Down in the Forest, We Sing a Chorus – Stacy Arezou Mehrfar
Hiking through the forests of upstate New York, we were in awe of what we saw: rock servicing waterfall, spider webs reinforced by wishbone-shaped tree trunks, the humus of remnant stumps supplying nutrients for new growth.
We witnessed our vulnerability and interdependence reflected in the wonders of the forest. We saw cycles of decay and rebirth manifest as formal and fluid. Sometimes we were confronted with loss. Mostly we found life.
Weekend treks in upstate New York became our family ritual throughout the height of the pandemic. This collective experience brought me to photograph my children for the first time. The resulting images of figure and nature emphasise interconnection, transformation, fragility, and hope.
‘Down in the Forest, We Sing a Chorus’ considers the forest to be a social community and invites the viewer to look to the natural world to see how connection and communication among diverse species foster strength and resilience for all. The photographs prompt us to consider the critical value of the environment, what we can learn from it, and how future generations depend on its existence.
The power of a singular photograph has always enchanted me. I spent many hours at the local library as a child where I would absorb great big books – mostly encyclopaedias and other non-fiction – spellbound by the pictures and the stories they told. I also vividly remember sitting with family albums, fabricating stories about the photographs I found inside. The older and less relevant to me, the more open-ended and fantastic my stories became. Making pictures inflames this childhood thirst for learning and playful storytelling.
Drawing from personal history, my photographs, video installations, and photobooks raise questions about how we build and sustain “community”. I use photography to probe the relationship between the individual and the collective, thinking critically about their symbiosis.
‘Down in the Forest, We Sing a Chorus’ takes a close look at the forest ecosystem to appreciate its systems of reciprocity. Ecologist Suzanne Simard has demonstrated how infinite biological pathways operate in the forest to provide connection and communication to all beings, regardless of species. Her research shows that these live ecosystems offer an enormous capacity for feedback and stability.
I view this series as a memorandum of the present moment. Living during a pandemic has taught us that we do not exist solely to benefit our individual lives, that we must consider ourselves interconnected. Paying attention to the mutualism in nature’s ecosystems reminds us to practice kinship and interdependence with the world around us.
Photographs are verse — complex, open-ended, and layered with meaning. A single image often transmits multiple intentions, leaving it open to the viewer to decipher their inherent mysteries.
Mostly, I make photographs for the surprises. The subtle revelations that photographs present have me enamoured with the medium.
I want my images to remain in the viewer’s mind, to leave them wanting another look so that every return visit provides a marvellous visceral sensation. Those are the pictures I strive for and keep me making more.