by Mo. Mesrati
“never seen such a place … with its noble trees and stretch of country, and everything that went to make life delightful, and all within a biscuit’s throw of the metropolis of the world”.— Mark Twain
During his famous tour around the world to give lectures, a tour that lasted for a decade, Mark Twain visited London in the summer of 1900 and stayed at Dollis Hill House. Twain was in some sort of isolation during this visit, meeting few people, and spending most of his time writing and frequently walking around the surrounding landscape that will soon becomes Gladstone Park.
This is to speak about isolation, quarantine, and trees.
The journey in this book seems as if it happens in one day, where we follow the daily habits of humans and watch the contrast between them and trees, that constant element of repetition; repetition of movement, repetition of gaze, of wonder and of everything the mind can be occupied with when the metropolis that lays within a biscuit throw is depleted. This minimum movement and its repetition is what breaks the rhythm from each photo to another. The humans in each photo are often isolated, but never alone, while the trees branches throbbing high and shadowing the ground underneath, perhaps to conceal a figure from which we only see the head, or to see bodies mirroring the movement of the branches: the presence of the individual among the trees – the presence of trees among the individuals.
Between the first photo that shows an intimate encounter between humans and trees, and the last one, and everything in between is about isolation, quarantine and trees. In 1967, a disease that transmits to trees through bark beetles and known as the Dutch Disease broke out in Britain. It was fatal, and reached Gladstone Park and infected many elm trees. The park administration was forced to uproot and burn a large group of trees, preparing a quarantine area, and isolating the survivors far from each other. While browsing throughout the book I focused on those trees that are isolated. I saw a fastigiate oak tree stands in its own in the middle of a down hill, elegant and longer than any other oaks around or far behind. I couldn’t resist thinking that it might be standing there individually as a result of the times of quarantine; the plague, as you know, may end, but isolation is eternal.