Monday, April 26, 2010

City Trees: Photographers Explore the Urban Forest

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By Jennifer Hattam, Istanbul, Turkey
on April 16, 2010
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Trees in the city don't just provide visual relief and cooling shade in the midst of the hard-edged urban jungle: They remove greenhouse gases and pollutants from the air, lower power bills while boosting property values, assist with stormwater management, and even reduce stress and crime rates. 

These photos of city trees show their tenacity in surviving in incongruous, sometimes seemingly inhospitable locations -- and the strong drive people have to try to bring a bit of nature, real or not, into the urban environment.
Photo: Kate Glicksberg, "Court Street, Brooklyn, NY" (2008)
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Areas with urban trees attract more businesses and visitors, who "linger and shop longer along tree-lined streets," according to the Colorado Tree Coalition. Apartments and offices in those areas "rent more quickly and have higher occupancy rates" -- and the people working in them are more productive and less prone to absenteeism.
Photo: Sharon Sperry Bloom, "Ghost Tree," Albuquerque, New Mexico
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When strategically planted for shade and windbreaks, trees can help reduce home cooling and heating costs. In Washington, D.C., urban trees save more than $2.6 million in air-conditioning costs annually.
Photo: Shannon Claire, "Good Morning," Inner Richmond, San Francisco, California
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New York-based photographer Kate Glicksberg focuses on "exploring the city as a unique habitat where nature, humans, and the concrete grid co-exist" in her recent body of work, "The Urban Forest," on display through April 18 at the nonprofit art space Chashama in New York.
Photo: Kate Glicksberg, "Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, NY" (2009)
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"A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 pounds a year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two human beings," according to the Colorado Tree Coalition.
Photo: Jennifer Hattam, "Breathe"
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Trees can also enhance traffic calming measures, the Colorado Tree Coalition says: "Tall trees give the perception of making a street feel narrower, slowing people down."
Photo: Stevan Northcutt, "Departure," Tampa International Airport, Florida
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In her early work on urban forests, Kate Glicksberg photographed "the clusters of trees that live in the intersections of highway overpasses" in Los Angeles. "I thought of them as still lives, in a way, because they were islands completely surrounded by highways on all sides," she says.
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Three million trees were planted in Mexico City in 2007 as part of the Pro Árbol (Pro Tree) Campaign, a national effort to recover deforested areas and recharge the country's aquifers.
Photo: Ernesto Perales Soto, "Lonely Green in a Sea of Gray," Guanajuato, Mexico
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Istanbul, where I live, has less than three square meters of green space per person, the lowest ratio in any European city, depriving residents of trees' health, aesthetic, and economic benefits.
Photo: Jennifer Hattam
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"I see the city as an incredibly complex habitat full of nature. Sometimes you just have to look for it," Kate Glicksberg says. "One of the best parts of having the exhibition is that people have told me that it's helped them to see the nature in the city as well."
Photo: Kate Glicksberg, "Trump Building, NY, NY" (2009)
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Kate Glicksberg started her "Urban Forest" project while living in Los Angeles during graduate school. When she moved back to New York in 2005, she started seeking out nature in the city's concrete environment, including graffiti and other pictorial representations of trees. "The inherent desire to integrate nature into built environments competes with the need to control it," she says.
Photo: Kate Glicksberg, "Butler Street, Brooklyn, NY" (2009)
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"I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do," author Willa Cather famously wrote.
Photo: Pekka Nikrus, "Urban Tree"
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American Forests's Global ReLeaf program has planted millions of trees in the United States and around the world, including an effort to replant the war-torn city of Sarajevo after residents were forced to cut city trees for fuel for heat and cooking.
Photo: Ege Yuksek
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"The psychological impact of trees on people's moods, emotions and enjoyment of their surroundings may in fact be one of the greatest benefits urban forests provide," Tree Canada says.
Photo: Vladimir Dimitroff, "Roofs and City Trees"
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Public-housing residents who live in developments with trees, grass, and flowers reported that they "had better relations with their neighbors, felt a stronger sense of community, and experienced less violence in their homes," according to an article in Sierra magazine.
Photo: Kate Glicksberg, "Over Stuyvesant Town, New York, NY" (2008)
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Glicksberg says her project got her "thinking about how humans, especially living in a city like New York, need nature in any way they can get it -- even if they have to create it themselves."
Photo: Kate Glicksberg, "Macy's, New York, NY" (2009)