After a good rain, resurrection fern tends to pop with vivid green color over the bark of live oak trees. In the outdoor photography of New Orleans artist Bobby Wozniak, those ferns and the serpentine limbs and solid trunks of their host oaks are just as vivid, only rendered in silvers and grays, inky blacks and soft browns.
Wozniak describes his favorite subjects, the grand old trees of Louisiana, as graceful movements frozen in wood. In his black-and-white photography, they seem like captured, timeless moments from a realm that in reality is changing quickly.
“The body of my work comes from knowing Louisiana well, from growing up in Central Louisiana and living here in New Orleans and traveling back and forth, getting to know the place and the people,” he says. “As I get older, I can see how it has changed. Some plantations aren’t there anymore; the landscape is shifting.”
His portfolio is filled with scenes from the grounds of plantations, especially those not open to the public; of the state’s vulnerable, dynamic coastline; of swamps and old cabins; of modern relics; and, above all, of trees. He stalks specific trees, those identified as the largest and oldest in the state, seeking to capture what he describes as the raw feeling of their majesty. He uses an infrared developing process that imbues his black-and-white work with a richer palette of subtle shading and visual texture.
Trees are more than a subject and inspiration for Wozniak’s. art. He has planted countless trees in the area and has been instrumental in the recent transformation of Alcee Fortier Park near his home in Faubourg St. John into a lush urban oasis.
Photography started as a hobby for Wozniak, one kindled from an early age by his parents’ slide shows of photos from their European vacations. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in New Orleans and credits Victoria Ryan, the school’s photography program director, as a mentor.
“When people see my work, I hope they’ll come away with a feeling that there are all kinds of things waiting for them off the beaten path in our state and that they should go out and explore them,” Wozniak says.
Ian McNulty with New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles
Image courtesy of Thom Bennett