Ralph’s Tree


Photo by Ralph Williams
Written by Julian Theo Wacker

Moms, dads, children, and pedestrians: Watch out!

This seemingly obvious work of art, beautifully captured by young and emerging photographer Ralph Williams, offers deep and meaningful insights into life and death. Viewers’ first impressions might be similar to the glorious discovery of all the funny and necessary emoticons that we see so seldom in our everyday life.

Is this funny? Is it fun to cut down a tree? Is it fun to saw up a tree just to use its branches and its fallen grace to forge and form a humanlike face on its stump? There really are no limits to human cruelty.

The fact that the eyes, nose, and mouth are made from the wood that once belonged to this magnificent tree (tree lovers see this at first sight) gives rise to the suspicion that murderer and artist are one and the same person! Is this another strange case of a Jekyll and Hyde persona? Oh dear! What have we gotten ourselves into. Destroying and creating, living and dying. The silently screaming and yet seriously dead tree accentuates and reemphasizes the infamous and prevailing motif of the baroque era: Vanitas.

The tree is dead. The circle of life has irretrievably come to an end. This time however, a dead tree is not enough. The effect of a laughing, screaming, and shrieking face on the dead remnants of this old and honourable plant is simply overpowering. Never has the contrast of life and death been displayed in such a peculiar way. Killing a living organism is a terrible and most despicable act. Using its dead arms and legs to create something new is perhaps even worse.

It is not just this though. The look of this face is an intrinsically powerful and yet underestimated force that leaves people well advised not to bank on the presumed unassailability of emoticon wonderland. The prophetically smiling grimace of death is already part of an extensive study carried out by specialists. Subjects have been reporting of near-death experiences, never ending nightmares, and insights into the thin line of life and death. Ralph Williams manages time and again to capture these precious moments of life.

Watch out!

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