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Taming the Tree

By MichaelBilottaPhotography    
In my continuing pursuit of this technique of adding tree-like attributes to humans, effectively creating anthropomorphized trees, I am getting closer to piecing together the meaning behind the impulse to do it, the subtext beneath the surface. My first attempt yielded a rather startling creature, but he was a stand alone, and had no context of story content whatsoever (see "the Myth of Fingerprints"). The next one ("a Sad Arrival at the New World") had more content, more context, but my living tree creature was still just and observer. Finally, in this one I have some to play with, more meaning in the work.

Of course, thanks to Tolkein, when you think of living tree creatures, you think of Ents, and Treebeard, but there is some metaphor at work, I suspect, in Tolkein's race of animated trees. In youth they are flexible and more mobile. As they get older, they become more rigid, less animated, and finally, they become "treeish" - that is to say, immobile, setting down roots, growing leaves, and losing the skill of speech. In effect, they become trees, which is really to say, they die.

There is an obvious parallel to our human life cycle there - the wild days of youth, the reflective properties of adulthood, and the decay and winding down of old age and death.

For a long time, the working title of this piece was "the Fell Tree" and I meant it to be a commentary on man's intrusion into the natural world, cutting down forests of living beings, arbitrarily changing the topography and ecosystem to suit his needs. I meant for the ladders to suggest construction, work in progress, and my tree creature was being felled in the process. But as the edit stretched on and on, more personal stuff came into it - the family tree, the chains around it, the family tree as a prison or a trap.

In the end, I suppose all of these things are in here, and it's open to interpretation, but if we follow the metaphor of youth, and the life cycle, this tree creature seems like he wants to move, to escape, and the chains hold him fast. And what are the chains? Outside forces trying to tame the tree, to keep it in its place, coaxing it to put down roots? If he does, he will be trapped there for good, and he will, in the words of Treebeard from Lord of the Rings, become ever more silent and "treeish."

The editing of this piece took about 12 hours, as I keep finding ways of refining this "skin graft" approach. I learned, since starting it, that it doesn't work for every model, and certain shots yield better results than others, with the lighting seems to be the key to making this look more believable - the harsher and more contrasted the light and shadows, the better it looks!. It also helps if you find a really great tree with varied features like this one!

Model: Gilberto Mendez

Tags: Specialist and abstract Digitally manipulated Digital art Portraits and people Flash and lighting

Voters: Mrserenesunrise, Chesscat, KDC and 12 more

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bluesandtwos 11 521 1 England
29 Aug 2013 9:14AM
For me, there is far more 'meaning' in the text than in the image itself. It's possible you have created such a high benchmark with some of your previous images that it's almost impossible not to judge your new images against the old.

Technically flawless, as usual! Smile


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