“In our family culture, the tree is a symbol of life.” Nature photographer Ali Shokri grew up in Iran. It was in his beautiful home country that he would begin to develop his passion and love for nature – more so, trees. Years later, his passion would become the centerpoint of his life’s ambitions. For the last 16 years, Shokri has been photographing trees. His mission? To show everyone how important and beautiful they are to the world. His body of work has since been turned into a photo book, The Passion of Trees. Showing his collection of images and highlighting his message, Shokri spoke to us about a topic he holds tightly close to his heart.
“The main point in my photos is to send a message of the pain, the oppression the trees are going through, and how they are in the brink of disappearance.“Ali
Phoblographer: Hey Ali, can you tell us about how your relationship with nature started?
Ali Shokri: The project goes back to my childhood. My father loved trees all his life; he would always plant a tree where ever he went. He loved Berry trees more than the others. The feeling that I have for trees, I have inherited from my father.
Phoblographer: Trees often bring so much color and vibrancy to our world. For this series, you’ve opted to make your images black and white. Talk to us about your thought process behind that decision?
Ali Shokri: The main point in my photos is to send a message of the pain, the oppression the trees are going through, and how they are in the brink of disappearance. For these reasons, my photos didn’t need to be colorful. It was all about the pain of trees, not the colorful leaves, flowers, and fruits.
Phoblographer: You’re out amongst nature, your camera in hand, your eyes locked on the scene – talk to us about some of the emotions you may be feeling during this time?
Ali Shokri: When I’m in nature, I’m like a hunter looking for my subject. Whenever I’m confident about the subject, I become like a maniac going around of my subject, trying to make a connection from the angle that I’m going to take a shot. Depending on which angle I photograph from, that angle describes my feeling for the situation. This tree will stay in my mind for many years.
Phoblographer: This project has been on-going for 16 years now – that’s a long time. Does it have an ending, or is this going to be a life-long focus for you?
Ali Shokri: I always thought after I published my book maybe the subject of trees will end there and I was thinking to choose another subject. But I couldn’t. The trees are attracted to me, and I’m attracted to them unconsciously.
Phoblographer: A lot is happening in the world surrounding nature. Australia is a current example. Talk to us about your thoughts on the matter.
Ali Shokri: The trees aren’t like birds that can fly away and save themselves. They can not move, and they are oppressed. If anything happens, they have no choice but to surrender and be destroyed. The truth is, we humans are ruining them.
Phoblographer: Society seems to be in constant debate about how we look after our planet. What role do you feel photography can play in directing the discussion?
Ali Shokri: We have to educate people that trees are not only chairs and sofas, they are the lung of the earth. I wanted to show with my photos that trees have a destiny – they fall in love, and they become lonely too. We will face the anger of nature if we destroy the trees.
Phoblographer: Let’s talk about your book. How was the experience of creating it?
Ali Shokri: After I published my book, I found out I love trees more than ever. Every page I turn in my book, I sense that it has a message. The pages have feelings, and I fall in love with nature more than ever.
Phoblographer: What would you like the viewer to feel when looking at your photo book?
Ali Shokri: I’m hoping anyone who has the book connects to the trees. I want them to feel the same way I feel and look after the trees.
Phoblographer: To this day, what has been your proudest achievement from a photographic perspective?
Ali Shokri: I have to say it’s when I worked on this project, and then turned it into a book. Also, going to speak about tress in Baku for TED talks was another highlight.
Phoblographer: Finally, in the West, Iran is often shown in a negative light. Tell the world why this is a beautiful country and maybe why some of the stigmas are unjust.
Ali Shokri: Unfortunately, the face of politics is not nice all the time. But if I start with nature as an example, Iran has four diverse seasons, combined with waterfalls, deserts, colorful mountains, and plains. There are also beautiful lakes that, because of the lack of management or mismanagement, are going to run dry. Iran has kind, loving, talented people and rich culture. For anyone that has visited Iran, these words are familiar and ring true.