”If you go down to the woods today, you'll find it's worth the trip.
Me: I’m looking for “Into the Woods: Trees in Photography”. Could you point me in the right direction please?
Woman on Information Desk (singing): If you go down to the woods today, you’d better go in disguise …
Her: Oh, sorry, I’m so absorbed with Winnie the Pooh, but you’ll find Into the Woods in the middle of the woods, I mean Winnie the Pooh.
Me: Wishing I could raise one eyebrow in sardonic manner.
Her: So through the gift shop, um … turn right, past the … er …book shop and er …, it’s somewhere around there, by Winnie the Pooh.
Me: Isn’t that song the Teddy Bears’ Picnic? Doesn’t the Winnie the Pooh song go “Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh, Chubby, little cubby all stuffed with fluff.”?
Her (shrugs shoulders): Woods … trees … bears … Winnie the Pooh – it’s all blurring into one. Oh dear, we’re having quite a day of it.
And then of course, that tune turned into an earworm and there I am trying to be serious about trees whilst tapping my foot and humming The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.
As with most V&A photographic exhibitions – at least until the new photography wing opens next year – Trees in Photography is compact and bijou, but nicely curated. It is a blend of the different ways that trees have been photographed over the last 150 years, from Roger Fenton’s tree through his study window in Oxford to present day interpretations of the arbores. My personal favourites:
Untitled from the series Trees in Snow (Abbas Kiarostami). Part tree and part shadow combine with the snow in a simple and elegant composition to convey a sense of tranquility.
Playing Fields, a darkly interesting panorama by Sophy Rickett and the antithesis of Kiarostami. The blackness of the trees creates a sense of unease (think of all those book where shadowy deeds take place in the forest), which is accentuated by white goal-posts. Where are the children? *shudder*
It came as no surprise to see some trees from Ansel Adams, but I did do a double take on seeing a rather splendid image from Cartier Bresson; he clearly didn’t spend all his time on the streets of Paris. A selection of images can be seen on the V&A website.
NB. Post image is of the singing Christmas tree in the foyer and not part of the exhibition – no wonder the information desk is confused …
Into the Woods: Trees in Photography
- Until April 22nd 2018
- Free entry