It used to be Benjamin Swett's job to document the city's trees, back when he was the Parks Department's official photographer over a decade ago. Now it's become a passion. His latest book, "New York City of Trees," is out tomorrow (in local bookstores and available online), coinciding with the opening of an exhibition with Swett's arboreal images. It's on view at Central Park's Arsenal Gallery from tomorrow till April 26?fittingly, from Arbor Day to park designer Frederick Law Olmsted's birthday. For the green fiends out there, four related lectures-slash-book signings are scheduled, as well as two guided bike rides (details here). A selection of his photographs is also in the photo gallery above?perfect for browsing during a snowy day as spring lies in wait.
This project, Swett told us, is an homage not only to the physical beauty of some of the city's underappreciated flora but also trees' symbolic value?as a lens through which to see New York's past. "Physically, in their growth rings, they tell the story of what was happening around them during their lifetimes, so they are bearers of the city's history," he says.
A stumped Swett had a hard time picking his favorite New York City tree. The eventual winner? A little Post oak in Pelham Bay Park. "It's a small tree, but it's surprisingly old," he explains." "Someone did a coring of the tree to find out how old it was?it only has 20-inch diameter, but it dates back to before the American Revolution."
· Official site: New York City of Trees [www.benjaminswett.com]
· Exhibition, Benjamin Swett: New York City of Trees [Parks & Recreation]