2 December

Apple Tree In A Storm: Seeking New Visual Worlds

by Jon Katz

I realized last night when I was editing this photo of our apple tree in a storm that there was something familiar about my softening the apple tree in the snow.

Kathleen, a friend and blog reader, wrote that she liked the fact that I was seeking new visual worlds. She got it right, I think, although I didn’t know that until she told me.

But it wasn’t until this morning that I pulled up in my head the other images I had seen of artistic interpretations of trees that were presented in this way.

A couple of years ago, Maria and I had a wonderful week in New Mexico.

We especially loved visiting Georgia O’Keefe’s home and studio in Abiquiu. We both love her work, but I fell in love with her paintings of Cottonwood trees, the most beautiful trees I have seen.

I’m not comparing myself to her, but in a sense, she was doing AI visualizations before there were AI visualizations.

In AI (artificial intelligence) they are called “abstractions,” in my mind, they are, as Kathleen suggested, a new and visual way of capturing the feeling of a tree in a storm.

A new visual world.

Digital photography is my form, but I chafe sometimes at the very straight and literal images of modern large frame digital photography. We don’t imagine a different world, we stick close to the one we have.

And I don’t have to go over the top. I like fusing the two forms the literal, or “traditional”, and the new, the “abstraction.”

Sometimes, it’s good to break out of our creative ruts.  I want my readers to be surprised sometimes, I want them to think about what they see, like it or not. I dread stasis, I think it’s the pathway to Old Fartism, a runaway disease among the elderly.

O’Keefe took a cotton tree and softened it, presented it in a new and artistic way. In a sense, and without her brilliant skills, I was doing the same thing.

Our apple tree is a beautiful symbol of the farm. I wanted to see it in a different way as the first wave of the storm eased, and the second one is approaching.

I see abstraction imagery as walking right on the line between a literal digital image and something more on the edge of abstraction. I don’t want to go too far, I don’t want to stand still. So I walk on the line.

I don’t know if O’Keefe’s painting put this but into my head. But a poster of this painting does hang over my chair in the living room. I just find the similarities compelling.

I admire O’Keefe in many ways.

She was not bound by any of the conventional boundaries of art, she experiments and explored and changed the very definition of what art is.

I am not that ambitious, nor am I that talented, but it was exciting for me to see her Cottonwood trees.

If I’d had more color, it could have been even closer.


  1. Jon,
    I see much of Van Gogh’s expression in your recent photo experiments. The texture, the movement, and the color all resemble his work. This tree is a lot alike his “Starry Night” in mood and swirls. The recent picture of you walking Zinnia on the back road caught my eye with the texture of the trees along the road, your clothes, and the road itself. It’s an interesting look into the applications for photography. They look fun to paint, as well. Keep up the good work! Mary

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