by Stephen Voss
In Training is a book of bonsai photos, a fresh look at an ancient art form.
The National Arboretum, which houses the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, feels improbable a sea of green bordered by what was once one of Washington, DC s most violent neighborhoods. I first visited the collection seventeen years ago while in college and have returned again and again, with my girlfriend who is now my wife and, more recently, with our children in the weeks after they were born. While this vast, open space surrounded by city has always felt special, it was the bonsai collection that felt sacred.
I began making the photos of each tree as a sort of respite, an excuse to be near something beautiful and to appraise it fully, without the usual time constraints I had grown accustomed to in my professional work. The bonsai, themselves, seemed the very opposite of the subjects I usually photographed they stood before me fully present, their sense of time measured in decades, even centuries. 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.