From childhood drawings to a career in photography, trees have remained a consistent subject
Some of my earliest memories include climbing big trees in the front yard of my grandmother’s house in the country. Climbing the thick trunks gave me an early feeling of accomplishment, as though I’d conquered a challenge, but in climbing the trunks with my arms wrapped around the trees, I was literally giving the trees a hug.
Having been born and spending some early years of my childhood in Appalachia, I developed an early natural concern for the environment. The winding road near my grandmother’s house (the same place I climbed those trees), was a route for logging trucks carrying giant trees from the forest to the saw mills. I witnessed strip mining and mountaintop removal scarring the beautiful mountains that I loved.
Starting in grade school, I developed an interest in drawing. By the time I reached middle school, I was passionate about trees and wanted to draw them.
Early drawings of trees by Keith Dotson
After art school, I worked as an art director in advertising, but in my free time, I continued to draw and paint trees in a variety of media. I would often take a camera loaded with film into the landscape to make reference photographs of trees and other subjects for my paintings (but mostly trees). At some point, the interest changed fully from art to photography.
Trees serve as wonderful focal points for landscape photographs. They work well as a dominant element. They are often so expressive in their “poses’ that they can personify human emotions. Trees can look mighty and sturdy, elderly and bent, or tortured and twisted. They can stand with the group or off by themselves.