Welcome the Green Age in the New Year 2008!

 “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower drives my green age.”

Dear Friends,

With this new image, Green Man, Oak Bough, I greet you and welcome the New Year in 2008.

You are invited to contact me for new commissions to honor your new life in 2008: Garden Books-a unique memory book of your garden, and/or Portrairts-your family, yourself, children grandchildren. Celebrate your pregnancy or your third age by becoming part of my thirty years of nude studies.

The story of the image Green Man, Oak Bough:

When I look back I realize that gardens and books have been passions of mine since childhood, when I spent many Sundays sitting straight and silent at the big mid-day meal at my grandmother's house.  Eventually, I could escape to the attic bookcases or outside to the far reaches of the property.  There, far from family talk, I could hold on to the ropes and swing so high that I could see the river, or climb the arbor to the sweetest grapes at the top, or sink my face into tulips and peonies in the cutting garden.

In my first spring garden I was smitten by the breathtaking beauty of tree peonies and I have never turned back; I photograph in gardens whenever I can.  Since 1988 I have photographed seasonally for several landscape architects in both east and west.  In 1989 I photographed gardens and villas in Italy and in 1993 I made color transparencies in England, from which I made a book of original prints called English Gardens. Now I am photographing for clients who want to document their much-loved gardens at the peak. With the photographs I produce one-of-a-kind books for these garden-happy people, creating something unique and lasting for them and deeply satisfying for me. 

Currently, I have been completing a long-standing series of images of the body and nature and the body as nature. This grew out of my studies of plants, portrayed, not as pretty decorative subjects for a stylish life-style, but as what they truly are: our oldest ancestors and the basis of life itself. Humankind is ultimately dependent upon the existence of living plants; they deserve our reverent study and humble devotion.

All this is a way of setting the scene for the curious way this image came to me.

In the fall of 2007 I was on the east coast at my Alma Mater, Smith College, for an exhibition of my portraits of poets, The Face of Poetry, shown in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the Poetry Center there. I visited the home of poet Emily Dickinson nearby in Amherst, Massachusetts. The house is almost hidden from the street in a grove of trees. After my visit, I took the longer path through the woods. There I spotted a beautiful bough of Oak leaves, which I took away with me as a momento. It rode home spread out in the top of my suitcase. Late this autumn I photographed a close up fusion of leaves and face.

The raw image on the proof sheet shocked me. I had seen it somewhere before. But where? I thought about how much I love trees. I remember reading of the oak as the king of the forest in Celtic stories. Foliage is as important in my garden as any flower. So for me, a face with foliage feels familiar. Historically, I know that the oak as well as the laurel was used by the ancient Greeks in crowns; the oak tree was sacred in the ancient world. But none of the Greek Gods speak to this image, unless you think of Pan, half goat, half god, mostly hidden from the modern mind. I let Pan entice me into a mythical wilderness and found myself browsing in Fraser’s, The Golden Bough, and then wandering around in Celtic lore on the web. At last, I found him depicted and described in all shapes and sizes! I had no idea when I made the photograph that I would be face to face with the “Green Man”. 

This face of leaves and blossoms is an archetype of the human spirit related to the vegetative aspects of nature, the earth itself. The image has been drawn and carved for perhaps as long as there have been humans to draw and carve. Most of the known images are derived from medieval times when these carved leaf faces were placed atop columns and at the intersection of corbels high above the floor of the cathedral. Perhaps he is the vestige of Pan, who lures us to the wildness of nature with his pipes. He is also thought of as the new image of a Father Nature to match the Mother Nature, who, we have been taught, is the mother of us all, the orb of the earth itself who rules with her seasons and her storms. Or he is the mythical green Knight whose power challenged Sir Gawain to be true to his higher self as a knight of King Arthur’s court.

In any case, it is a fine idea to think that the male warrior image finally has an opposing force in another kind of male power, that of fruits and vegetables, flowers and trees and all that constitutes the natural world. Sometimes called the Green One or Verdant One, he inspires artists to new heights of commitment and energy. His image embodies the light that sparkles on leaves and can change our vision. Needless to say, he speaks to the image-maker. Silent, he waits for us to learn the lessons of life and understand that we are part of the whole of nature. His image heralds the Green Age that we recognize today as global. He is emerging from the sleep of ages because we now desperately need to wake up from the nightmare caused by human dominance of nature and, instead, connect in an interdependent way with our natural world.


* “Green Man” has many sources including William Anderson, Green Man: the Archetype of our Oneness with the Earth

Link to the firestorm blog

Margaretta K. Mitchell