Photographs of Outdoor Trees Framed by Giant White Canvases

Tree #8, 2007

For his project titled “Tree,” South Korean photographer Myoung Ho Lee found solitary trees out in nature and then erected giant white canvas backdrops behind them. He then created photos showing the trees surrounded by artificial boxes in their natural surroundings.

The trees are of different species, and the photos — captured with a 4×5 camera — were shot in different seasons and at different times of the day.

The canvases are roughly 60 feet tall and 45 feet wide. They’re so big that the photographer has no way of putting them up himself, so he enlists the help of a production crew and two heavy cranes to do the job.


There’s a dash of digital trickery involved in the production: rather than have the canvases stand by themselves, Lee has them hung from a support system attached to the crane. These ropes and bars are later edited out of the photograph using “minimal digital retouching.” The photographer says that this creates “the illusion that the backdrop is floating behind the tree.”

Mr. Lee allows the tree’s natural surroundings to fill the frame around the canvas, transforming the backdrop into an integral part of the subject. Centered in the graphic compositions, the canvas defines the form of the tree and separates it from the environment. By creating a partial, temporary outdoor studio for each tree, Mr. Lee’s “portraits” of trees play with ideas of scale and perception while referencing traditional painting and the history of photography.

Here is a selection of the photographs in the series:

Tree #10, 2006

Tree #11, 2005

Tree #14, 2009

Tree #5, 2007

Tree #2, 2006

Tree #6, 2008

You can see more of these works over at the Yossi Milo Gallery.

(via Yossi Milo Gallery via Beautiful/Decay)

Image credits: Photographs © Myoung Ho Lee, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery

  • Michael Palmer

    Just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should…

  • Ronald

    That’s actually pretty cool. Wish I had thought of that first!

  • ken

    LIke commenting…..

  • Nate Parker

    James Balog did this-

  • Burnin Biomass

    I like them (except the night one). The separation you get is great, while keeping environment there to some extent. The images are just a touch flat for my tastes (could be my monitor), but still excellent work!

  • kb

    Faced with a choice between paintings of dogs playing cards or these, I guess I’d take these. There’s probably a motel somewhere that’ll buy them.

  • Matthew Wagg


  • Tifffany

    Lovely! Makes me smile.

  • Erik Lauri Kulo

    There’s so many projects like these out there. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it yourself – as this post shows. Why? Because I think there’s a very interesting effect at play here, not only the separation, but the connotation of the separation. It almost looks like the pictures were taken for a scientific study. Like a documentation of different kinds of trees. And I find this very interesting thanks to that extra dimension of looking at them.

  • Fernando

    Could you post a link? I googled it and didn’t find any picture similar to these.

  • Rodrigo Flores

    While the concept its good and the photos are quite alright as well, the only thing that makes a sound to me its the whole “let’s use a crane to reflect the beauty of nature while destroying the beauty of nature”, sure, making a self standing canvas (specially with the canvas fabric acting as a giant sail) would be a great and difficult feat, but I think it would be well worth the time.

  • Nate Parker

    Right- I just did the same. I saw them while watching the film “Chasing Ice” by James. They were some older work he did on film I think for Nat Geo or something. Did find this tho:
    Apparently the trick is to find the right search terms… I’ll try again later.

  • Alexander Petricca

    Nice concept, but some of these would have been nicer without the canvas, the sixth shot down (red leaves, minimal background) being the one that especially jumped out at me. I’d be interested in seeing the trees photographed in a minimal fashion as well, smooth clean pure white background cropped in, shot on medium/ large format for detail almost as if they had been shot in studio. Just my take!

  • Samcornwell

    Utterly brilliant.

  • Jun Pak

    Stick with your dopey weddings, kiddo.

  • Joshua Tobias George Barrett

    I like them a lot, although the third and the fourth images less so, the third because the canvas hasn’t turned out so well and doesn’t isolate the subject as well as it does in all the others.

  • Blabla

    Some of these were shown at the Art Biennale in Venice and i thought that the trees were actually printed on the canvases, making an eco statement (yeah, i know, some of the trees cast shadows on the canvas, but those weren’t in the exposition) . Still captivating though. Also i feel sorry for the tiny cages you put your minds and imagination into, you sad, tiny people (the “just because you can doesn’t mean you should bla bla” crowd).

  • ripley

    The painting of the dogs playing cards is awesome…

  • Sid Ceaser

    That first shot is really beautiful. If they had smaller sized prints I’d definitely purchase that.