1st Place
George Digalakis / Greece
Title : The Shape of Trees
Entry Description

For me, trees have always been a fascinating subject for photography. I love them in forests and woods especially in misty conditions, but even more when they stand alone. Because they are primeval, because they outlive us, because they are fixed, trees seem to emanate a sense of permanence. And though rooted in earth, they seem to touch the sky. Lonely trees are not lonely; they have their eternal companies: Songs of the birds. But birds and trees also share another common characteristic: their connection to the skies.

Entry Critical Review 

Standards and artistic and aesthetic values / Narrative of life. Trees tell the story of man in the works of the Greek photographer.

 George Digalakis

Hegel says: The task of art in general, is to present the idea for direct contemplation, in a sensual form, and not to take the form of the idea, for the aesthetic understanding of the world rejects binding laws imposed from the outside.

The task is not easy, but it is also not impossible, that story is told in a few photos, a human psychological concept, and reduces aesthetic values, raises questions and mental speculations. However, it provokes the mind, logic, and mental analysis, to keep standing in front of it, trying to decipher its symbols and relate them to each other, in order to reach many meanings, in line with our cumulative knowledge, and the experiences we have obtained during our lives in which we live, so we come out with mental indications that are consistent with what we see in front of us by means of photos that may be three or five or even ten to complete the meaning.

The photographer must specify an introduction to the story he intends to deal with, after researching, gathering information, and creating a good informational background on the subject, in order to identify the elements and characters of that story.

Therefore, we find the Greek photographer, winner of the Photographer of the year VIPA Contest 2021, George Digalakis, who understood and became aware in his mind of the importance of the tree and its great symbolism as a subject from which to embody his personal convictions, sending a “human concept with the help of the symbolism of trees about which he said, “For me, trees have always been a wonderful subject.” For photography. I love them in general woods and public woods especially in foggy conditions, but even more when they stand alone. Because they are primitive, because they outlive us and because they are immutable. The trees seem to emanate from a sense of permanence. Although it is rooted in the ground, it seems to touch the sky. Lonely trees are not alone;

They have their permanent companions. Since birds and trees also share another common feature

other than companionship: their connection to the sky.”

The artistic story is based on two important factors:

1-         The unity of the subject

2-         The method of treatment.

What is meant by the unity of the subject; It is an uninterrupted sequence, of the subjectivity of the light event, but rather each image completes the next.

A photo completes the one that follows it. As for the processing method, the unit of tone is in the workspaces, so if the story is black and white, then all the photos must continue with this method of processing, and if they are in color, the same words apply as well. There is no single story, containing both methods together.

These two features, and the two pillars, are present in the story before us, where the subject and the heroic element are one unit in all the images, as well as its method of processing, with its similar tonality, which the photographer adopted in black and white, appropriate to the content of the work, and supporting the visual narration, which in turn, It created articulated contrasts between the dominant, the introduction, and the background, so it took every space it deserved, according to its

importance, value, and artistic preoccupation. According to the Zone System, it also came, in my opinion, in harmony with the dry tree, as it reinforced the dramatic event within the work, and even increased, the artistic and aesthetic values. Contribute strongly by adding sensory concepts, such as soft, rough texture, and intuitiveness, as strength, hardness, and stability, through the black color, which symbolizes, strength, sophistication, and elegance (according to the philosophy of color theory).

On the other hand, we find that the series combined artistic and aesthetic concepts. And artistry, it was evident through the idea, the angle of capture, the lighting, the good contrast, the correct exposure, and the color balance. It also does not show the pressure resulting from photography (compression artifacts), and noise (image noise) to a large extent, or other anomalies. Its main subject is in focus and has a good composition, and there is nothing in it that obstructs or confuses the main subject. Rather, the recipient’s eye is directed towards the goal and the hero directly with ease and without trouble. Its details are solid, solid, and clear to anyone who looks at it.

As for the aesthetic criteria, the photographer was interested in finding them, distributing them accurately and knowingly. Before talking about them, I would like to review some of the philosophers’ opinions regarding beauty. Plato defined beauty as “a manifestation of the truth,” while Socrates links it with good, and divides it into Outward beauty, inner beauty, and beautiful art have a function that serves human life, and in a more accurate sense, moral life. It ends with the unification between it and the rational ideal, which is manifested in proportionality and geometric coalition, and knows that it is found in order, proportionality, and in everything that is subject to counting and measurement. As for (Immanuel Kant), beauty is considered “perfection when we feel it.” The self, as (Edmund Burke); For him, beauty is order, misguidance, tenderness, joyful diversity, the disappearance of strength, the gradation between things, the smoothness of appearance, and the clarity of bright color without being dim. As for Hegel, he believes that artistic beauty is superior to natural beauty because it is the product of thought.

And returning to what the photographer artist followed, regarding the aesthetic values, in photography, to which the judgment belongs, whose decision is not rejected, that visual narration, he must enjoy, and they are arranged, and order in forms and elements, as well as composition, whether characterized by stability, or movement, and also balance rhythm, symmetry, diversity, and unity.

In order to clarify these aesthetic values, in the works of the photographer George Degalakis, and examining them, we see the works, which tend to be simple, and their arrangement, with regard to the tree, which is the dominant element, and the hero of the story, as follows: the first image is on the right of the cadre, and the second is in the middle, then he repeated the oath, and re-mediated the fourth, and its conclusion is to break the structural repetition, making the tree to the left of the image, and this distribution gave balance, between the spaces, and a comfortable breather. He made it to the left, created an outlet for the right of the image, and this distribution announced that the photographer, aware of the importance of balance, and finding it in the photographic scene and created a weight: addition in the work, namely the birds, which he granted, the symbolism of the permanence of life, and the continuity of life, despite the stiffness of the tree And its leaves fall off, after giving it a dark black color, to be unique as another added weight, compared to the rest of the tuna and color tones, which gave us a simple composition without visual disturbances, balanced by the distribution of blocks and spaces.

Then he reinforced the works, a smooth silky introduction, that came due to the long exposure, giving the recipient calm, serenity, and reassurance, as an opening to enter the story, and reach the desired goal without bothering, then frame it all, in shades of dark gray, as in the sky, and light as it is. It is apparent in the aspects of the work, and in the introduction, which is consistent with the concept and criterion of contrast, and the lack of merging of elements with each other, which sometimes happens due to excessive processing, in some photographic works.

Just as the elements within the photos make us feel unity and interdependence, with a close connection between them, with a sensory and perceptual relationship, and we did not see an element that does not belong to the photos, and this unit had an effective role, with the interconnection of its parts, complete with meaning, each element in it turns you to the other element to make it clear to you, the threads of the visual tide, and what the photographer meant from that, and then that the composition tends to the school of minimalism, which we can translate into simplification, minimalism, or minimalism. It flourished as a trend in the visual arts and music in the 1960s in the United States of America after the war The second world and relied on the use of the simplest and least elements and colors in the formation of pieces of art to give them the maximum effect. This method made the series get rid of visual distractions that have no importance in the story and the narrative focus.

And when we come to study the symbolism of the tree in art, it represents the axis, the mysterious mystical center of the universe, and an element of union between the bottom of the world (the roots), the earth (the stem), and the heavenly dimension (the leaves and branches). For this reason, the tree has been revered and revered by many people. The oak, the elm, and the linden were cult places in northern Europe; Figs, pomegranates, and olive trees in the Mediterranean basin.

The story that the photographer George told us, through his series, was that he wanted the recipient to feel that connection, between the earth and the sky, and the extent of its solidity and strength, despite its exposure to difficulties. Or walking in this life stumbling, after removing everything that would disturb you, or disturbing the peace of your life, in order to remain standing with all glory, pride, and loftiness, as firm as mountains, in harmony with your surroundings and content with your inner being. This land, for it is a companion of eras and times, carries among its branches the memories of many generations and eras, which passed and traveled, the tree outlived them, it remained steadfast, bearing the harshness of time and the bitterness of life, and we must learn from it.

Through him, reaching the idea of the photographer, and his aesthetic and artistic narrative is a

translation made by the famous blogger (Maria Popova) entitled “Hermann Hesse and what trees teach us about the meaning of belonging and life.”

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) is a Swiss writer, poet, and novelist, award-winning The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946.

(Maria): An article by Hermann Hesse that I had read in his book (The Trees: Reflections and Poems) in which he says: “For me, trees are usually the evangelist or preacher with the penetrating look of the familiar and the distant gaze.

 The most sacred trees are when they live among tribes and in the forests and orchards, and the most sacred trees are when they stand alone and steadfast, and live alone, similar in that to the only human being. It is not in her nature to be a hermit who lost himself and himself and was weakly alone, but to stand alone like those great, strong soldiers, like Nietzsche and Beethoven.

In its world, there is a rustle and a static in the heights of its branches, as in its roots it finds rest in its infinite depth. It does not lose itself where it is, because those branches and roots struggle and struggle in its life for the sake of one thing only, which is to live within its own laws and to build it’s in the form it wants, to be of nothing but itself. Nothing is more sacred and nothing more perfect than a strong beautiful tree. The moment that tree is cut down, its wound is exposed naked to the sunlight, as it reads its history drawn in its trunk as round rings with luminous light, its wounds, struggles, sufferings, ailments, happiness, and all its facts engraved on this trunk with all the narrow and luxurious years, and its resilience in the face of attacks, storms, and disasters.

Hussein Najem

Translate: Djeffal Elhadj Habib Ellah



Shuchuan Liu / China

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