After 20 years of passing by the same tree in southwest Wisconsin, freelance photographer Mark Hirsch finally decided to take a shot of the mighty bur oak, embarking on what would become a year-long photo journal of that single, stranded tree. In an interview with NPR, Hirsch admits, “I shoot pictures for a living and I had stopped taking pictures for me, so I decided I was going to start taking a picture a day.”
The series, aptly titled That Tree, began on March 23, 2012, after the 52-year-old professional photographer snapped a shot with his new iPhone, a device he never thought he'd use for real photography. He went on to share one image a day from the personal project on his Facebook page. Along his year-long journey, Hirsch was met with challenges, particularly in finding new ways to photograph his stationary subject. However, the resilient photographer found himself getting creative by lying in the grass, mud, and snow or climbing the towering tree itself to get new perspectives.
In the end, the simple project proved to be an essential and transformative adventure in both photography and Hirsch's life. The photographer says, “The longer I spent down there, the greater my appreciation for what a unique force [this tree] was and what an impact it had on the quality of life around it. In that realm, in that microcosm of the world, it really is a tree of life.” He adds, “Call it the energy of place, call it the energy of the tree, call it the coincidence of patience, but it's been an incredible experience.”