I started photographing this tree because of an assignment I gave to my advanced photo class sometime in 2001. The point of the assignment was to choose a subject that could be photographed over a long period of time, photograph it monthly, and if you're an advanced photo student, commit to photographing it for the rest of your life.* Well, it's 7 years later and I'm wondering how many of us are still doing the assignment. I chose a favorite place in Frostburg and the tree that stands in the center of it. Frostburg is full of hills, and houses that are close together. If you grew up (as I did) in the flatlands of Maryland, lived for a while in eastern Colorado, and came to realize that the time spent looking at fields of tobacco, the scrubby land of Delaware, and the plains of Kansas were best for you sense of being, Frostburg could be a tough place to live.
The field in the picture above abuts the Paris Glendenning Recreational Center (sounds fun!) , or what used to be known as Lion's Field. At the time I assigned the project the Recreational Center's fields were just a threat. I chose to document the tree because I was afraid it would be dozed over, and I wanted photos of this place where I had spent a lot of time with friends (and one furry pal). I'd lead them to the tree and we'd lie beneath it, talking about our existences, and how the decision to live in Frostburg was tangled into our lives in a way only people who have lived there can understand.
Happily, the tree (which is a locust) hasn't been dozed. I do my best to not only photograph it (once a year now), but to also spend some time with its furrowed bark, its neighboring brambles and ground hog dens. I try and remember all those conversations, and all that romping in the grass with Annabelle, Kim and Todd.
The other thing I do each time I'm there is wonder how many (if any) of my former students are still keeping their side of the bargain.
*My friend Kate says that this was a nearly abusive assignment in that I was asking the students to alter their lives for the class. I disagree with her, and wonder if this type of thinking is in part indicative of the difference b/t someone with and someone without tattoos?