN TREE
The Trees: The Cummer Oak, a live oak at Jacksonville, Florida's Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens.
The Threat: Age and weather. Read more about Larry Nighswander’s photos
Larry Nighswander
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WISE ELDER
The Tree: A historic tulip poplar at Washington, DC's Tudor Place Historic House and Garden
The Threat: The tree's age, which makes it more vulnerable to weather and environmental changes Read more about Amy Bedik’s photos
Barbara Bosworth
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WISE ELDER
The Tree: A historic tulip poplar at Washington, DC's Tudor Place Historic House and Garden.
The Threat: The tree's age, which makes it more vulnerable to weather and environmental changes. Read more about Amy Bedik’s photos.
Barbara Bosworth
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FOR THE AGES
The Tree: a massive black oak at the Katewood estate, Bratenahl, OH.
The Threat: Age and weather. Read more about Barbara Bosworth’s photos__.
Barbara Bosworth
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THE FIG TREE
** **The Trees:
The Aoyama Tree, a Moreton Bay fig growing in a Los Angeles parking lot
The Threat: THE lack of water and nutrients due to asphalt paving; overpruning Read more about Robert Glenn Ketchum’s photos
Robert Glenn Ketchum
trees14.jpg
THE FIG TREE
** **The Trees:
The Aoyama Tree, a Moreton Bay fig growing in a Los Angeles parking lot.
The Threat: THE lack of water and nutrients due to asphalt paving; overpruning. Read more about Robert Glenn Ketchum’s photos
Robert Glenn Ketchum
trees15.jpg
THE FIG TREE
** **The Trees:
The Aoyama Tree, a Moreton Bay fig growing in a Los Angeles parking lot.
The Threat: THE lack of water and nutrients due to asphalt paving; overpruning. Read more about Robert Glenn Ketchum’s photos
Robert Glenn Ketchum
trees16.jpg
THE FIG TREE
** **The Trees:
The Aoyama Tree, a Moreton Bay fig growing in a Los Angeles parking lot.
The Threat: THE lack of water and nutrients due to asphalt paving; overpruning. Read more about Robert Glenn Ketchum’s photos
Robert Glenn Ketchum
trees17.jpg
TEST OF TIME
The Trees: A 100-year-old row of American sycamores in Ames, Iowa.
The Threat: Infrastructure development; flooding. Read more about Dave Jordano's photos.
Dave Jordano
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TEST OF TIME
The Trees: A 100-year-old row of American sycamores in Ames, Iowa
The Threat: Infrastructure development; flooding Read more about Dave Jordano’s photos
Dave Jordano
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