“My beer drunk soul is sadder than all the dead Christmas trees of the world” said photographer James Turner about his photo series, Dead Christmas Trees.

Shorn of their ornaments, sparkle and twinkling lights, what happens to millions and millions of Christmas Trees post-festive-season?

After their short-life decorating a festive room, many are thrown to the streets, left abandoned in shady corners, or piled above each other without half of the protagonism they once came to know. 

The British photographer James Drew Turner documented what he called Dead Christmas Trees in a photo series that gives Christmas a different kind of light.

Dead Christmas Trees by James Turner

Turner started the project in January 2015 and since then it has been a tradition to go out on the last week of December and search the streets of London and its surroundings. The process lasts until the end of January and sometimes, extends to February too.

I like to think these people consider keeping their trees for a few weeks, before giving up and tossing them out.

Dead Christmas Trees by James Turner

The idea for the project came in 2014, from an article addressing the waste of the Christmas season and what happens to the trees after they are cast out:

It got me thinking about the environmental sustainability of different trees at this time of year and really just about waste during the Christmas period in general.

Plastic reusable trees aren’t always the best option, but I’ve always felt there must be a better alternative to growing and snatching these trees so they can sit in someone’s living room for three weeks before being dumped. It just seemed to wasteful and a summary of our ultra-consumerist version of Christmas — which also feeds into my own rather morose and ‘bah-humbug’ view of Christmas in general. 

As December approached in 2014, I came across a quote from Charles Bukowski — “My beer drunk soul is sadder than all the dead Christmas trees of the world.” Slightly more melancholic than the intended vibe of the project, but with the right humour it got me thinking about a project.

I’m unaware of any other photographers who have taken Christmas trees seriously enough for a project.

Once James started noticing the abandoned pines, his focus couldn’t be drawn from them anymore. What was once and for many years ignored, was now shouting for the attention of his camera:

I think I was overly sensitised to seeing the trees in the weeks following Christmas. I had probably spent years walking past these dead trees without a second thought, but all of a sudden I was seeing them everywhere; it seemed endemic.

Living in a big city like London also means that waste disposal is carried out in public and without much second thought. I began shooting almost straight away.

Now known as The Christmas Tree Guy, James spends this time of the year looking for the next Dead Christmas Trees to shoot:

I’ve enough experience as a photographer that I can fly under the radar, though there are the usual questions from passers-by — ‘What are you shooting?’

There’s also the odd person poking their head out of their front door and wondering why I’m taking pictures of their bins! But the other side of that is I’m now known amongst friends as ‘the Christmas tree guy’, and I get regular messages and texts with the locations of piles of dead trees. Just last year, a friend tipped me off about a tree massacre in Croydon — so off I went in search of it. Sure enough, I found the biggest pile of dead Christmas trees I’d ever seen! That was like Christmas for me.

Dead Christmas Trees by James Turner

James Drew Turner is a Scottish photographer and filmmaker based in London. He never tasted coffee and shot David Beckham’s profile picture.
Visit James’ profile to see more of his work, or check out the Cherrydeck search to see more of inspiring photography talents.

For more on forgotten elements in the urban landscape, check out “Ruin or Rust” by our member Francesco Russo. ?

Posted by:Cherrydeck Editorial

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