Professional photographer Robert Llewellyn, Bob to his friends, has operated for most of four decades out of his "house-cum-studio" known as Balmullo Farm overlooking the Rivanna River in Earlysville, Virginia (just outside Charlottesville). He knew from the very first time he started porting an old Nikon camera around his high school in southern Virginia that all he wanted to do was to take pictures. He left his engineering studies at the University of Virginia a little early and headed out to California to learn under famous photographer Imogen Cunningham in Eureka in 1968 for that very reason.
"The wonderful thing about photography is that everything shows up as new. You see things that make you say, ‘Wow.’"
The newness he sees in everything has kept Bob saying "wow" often as a photographer. His entire body of work is infused with an enduring inquisitiveness accompanied by a childlike sense of wonder — which he’s brought to his recent photographic study of trees, flowers, and seeds.
"Fragments of my familiar world, which are not quite new to me, but can be shockingly unique when scrutinized. These entities — which we have named trees, flowers, seeds, the forest — when deeply contemplated can open up new worlds."
Photographing the Forest
Bob’s latest book, The Living Forest: A Visual Journey Into the Heart of the Woods (Timber Press, 2017) — with over 300 of his images and words by Joan Maloof — fully exhibits the results of his exploratory wonder. HIs "awe-inspiring photographs" capture owls and hawks close-up; his aerial photographs show herons in flight. Time-lapse photography reveals the slow changing of leaves. Biology and environmental studies professor at Salisbury University, Joan Maloof, detailed “the science behind the wonder" with her "lyrical essays”. She also helped make the process more engaging.
“We’d go out into the forest and she would say to me, ‘Turn over that log. What do you see?’ I would say, ‘What will I see?’ She would never tell me. It was all about discovery.”
David George Haskill, author of The Songs of Trees, said, "This celebration of forests' many layers of beauty is a gift for the senses, intellect, and emotions." The duo followed The Living Forest with Seeing Flowers in 2013 and Seeing Seeds in 2015.
"In years past, Robert Llewellyn has blown our minds with the indelibly detailed photographs in “Seeing Trees,” “Seeing Flowers” and “Seeing Seeds.” In THE LIVING FOREST: A Visual Journey Into the Heart of the Woods . . he has teamed up with Joan Maloof, the founder and director of the Old-Growth Forest Network, to peer into the mystery and magic of our woodlands."
The New York Times
Bob began a four-year effort in 2004 with Nancy Ross Hugo, garden columnist of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, to document one hundred of Virginia's "most historic, beautiful and beloved trees." They received over a thousand nominations from across the state of remarkable trees, which required driving 20,000 miles to assess each tree for inclusion. The result of all this effort was the publication of the "keepsake book" Remarkable Trees of Virginia with 176 of Llewellyn's photographs in 2008. The project was a turning point in how Bob viewed forest ecosystems.
“Nancy began to explain each aspect of the trees to me and a light bulb went off. They’re alive. They’re born and they die and it’s all very well planned.”
The two followed up Remarkable Trees of Virginia with Seeing Trees in 2011, presenting photographs that revealed "an unexpected and alien beauty" discovered in the minute detail of trees.
"The authors have brought the level of observation to new heights, presenting the daintiest parts of trees — buds, flower parts and seeds in various stages of ripening — in a way that hasn’t been seen, generally."
The Washington Post
Washington, The Capital — published through Thomasson-Grant in 1981 — became, once leatherbound with a gold-leaf presidential seal, the White House gift to visiting dignitaries. In this celebrated work Bob concentrated on "the city as monuments, on what an explorer of some future time might find in a deserted Washington."
"I began to see how much the center of the city was a concentration of temples — temples dedicated to government, to power and culture, to wise men and national leaders, to the dead."
The San Francisco Examiner called it a "collection of exquisite, formal color photographs of various landmarks and scenes showing the city as a paradise on the Potomac . ." In addition to Washington, D.C., Bob completed a series of photography books on other American cities, including Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Bob's works have been shown at a number of exhibits, including those in Charlottesville, Norfolk, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. This is a remarkable body of work from Robert Llewellyn, professional photographer, a guy who really just wanted to take pictures.
SEE: Robert Llewellyn (photographer) at Wikipedia