It’s been called a concrete jungle, but New York City is covered in trees. There are almost 700,000 street trees surrounded by the ultra-urban environment of NYC, and each one has its own story. One photographer decided to capture the spontaneous stewardship that occurs with these trees on the streets of New York every day. In a new photographic series, Matthew Jensen hopes to show everyone a little “Tree Love.”
Jensen started noticing how the residents of New York care for their street trees as he walked around all five boroughs that make up the city. He began to observe how each tree was a little bit different and how many hands have helped care for each of these trees.
Homemade tree guards, hand-lettered signs, decorations, ornaments, bird feeders and trinkets of all kinds can be spotted on the trees as you walk the streets of New York. Every little token is evidence that the residents of New York have taken it upon themselves to give personal care and attention to the hardy trees that share the streets with them.
Jensen spent three years photographing the trees and the examples of human care that surround them. He ended up taking thousands of photos, fascinated with the subject and with the way each tree ends up becoming unique and individual thanks to those who live and work around it.
“Old growth, self-planted, stunted, scarred, broken, coppiced, blighted, blight-resistant, rare, over-pruned, each tree exhibits time and circumstance in its own way,” Jensen said. “And tree beds are as equally idiosyncratic with homemade tree guards, hand drawn signs, unique plant and flower combinations, decorations and ornaments, benches, birdfeeders, and more often than not, too much garbage.”
The final collection, titled Tree Love: Street Trees and Stewardship in NYC, is 75 images of street trees. Each one tells its own amazing story and is a powerful reminder than human beings and nature need each other. Street trees and city dwellers coexist in New York; in a way, they depend on each other. With a little more tree love around the world, everyone can do their part to help heal the planet.
Images via Matthew Jensen