Shadow Trees

Shadow Trees, 2019

Shadow Trees is an artist's book with an augmented reality cover. When viewed through an Augmented Reality application the cover becomes animated:

Essay on Shadow Tree video by Dale Hudson

Shadow Trees compiles and animates images of urban nature. Focusing on shadows cast by trees onto walls, buildings, pavement, and the trunks of other trees, Jody Zellen is able to investigate places where natural and built environments overlap and touch.

The short video disrupts audience expectations of nature films and photography, which are often framed to limit or erase the presence of humans, so that trees are shown to exist in forests, not in city blocks. In so doing, such photographic conventions comfort us by removing our role in the precarity of their existence, particularly in large metropolitan places like Los Angeles where carbon emissions choke human and nonhuman life alike.

Shadow Trees evokes an ephemeral presence and absence of trees, both those that grow in the city and those that have been scorched by global warming as seasonal wildfires become more intense and unforgiving.

Zellen manipulates images with vibrant color and movement. Immobile trees cast kinetic shadows. As the images appear on screen, their interplay lures audiences into what seems at first to be a purely aesthetic experience, yet disruptions to this experience arise. In some images, shadows of trunks and branches come to resemble spray-painted graffiti. Over these images, a layer of other shadows appears like the residue after a fire.

Sample spreads: