David Paul Bayles
Frederick J Swanson
David Paul Bayles currently lives and photographs in western Oregon, where highly efficient industrialized tree farms supplanted the massive old growth forests many decades ago. He is currently working on a long term project with disturbance ecologist Frederick J Swanson, documenting the forest recovery after the massive 2020 Holiday Farm Fire in the McKenzie River watershed. His photographs have been published in numerous magazines including Orion, Nature, Terrain, Audubon, Harpers, Outside, The L.A. Times Sunday Magazine and others. Public collections include The Portland Art Museum, Santa Barbara Art Museum, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, The Baldwin Collection MTSU, The Harry Ransom Center, Wildling Museum and others.
His first monograph Urban Forest, Images of Trees in the Human Landscape was published in 2003. His next book, Sap In Their Veins, will be published in fall 2023. The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley created the David Paul Bayles Photographic Archive in 2016 as a permanent home for his entire life’s work.
Frederick J Swanson is a retired Research Geologist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the US Forest Service; a Senior Fellow with the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word; and the lead scientist in the Long-Term Ecological Reflections program. This Spring Creek-Andrews Forest collaboration facilitates engagement of writers and artists with the ancient forest of Andrews Forest and the volcanic eruption landscape of Mount St. Helens. Included among these activities have been 110+ writer and artist residencies at Andrews Forest since 2004.
Trained as a geologist and specializing in the study of disturbance agents in forest ecosystems, watersheds (fire, flood, landslide, volcanic eruptions, clearcutting, forest roads), and society, it has been natural to connect with human disturbance agents, such as poets and artists. Relevant publications include Forest Under Story: Creative Inquiry in an Old-Growth Forest (2016, Brodie et al., U Washington Press) and In the Blast Zone: Catastrophe and Renewal on Mount St. Helens (2008, Goodrich et al., Oregon State U Press).
from Typologies: Charred Abstractions series
from the Chronosequences Series: left: Photopoint FFR 2, right: Photopoint FFR 17. For this project, Bayles & Swanson selected 42 distinct photopoints that represent different forest conditions. During the first two years they photographed each photopoint twelve times in order to record the changing landscape following the fire.
Seeking truth involves boots on the ground while looking for clues in the clouds. That’s what trees do. When Fred and I stood in the charred skeletal forest after the fire, our hearts and minds were full of ideas, questions and curiosity. After two and a half years of climbing over burned trees and falling into stump ghosts, we’re asking better questions. And we’re still curious. Truth may be lodged in the tread of our boots.
Learn more about their Following Fire project.
more from their perspective
Frederick J Swanson at work
In the mid-seventies David Paul Bayles worked as a logger to earn tuition for photography school. His current studio/gallery was built from our trees that blew down after a neighbor clear cut their land.
Read January 17, 2023 LENSCRATCH article "David Paul Bayles and Frederick J Swanson: Following Fire: A Resilent Forest, an Uncertain Future"