Extraordinary Trees of New York City: Benjamin Swett

American Elm, Harlem River Drive, Manhattan, October 10, 2003 © Benjamin Swett photography

Royal Paulownia, 7.5". Hutchinson River. May 8, 2002 © Benjamin Swett photography

Benjamin Swett is a New York-based photographer specializing in nature and architecture, with a particular interest in combining photographs with text. He worked for the New York City Parks Department from 1988 until 2001 before going out on his own to pursue photography full-time. His books include The Hudson Valley: A Cultural Guide (2009), Route 22 (2007), and Great Trees of New York City: A Guide (2000). It was this last book, a black-and-white monograph for the Parks Department, that set him on the road photographing trees. His new book, Extraordinary Trees of New York City, is scheduled for publication by the Quantuck Lane Press in 2013; this project has been made possible with this support of Furthermore: a project of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

American Elm, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, April 12, 2010 © Benjamin Swett photography

White Oak, Douglaston, Queens, July 29, 2009 © Benjamin Swett photography

“I used to work for the New York City Parks Department, and drove around the city in a green truck. Since then, I have always tended to look at the city in terms of its trees. In a city as large and busy as New York, trees mean different things to different people. For some, they represent a link to an earlier era and provide a sense of continuity among the ever-changing buildings and streets. For others, they become associated with particular people or events and serve as objective correlatives for emotions connected to relationships or places.

Caucasian Wing-Nut, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, July 31, 2009 © Benjamin Swett photography

American Hornbeam, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, October 15, 2009 © Benjamin Swett photography

For others, trees are simply beautiful things that provide esthetic relief from the hard lines of urban architecture. And for still others, they establish a personal connection to the natural history of the planet. In photographing and writing about the trees of New York, I am trying to communicate some of these meanings as they relate to particular specimens around the five boroughs. By presenting the specimens together in a book, I am trying to make a portrait of the city.”

Silver Linden, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, October 15, 2009 © Benjamin Swett photography

English Elm, St Nicholas Avenue, Manhattan, July 31, 2009 © Benjamin Swett photography

To contact Benjamin and to view more of his work, visit his website here.

2 comments

  1. Pingback: New York City of Trees: Benjamin Swett | eighteen39

  2. Pingback: Getting Into the Roots of Manhattan Through a History of its Famous Trees | Untapped Cities

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: