Roberley Bell  
 
       

Do you know this tree?

Digital printing
71 pages
VSW Press
2017

Do you know this Tree? is a project that began in 2010, while I was living in Istanbul. I learn a city by walking and in 2010, on my daily walks meandering the city streets on a way to a friend’s house, or simply for baklava, I began to notice and started photographing certain trees. They were not iconic symbols of the beauty of nature, but rather trees that appeared compromised-yet protected, nurtured.

These are trees that elsewhere might be considered ugly, or located in inconvenient places, and would just be cut down. In Istanbul However, somebody was really caring for them. The trees of Istanbul, for me became a stand in for the humanity of the city.

On May 21, 2013, demonstrations in the city of Istanbul began in Gezi park, which is a small, not particularly lovely concrete park with some trees in the center of the city. I often walked through Gezi and there was something about the demonstrations that hit home for me. Though the demonstrations were initially sparked because the government wanted to bulldoze the park and build a mall, it really was not about the trees. Yes, the first night it was to save the trees, and maybe even the second and third day, but the demonstrations of Gezi Park became a demonstration against the government of Turkey.

In 2015, I returned to Istanbul. I wanted to try to find the trees I had photographed in 2010. The trees had become important to me and I knew the process of seeking them out would reveal something – I just wasn’t sure what that would become. I wanted to see If working from memory, I could relocate the trees. This book is that set of experiences. And makes only more concrete my sense of how the trees of Istanbul reflect the humanity of the ever-expanding city.

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       © 2016 Roberley Bell