Marking the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest signed by King Henry III, and corresponding with the launch of the 2017 Charter for Trees, Woods and People, the V&A’s new display Into The Woods: Trees in Photography, celebrates the significance of trees in the work of photographers across the world and throughout history.
The exhibition is comprised of works from the V&A’s permanent collection as well as photographs recently transferred from the Royal Photographic Society ahead of their rehousing in the museum’s new Photography Centre in 2018. Curated by Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs at the V&A, Into The Woods began as an impulse – “I just like trees!” – but gradually revealed itself to be the germ of a great idea.
Sleeping by the Mississippi has been ranked with the great representations of the United States, including Walker Evans’ pictures of the depression, Robert Frank’s harsh vision of the 1950s and, more recently, the colour work of Joel Sternfeld. As Alec Soth’s seminal work goes on show in London and is given a handsome reprint by MACK, we revisit an interview with him from back in 2004 – when the series first came out.
“There are two important things about this show,” says Clément Chéroux, senior curator of photography at SFMOMA. “First, the quantity of work – more than 300 photographs, quite a large selection, because we were able to get support from most of the big institutions – MOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Canada, the Musée du Quai Branly and so on, and private collections from around the world. Second, is the fact that it is arranged thematically rather than chronologically. Usually when you look at important retrospectives they are chronological, but we organised by theme because we wanted to organise it around Evans’ passion for the vernacular. He was fascinated with vernacular culture.”