Eric B. Johnson and Bloch’s Trees

Isolated in nature for several years, Bloch began to do a series of tree photographs. Lucienne [Bloch Dimitroff] describes her memories:

It took him a good year to finally get to photographing them, because when I was there, and we were walking he would say, “You have no idea how extraordinary these trees are when there are few leaves, and when it’s dark in back so they show up.” He kept saying, “I’ve got to photograph them, I must make a study of trees.” And that’s when he would point to them and say, “Now look at this — this harmony of trunks” . . .

Bloch saw music in trees. He labeled some of his tree photographs according to the musical composer who he felt was similar in feeling and structure: “Debussy,” “Bach,” “Beethoven,” and “Mozart.” The photographs evoke feelings much like each composer’s music. His “Debussy” tree is a continuous thread, incomplete within the frame. Figure-ground relationships become ambiguous, structure is loose and feeling is undefined. His trunks with a complex background. Bloch sees “Beethoven” invariably as a single massive tree appearing to twist and struggle out of the soil. “Mozart” is much different; a deceptively light, but sturdy, tree, complete within the frame and clearly defined by light.

Quoted in “Aperture 16:3” in “A Composer’s Vision: photographs by Ernest Bloch.”

This note appeared for the author, Eric Johnson:

Eric Johnson is a free-lance photographer working in Portland. He prepared Ernest Bloch: A Composer’s Vision for an independent study thesis at the University of Oregon in 1971. In compiling the necessary biographical information and in makig the prints from Bloch’s negatives, he was given the kind assistance of Ernest Bloch’s children — Ivan Bloch, Lucienne Dimitroff, and Suzanne Bloch.

Eric Johnson is currently on the faculty at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo in Art & Design.  The following biography was found on his website:

Eric B. Johnson, BA. 1971 University of Oregon; MFA, Photography, University of New Mexico, 1978, researched, printed and wrote about the photography of 20th century composer Ernest Bloch. (Aperture, 1971, “A Composers Vision: The Photographs of Ernest Bloch”) His landscapes of golf courses as a form of “earth art” were published by The Friends of Photography in 1980, New Landscapes. He taught photography at Western Washington University, 1978, and Ohio State University in Columbus, 1979. In 1980 he moved to California to join the faculty at California Polytechnic State University.

In the 1980’s his work ranged from color landscapes of an archaeology of California titled “Abandoned Highways” to “Scenes of the Pacific War”—enamel spray on color prints using still framed video from WWII. Earlier work was also included in the major survey by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art titled “Photographs From The Last Decade” in 1987. He moved to the digital environment in 1989 in order to execute the concept of “Videoglyphs.” This work was included in exhibits including “Digital Art” at Purdue University; “Currents in Electronic Imaging” at Pacific Lutheran University; “Digital Masters” at Ansel Adams Gallery, San Francisco, as well as at Cuesta College in “Key Strokes.” It has also been included in the Adobe Photoshop CD-ROM Digital Art Gallery. This work was been included in the national survey exhibit titled “New Realities: Hand-Colored Photographs 1839 to the Present” at the University of Wyoming Museum of Art and five other museums.

In 2000-02 extensive photographic work on Ireland golf courses resulted in a collaborative book with Paul Zingg titled “An Emerald Odyssey: In Search of the Gods of Golf and Ireland,” published by Collins Press in 2008. In 2004 he produced a body of work in collage using images from the Gettysburg battlefield. Since 2006 Eric has been involved in new digital collage and still life series using personal and political references from the late 1960’s, including his images of Robert Kennedy and Richard Nixon. This work has resulted in a major new series titled “Shrines and Altars 2008.”