The Joshua Tree

"We continued in a southerly direction across the plain, to which, as well as to all the country so far as we could see, the yucca trees gave a strange and singular character"  John C. Fremont, 1844

In the mid-19th century, Mormon settlers traveling across the Mojave Desert were captivated by this curious and unusual tree. For them, its awkwardly outstretched limbs resembled the prophet Joshua in prayer guiding them towards the Promised Land. One hundred and fifty years have since passed and today’s Mojave Desert travelers remain as captivated as ever by the Joshua tree; tourists can often be found posing for snapshots beside prize roadside specimens. Each "tree" (it's a fibrous yucca plant, not woody, and bears no annual growth rings) is infused with individual form and character, and each appears to have a story to tell. Some tell the tales of a trying climate and lack of nourishment; some tell of their lonely isolation; yet others sing jubilantly in the clear desert air. Unfortunately, many portend their possible future: a changing climate, increasing wildfire, and the possibility of extirpation from their native lands. Some experts predict that the Joshua tree could completely disappear from its namesake National Park within this century. Pollinated only by the Yucca Moth (mutualism), these trees can live to be several hundred years of age and are found only in four western U.S. states (California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah).

To achieve a sense of timelessness, I photograph with a 4x5” large format view camera, a century-old diffused focus portrait lens, and traditional black and white film.