A debut volume offers an intimate look at the beauty of the bonsai tree.
The importance of bonsai as a cornerstone of traditional Japanese culture cannot be overstated. This collection features more than 70 color photographs taken at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, D.C. By means of a brief foreword, Voss explains his relationship with these particular specimens over the course of nearly two decades: “From my first glimpse of the trees all those years ago, I knew implicitly that there was something to be learned from them, from their endurance and quiet dignity.” These photographs are so vivid that readers may momentarily forget that they are viewing two-dimensional images. In addition to the shades of green, brown, and gray that one might expect to see, there are also a few surprising splashes of other colors throughout the book. The title refers to the term used for the maintenance and shaping of bonsai trees. Voss wisely employs minimal text, thereby keeping the focus on his images, where one feels a sense of history and movement in the trunks and branches. Captions, formatted discreetly in the margins, reveal the year training began (if known) for each specimen along with its Latin and English names. The author helpfully provides an index where readers can find additional information about a particular specimen of interest. Some of the bonsai pictured have been in training for over a century, and one in particular, a Japanese white pine, dates back to 1625. This volume also contains a short but powerful afterword by Michael Hagedorn, author of Post-Dated: The Schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk. Based on these remarkable images, it’s easy to see how Voss was captivated by the bonsai’s meditative tranquility. Clearly, the author achieves his goal of conveying, in his words, “their grace in the passage of time, their peace and the invitation they extend to include oneself in the natural order of things.”
An impressive work not only for botany enthusiasts and students of Japanese culture, but for all lovers of striking photography as well.