Olmsted Trees: Photographs by Stanley Greenberg, the perfect book for Earth Day

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, April 25, 2024

Olmsted Trees: Photographs by Stanley Greenberg, the perfect book for Earth Day
Fagus sylcatica, European Beech, Lake Park, Milwaukee, 2021.

NEW YORK, NY.- "Greenberg turns each knot and second growth, every ancient groove and gnarled root into a badge of honor—and defiance…In the form of these trees, Olmsted provided us with gigantic guides and protectors that would grow old along with us, and serve as constant reminders of both the fragility of natural life and its persistence in the most urban of environments." —Kevin Baker, novelist historian and journalist (from his essay in the book).

Fundamental to renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted's vision in his park designs was the key role of time. He had the ability to see a plot of land for what it was in the raw undeveloped state, as well as to visualize how his designs would translate several decades into the future after the trees and shrubs he planted had rooted and spread and integrated with the space. In a letter to his son he wrote,

“We determined to think of no results to be realized in less than forty years. I have all my life been considering distant effects and always sacrificing immediate success and applause to that of the future.”

This concept, which was an essential key to Olmsted's projects, is harnessed by current-day photographer Stanley Greenberg, in his book released last fall Olmsted Trees, (Hirmer / University of Chicago Press). The Brooklyn-based photographer created striking and iconic black and white portraits of the trees that date to the beginnings of these parks. From Olmsted's Central and Prospect Park designs in New York, to the Emerald Necklace in Boston, or park systems in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Louisville, Greenberg's body of work functions as both an homage to Olmsted, and a message about the importance of caretaking the current fragile state of Earth's natural environment.

In a recent interview Greenberg shares, “I love the idea of Olmsted saying he was designing parks for 100 years from now, and we’re not really thinking about 100 years from now. We’re not dealing with climate change, and if we don’t, the parks aren’t going to be here.”

Accompanying the photographs are three essays by experts on history, sociology, and landscape architecture that complement the narrative and present an interdisciplinary vision of both Olmsted and Greenberg’s achievements.

Stanley Greenberg is the author of several books, including Invisible New York, Waterworks, and CODEX New York. His photographs are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The New York Public Library, among others. He has had one-person exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Greenberg has received fellowships and grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Greenberg lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Tom Avermaete is professor for the History and Theory of Urban Design at ETH Zurich. Recent book publications include Casablanca – Chandigarh (with Maristella Casciato), Shopping Towns Europe (with Janina Gosseye), The New Urban Condition (with Leandro Medrano and Luiz Recamán), and Urban Design in the 20th Century: A History (with Janina Gosseye).

Kevin Baker is a novelist, historian, and journalist, whose novels include Dreamland, Paradise Alley, Strivers Row, and The Big Crowd. He is currently at work on a history of the United States between the world wars, for which he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has written for many major periodicals, and is a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine. He lives in New York.

Mindy Thompson Fullilove is a social psychiatrist and professor of urban policy and health at The New School. She has published over 100 scientific papers and eight books, including her highly regarded urban restoration trilogy, Root Shock, Urban Alchemy, and Main Street.

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