Current: Intro

MANUAL’s current work, Raising Nature, focuses on two sub-series: Yellow Birch Cycle, and Trees Flower. For this project, Hill and Bloom left their studio for the challenging, ever changing conditions of the outdoors in order to observe and photograph the woodland environment and gain a better understanding of its complex natural systems and synergies. Thus, the title, Raising Nature, means to imply the simultaneous raising of our human consciousness in relation to Nature, a phenomenon we tend to take for granted. (In his recent, and highly recommended book, The Cabaret of Plant Life; 40 Thousand Years of Plant Life and the Human Imagination, Richard Mabey states: …now [that] we understand how crucial the plant world is to our own survival…It’s odd that we haven’t regained our ancient sense of wonder toward plants. It may be that we find it hard to accept that plants don’t need us in the way we need them.)

Yellow Birch Cycle consists of eleven images, each representing one state in the growth period from “leaf-out” to “leaf-drop” (beginning of May to mid-October) of one tree species, Betula aleghaniensis. Each image is an aggregate of merged multiple exposures taken on the same day, a practice which leaves visual signs of vitality, motion and the passage of time. MANUAL’s decision to photograph the tree looking out from beneath the umbrella of the tree’s canopy is crucial. Rather than position their tripod at a distance in order picture the whole tree they frame the low-hanging branches themselves and observe them as they change throughout the growing period. Ultimately, biological information, motion, intensity, emotion and beauty are compressed into each finished work, while a larger sense of botanical time is conveyed by the cycle of the series as a whole–paean to the remarkable sophistication of plant life.

The title Trees Flower, is a subtle play on the title of a 1935 self-published book, Tree Flowers, written by Walter E. Rogers, a professor of botany who felt strongly that his students, and people in general, were too little aware of the flowering phase of the tree’s reproductive cycle, and equally blind to the wonders of trees’ structural forms, which in the case of deciduous trees are most easily seen during the winter. Trees Flower pays homage both to Rogers and 19th-century painter, Martin Johnson Heade, an American artist associated with the Hudson River School, who painted flora floating in space among other phenomena. There are seven images in MANUAL’s Trees Flower series. Each is suspended within their individual cloak of atmosphic skies — dramatic contexts intended to emphasize the organic relation between the two, i.e., plant life and environmental atmosphere.

A major show of Raising Nature was exhibited at Moody Gallery, Houston, Texas from February 27-April 2, 2016. Installation views of that exhibition are presented in their own section. Moody Gallery has represented Ed Hill and Suzanne Bloom (MANUAL) for the past thirty-three years. For further information see