'Ancient Trees': from Botswana to Yemen, some of the world's oldest trees

A 14-year quest yields thoughtful, dignified portraits of ancient trees.

Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time By Beth Moon Abbeville Publishing Group 104 pp.

Like many new photographers just starting out, I used to take my Pentax film camera out and about to photograph lovely old trees. The images were nice but unremarkable, and I came to see them as a phase to outgrow as my eye developed.

The images Beth Moon created with her Pentax 6.7 film camera, however, transformed a common photographic attraction to old trees into a project with weight and lasting beauty. Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time is the result of Moon’s 14-year quest to photograph some of the world’s oldest trees.

Moon covers a wide swath of the world, documenting trees from the quiet yews in Britain to the wild dragon tree in Socotra, Yemen. Some are lovely, and some, like the mighty baobabs of Botswana, seem, as Moon describes, “more like creatures than trees.”

Many of the trees have interesting histories of one kind or another (chronicled in notes in the back by Moon), like the solitary oak in England’s Windsor Forest, a place said to be haunted by a wandering ghost so legendary it was mentioned by Shakespeare. There is also a fig tree in Santa Barbara, Calif., that survived a trip by boat from Australia, to be planted in its new home by a local girl in 1876. And one enormous (82 feet in circumference) baobab tree in Botswana has served as both a navigation beacon and post office.

But regardless of the trees’ pasts or associations with humans, Moon’s images allow the trees to speak for themselves. “Ancient Trees” provides the kind of thorough and thoughtful portrait that each of these majestic long-lived survivors deserves.

Ann Hermes is a Monitor staff photographer.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 'Ancient Trees': from Botswana to Yemen, some of the world's oldest trees
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today