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In Training, a book of bonsai photos Hardcover – June 24, 2016
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In Training offers a new and unique viewpoint on what can be an all too rigid art form. By focusing on the details that interested him as an artist, Stephen Voss has managed to capture the truth and universal beauty that bonsai has to offer. Essential study for all serious bonsai enthusiasts as well as aesthetes. -- Peter Warren, Saruyama Bonsai
From the Author
Bonsai trees have been photographed for decades to be shown in coffee table books and how-to guides. In order to photograph bonsai "correctly", one must stand approximately six feet from the trees and photograph them straight on. This has led to many thousands of photos being taken that essentially have this look. It's great for showing what a tree looks like, but not so great for showing what being near that tree feels like. And that realization became my subject, my guiding path in making these photos.
I wanted to share what I found interesting and beautiful about each of the trees, their spirit and the sense of peace I felt when I was close to them. I wanted to explore the substance of the trees, the essential elements that made each one feel sacred and vital. And I wanted nothing superfluous, in these images, I sought to strip away everything until I reached the essence of the tree.
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I took a photo of one of the photos so that you could see the layout of the double page spread. On the far left is the explanation of the picture next to it, which is in fact, a tree in training. The next photo I posted is the bio at the end of the book, and finally the photo the author chose to end the book, after his bio.
I cannot believe that anyone would not be hit right in the gut by this perfectly beautiful book. It speaks to me of things I cannot totally understand, but I don't mind that. People can be in training, just like trees. This would mean that In Training would make a wonderful gift for any person preparing for grad school, or setting up that first office. It would be a good gift for a new mother or father who will soon be having a child to raise. Obviously, it would be a great gift for your favorite gardener!
There is a lot of space between the photos. Sometimes a whole page is white. I am totally for that, as it gives the viewer time to process what she has seen. The images are very powerful, to me. I think Voss is an outstanding photographer and that this book is extremely uplifting. Read the afterword by Michael Hagedorn if you don't understand bonsai. Here is the opening of it:
"The impermanence of the natural world. The immense seen in the infinitesimal.The feelings of durability, humility, and hope. Many have used these words to describe bonsai and they feel right and true"....[and he goes on to end his afterword with this:] "Through the democratic lens of a camera, we see the organic records of trunks and branches, the dreams of past artists lodged in wood, changed and changing over time.Beyond that, as with any art form, we bring to bonsai what we have within us."
This amazing book, In Training! The moment I opened it and viewed the pictures,it became my touchstone.
The trees are works of art. The book is a work of art in itself. The photos are taken from close range, often showing small parts of the trees. Technically, it is difficult to obtain good depth of field on such close up photos. The images bring out the mystery of the trees. Some of them have been growing for many decades or even centuries. The last photo, the oldest tree in the book, is of a Japanese White Pine which is dated to 1625.
I can only begin to appreciate the dedication that it takes to create and nuture such plants. The photos and presentation are excellent. Now, I would like to see the individual trees, but that will have to wait until my next visit to Washington.
While I'm not really all that familiar with the philosophy surrounding the cultivation and nurturing of these amazing trees, I do have a special relationship and appreciation for trees of many different species. (I thank Bernd Heinrich for his The Trees in My Forest for setting my feet on this path.) I can tell you that Mr. Voss has a gift for capturing these amazing trees and his love of them shines through just as if they were people sitting for portraits.
The hardcover format is appealing and it is bound in a burlap type cloth. The pages are printed on quality paper and the images are both full color and some that are sepia toned. It's a beautiful format and one that will delight anyone with an interest in bonsai.
I found the bare bark and sharp limbs with twists to be almost Zenlike in their simple elegance. This is a coffee table book I would be proud to give as a gift.
There were pictures of the full Bonsai trees, but, for me, they felt posed and formal. I liked going inside the trees to see the cuts and curves of their growth. You could almost draw a line between seeing a portrait of a person and then seeing their candid day-to-day selfies.
Yes, that's more what this is. A book of Bonsai selfies!
The book is organized with a number of what are truly beautiful and well taken photographs of various bonsai plants ion various 'poses' if you will
The 'in training' conceit is the idea that bonsai plants are manipulated to grow in a certain way and our always being tricked to grow in a certain way.
There is a brief description of each plant (from the US) and the color pictures. It is an impressive array of pictures.
As to the quality of the book itself, the book is well-made, though somewhat cheaply considering the price. The book is not heavy or particularly a heavy binding as I would expect for a 'art' type book.
I give the book 4 stars for this reason. The photographs are excellent and I enjoy looking through the book. This is the main reason I wanted to get the book. The photographs really capture the delicate are of the bonsai, and in that aspect are truly outstanding.