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Tom Zetterstrom

by Kathryn Boughton

Tom Zetterstrom is an apple that didn’t fall far from the tree. Son of an arborist, Zetterstrom’s passion for trees has dominated his life, from his lasting enchantment with their beauty - preserved in his ethereal photographic series, Portrait of Trees and The Moving Point of View - to his commitment to conservation.

Zetterstrom, who has orchestrated the planting of nearly two hundred trees in his hometown of Canaan CT alone and about one hundred elm trees in towns ranging from Williamstown MA to Sharon CT, will discuss this latter aspect of his career Saturday when he addresses the problem of invasive plants at 10AM in the Sharon Town Hall. The Sharon Land Trust and Audubon Sharon sponsor the program.

“I will give options for eradicating invasives in a Power Point presentation and then we will go out behind the town hall and treat some,” he said.

The fine-arts photographer, whose images are in the permanent collection of thirty-seven museums, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, The Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, added, “I am constantly carrying a camera with me, grabbing didactic imagery for various talks on community forestry, invasive management and art. I will begin by reviewing some of the famous black and white photography that sets the stage for who I am.”

The Sharon talk will focus on the successful management of invasives in Washinee Park in Salisbury, established in 1919. The “tree-studded meadow” was nurtured by Lois Church Warner, who on her wedding day in 1929 received a train carload of trees that she had planted as an arboretum.

“For a while, the park was the darling of the Salisbury Garden Club,” Zetterstrom said. “But flash forward a century and invasive plants dominated the landscape.”

Restoration efforts started in 2006, with Zetterstrom employing the best technology, funding it with money raised by a group of concerned citizens and neighbors.

“That became the Washinee model of how to restore landscapes and get rid of uninvited guests,” he said. That same model has since been applied in other locales, such as the campus of Housatonic Valley Regional High School.

Zetterstrom has carried his message of conservation and preservation across the nation, in the process earning such prestigious awards as the Arbor Day Foundation’s Public Awareness of Trees Award for his elm restoration efforts and his Portraits of Trees portfolio, and the Ossenbreuggen Award for Meritorious Service from the Connecticut Urban Forest Council.

Zetterstrom said the “observations of a lifetime” inform his photography, but also influence his conservation efforts. “Because of my visual acuity and knowing what trees belong here the word ‘alien species’ speaks in capital letters,” he said.

He will also present talks on October 28th before the Connecticut Urban Forest Council about elm restoration efforts and November 5th at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme as part of a three-part series, The Photographer in the Connecticut Landscape: Three Current Perspectives. He will exhibit works in March at the Getty Museum.