Brett Weston, Bristlecone Pine, California, 1976

Brett Weston (1911-1993), Bristlecone Pine, California, 1976, gelatin silver print. Middlebury Museum of Art. Gift from the Christian Keesee Collection, 2016.033.

The bristlecone pine trees of the White Mountains of California are believed to be some of the world’s oldest living organisms, with lifespans of some trees estimated at 5000 years or more. Able to thrive in harsh conditions, the trees grow very slowly, making their wood very dense and resistant to insects and rot. Growing at high elevations just below the tree line, wind, rain, and freezing erode the trees into distinctive twisted shapes. The tree is important in the science of dendrochronology, where tree rings are compared to changes in environmental conditions over long periods of time.

By viewing a tree up close, Brett Weston finds an abstract design in its twisted form. Unlike Weston’s photographs of clouds, which feature frozen glimpses of constantly-changing forms, his bristlecone pine photograph celebrates longevity.

Andi Lloyd, Vice-President for Academic Affairs/Dean of the Faculty and Stewart Professor of Biology shares her knowledge about the bristlecone pine: