The Bartram Trail

This is just dim, and frightfully tree-ish.” – My first impression of the Puc Puggy trail, a part of the Bartram Trail in Highlands, North Carolina, echoed Merry’s reaction to Fangorn in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” I felt like the alien that I am. There were trees and vines and bushes, hardly any light and tangled chaos around me. Not being able to name things and make them familiar, like William Bartram could, added to the confusion. I did not want to get lost. I started to look for signs. Yellow blazes for the Bartram Trail, blue blazes for the side trails. I became a hunter-gatherer, relishing in my growing collection of messages from fellow humans, I enjoyed my “charming solitude” in nature. I greeted the trail markers like old friends, walking up close, discovering the differences of materials and styles. I pictured the trail builders from the traces of their tools and the varying signs of diligence in hammering the nails. I also discovered something else. Many signs showed the passing of time, the growing, the weathering, and even the graffiti. The Bartram Trail offers many “sublimely awful scenes of power,” some more obvious than others, some more uncanny than others. Were the trees trying to hide them? Did they resent the paint, the piercing nails and strange metal? The Old Forest from the “Lord of the Rings” came to mind: “Merry was trapped: another crack had closed around his waist; his legs lay outside, but the rest of him was inside a dark opening, the edges of which gripped like a pair of pincers.” 

"I saw the Signs" is just one of the many projects and images that were created by a group of photographers from the Kinship Photography Collective as part of the exhibitions With Rapture & Astonishment & Listening to the Land, re-imagining the landscape that William Bartram had encountered in 1776 for exhibitions at The Bascom and The Circle Gallery at University of Georgia in 2022 and 2023.

The Bartram Trail - I saw the Signs