Interview by Caroline Cuse

Yan Yan is a Senior concentrating in VES. This is her Thesis.

Caroline Cuse: Tell me about your project; what are you doing?

Yan Yan Mao: Basically, I’m mixing photo and sculpture. I took lots of photos of the tree itself, in terms of the leaves and trunk. I’m printing those out and using them to remake the tree.

CC: So where did you find the tree?

YYM: Well, Ginkgos trees are actually fairly common in urban environments because they can survive very harsh conditions. There are a couple on Church Street and a couple near Leverett, also a couple in the yard. So there are about a dozen or so around. I spent the first couple weeks of school collecting leaves and then photographing them inside.

CC: What kind of camera were you using?

YYM: Cannon Rebel.  The leaves are very small, so it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time. I’d photograph them and run all the leaves through the same Camera Raw treatment so that they’d all come out looking about the same.

CC: How many different leaves did you actually use?

YYM: 280. And I only stopped collecting cause they were gone!

CC: But you’re going to have more than 280 leaves on your tree, right?

YYM: Yeah, I’ll probably print each leave like 2 or 3 times, I’ll probably have close to a thousand at the end.

CC: So why did you choose this particular type of tree?

YYM: I always really liked the shape of the leaves. It’s also one of the oldest plant species, it’s from like the time of the dinosaurs, very old. And the leaves are very unique because there’s one central vein that branches out. So compared to regular leaves there are no side veins. So if you look closely they’re very cool-looking. And they have very good colors. I always used to collect leaves in my notebooks.

CC: So you’re doing this for your VES thesis?

YYM: Yeah, I’m a photography concentrator, but I’ve also taken sculpture. I always liked making things, I just never thought of them as “sculptures.”

CC: How big is the tree going to be?

YY: Like 8 or 9 feet tall.

CC: Woah. What other types of photos have you taken?

YYM: Last year I took pictures of taillights of cars. I ended up cropping out just the taillights and making shapes out of them. The process is strangely very similar to what I’m doing now. I have been getting farther and farther away from traditional photography. I started out taking pictures of the Japanese tea ceremony. I took pictures of gardens and rooms and things. Then I did some inversions where I took images and made them partially inverted, just below ground level. It’s kind of deceptive, because people don’t notice it. It’s fun.


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