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Friday, 7 November 2014

No Green in the Forest

"In Finland everyone is allowed to pick berries, mushrooms and walk in the forests.

During the Summer, be aware of bears. It is good to ley your presence be known, for example by whistling. If you do encounter a bear in the forest, do not panic. Back away slowly without turning our back. If the bear is aggressive, lie down on your stomach and proect your ears with your hands.'

That's part of the text on the cover of Debby Huysmans' book Late Spring, a book that emerged from Huysmans' residency in a Finnish forest. I like the text; it establishes an attitude to the forest as something of which one is part, but that is bigger than anything a mere individual could be.

It also gives the idea of the forest as something prehistoric, that is benevolent and provides for us, but equally can be an unforgiving place. No, not even that sentimental. It is not one of the little English woods that you wander around for 10 minutes and come to a house or a river or road. This is a Hansel and Gretel forest (and did you know that John Heartfield was deserted in a forest when he was a child) that has no end. It is neither benevolent nor forgiving, it simply is. It's like the sea, if you mess with it at the wrong time in the wrong place, you are likely to die.

The book is an ambitious project. It combines fact, fiction in a complex overview of how we interact with the forest. It's a mapping project then and there's a picture of a man in a car with a map to prove it; the interaction between natural landscape and the man-made landscape. 

More mapping comes courtesy of Ritta who is shown cordoning off a square metre of woodland floor to identify how many species there are in the forest. So it's a book that shows the different ways of seeing and being in the forest and I like that approach. I'm not sure it's always successful (and this goes for every photobook - they're never completely successful!) but it's ambitious and it makes you stop, think and look again at the places with trees.

The book comes with a Colour Card (see below) which you can use to identify colours in the forest. I love that and can't wait to test it out, especially the proposition that 'Strange but true, the green ones are the hardest to find.'

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