Zander Olsen

© John Pfahl (1977) 'Australian Pines, Fort DeSoto, Florida'

Zander Olsen’s ongoing project Tree, Line (2004-) at: is conceptually-driven with a style bearing traits of Georges Rousse, Noémie Goudal with Studies on Perspective I (2014) and notably John Pfahl with Australian Pines, Fort DeSoto, Florida (1977). The work on show on his website is very clever and well executed. The fact it is made solely in forests has implications that Olsen’s Tree, Line might be environmentally concerned although he doesn’t specify this.

© Georges Rousse (2003) - Rüsselheim 2003
Fig. 1 © Georges Rousse – ‘Rüsselheim 2003’ (2003)

Looking more closely at the concept utilised by Olsen, I can see the camera had to be in a particular position for the pleasing illusion to work, which he specifies. Olsen’s illusion differs from Rousse’s oeuvre and Goudal’s Studies on Perspective I (2014) in that the illusion also brings interplay the horizon which helps to set it much more in the ‘real’ landscape. It expands upon Pfahls’s Australian Pines, Fort DeSoto, Florida (1977) because the horizon and the hill line aren’t in line in some of the photographs while the horizon and the base of the trees aren’t in line in others. This creates an interesting unbalance where the tress are offset by the horizon. The reason I’m trying to describe the details and differences of Olsen’s work compared to Rousse, Goudal and Pfahl is in an attempt to get my head round why I find Olsen’s series so appealing. It might be because he is creating order out of a natural chaos while still retaining the natural beauty, save for the white wrapping on the trees that form the illusion.

Looking at the white wrapping on the trees and the meaning that Olsen invites the viewer to discern, I feel the wrappings look like some kind of bandage on the trees, with implications of trying to heal that which is damaged. If this is the case, I would imagine that Olsen is making a concerned statement about the natural environment and trying to save it, probably from other humans. The wrappings are non-harmful to the trees in real life but in the photograph they do stand out against the bark. This creates the separation of the real world (a temporary installation) and the image world (the resulting photograph). While these parallels do not quite run in tandem with natural and mystical versus humans and exploitation, there could be a connection there. Of course the opposite is true and by merely inviting the viewer to interpret the series’ meaning without providing clues other than what can be discerned with the eye, Olsen allows the viewer to lay meaning on the scene by themselves.

© John Pfahl (1977) 'Australian Pines, Fort DeSoto, Florida'
Fig. 2 © John Pfahl – ‘Australian Pines, Fort DeSoto, Florida’ (1977)

I feel that if the project wasn’t carried out as well as Olsen managed with attention to detail to the wrappings and playful variations on the theme, the series wouldn’t be as appealing. While that might seem like an obvious statement it does allow the viewer to concentrate on inferring meaning like man intervening with nature as well as admiring the beauty implicit in these photographs. So far as incorporating some of the ideas in Olsen’s work into mine I would say it would have to be much more loosely related; with the intervention of man on landscape.


Fig. 1 Rousse, G. (2003) Rüsselheim 2003. [Photograph] At: (Accessed 26/07/2019)

Fig. 2 Pfahl, J. (1977) Australian Pines, Fort DeSoto, Florida. [Photograph] At: (Accessed 26/07/2019).

Goudal, N. (2014) Studies on Perspective I. At: (Accessed on 26/07/2019).

Olsen, Z. (2004-) Tree, Line. At: (Accessed on 26/07/2019).


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