PDN Photo of the Day

The Aura of Bonsai

Masao Yamamoto’s latest series, Bonsai, is singularly focused on the tradition of Japanese “tray planting,” a practice of maintaining small trees that mimic the shape and scale of full-size trees.

On view at Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta through June 29, Bonsai is an innovative interpretation of a cultivated landscape. After photographing the trees, Yamamoto adds his characteristic surrealist touch by manipulating the backgrounds and perspectives of his compositions — a tree is larger than the moon, a bonsai teeters on a cliff, dwarfing a mountain range.

Bonsai are a creation born out of a playful collaboration between people and nature. The trees photographed in Yamamoto’s studio are all the work of one celebrated bonsai artist, Minoru Akiyama. They vary in size an age; the smaller bonsai are around 10cm tall, the larger are around 100cm. Some trees are a few decades old, while others are a few centuries old.

“People are surprised at how a bonsai tree dominates the atmosphere of the room it is placed in,” writes Yamamoto in his artist statement. “The tension in the room soon changes to a slow passing of time calming our hearts.” He wonders whether this aura is attributed to the years the bonsai has withstood. 

Yamamoto contemplates the possibility that he photographs bonsai to find out why they have such a soothing effect on people’s spirits. “Its greatness,” he says, “is not something that can be explained in words.”

By Masao Yamamoto
Jackson Fine Art
Through June 29, 2019

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