Photography by Ted Engelmann

Text by Ambra Laurenzi


During the summer seasons of 2008 and 2009, the American photographer George T. Egelmann climbed up the Rocky Mountains, in search of the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine his homonymous, the eminent botanist Dr. George T. Engelmann identified more than a century before.

To this illustrious botanist important acknowledgements have been conferred; in 1863 he is as a mater of fact one of the fifty scientists elected by the Congress as a member founder of the National Academy of Sciences, he has been active member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and one of the twelve founding members of the Academy of Sciences of St. Louis.

He is the “scientific father” of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louise, established in 1859.

Even though there is any apparent long distant family relation, on occasion of the 200 birthday of the botanic Doctor Engelmann, the photographer Engelmann felt the duty to honor his name and his work, as he himself recounts, giving him tribute with images to illustrate his important discoveries.

It could be said that this work is the result of a bunch of coincidences

The first coincidence, as we have pointed it out, is the name.  The second, no less important, is the encounter and the stimulus of Hal D. Gould, Master Photographer and founder of one of the most prestigious fine-art photography gallery in the United States of America, the Denver’s Camera Obscura, who had previously photographed the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine.

The undaunted fascination of this tree comes from its indomitable being and from its centuries of  survival, being today the oldest living thing on the earth.

The photography of Engelmann doesn’t infringe on the subject bending it to fit its expressive needs, but he treats it with respect placing his lense to the service of the expressive strength of nature.  All the interweaving and knots of the trees, the branches trodden by the winds, are photographed in pure black and white and without gratification, that it exults the almost abstract forms.

Only afterwards, looking at the photos, the geometries come together inside new visions that the author underlines in the caption about the images: in “movement stopped” it seems to be part of a round of wrestling; in “diva” one can perceive open arms on which emerges air in the wind; in “bending with the wind” one feels the power of the wind bending the branches of the tree.  It is the power of nature expressing itself, just as the power of time expresses itself in “froze in time” and “left alone.”

The photography of Engelmann has the merit to take us back, as human beings, to a real dimension of small presence in a setting where we cannot but to assist a grandiose spectacle, and to keep in mind that nature is a profound concept, and time a dimension too large, for us to be able to try to understand as they are.

January 2012