In the early 1900s, artist Paul Thulin’s great-grandfather settled on an island off the coast of Maine because it resembled his homeland of Sweden. Over a century later, his family returns to the same area, Gray’s Point, each summer.
Throughout his life, Thulin’s great-grandfather shared exquisitely detailed accounts of early settlers at the New England apple orchard; Such characters include a one-legged ship cook, a widowed schoolteacher, and an ingenious Native American blacksmith. The tales were an intricate mix of facts and lore that fueled the imagination and, on occasion, had the power to transform daily floorboard creaks and shadows into enduring ancestral spirits.
Pine Tree Ballads is a poetic memoir, featuring the artist’s daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother as a single protean character (or multiple characters?) vibrating in time, navigating the mysteries and menace of a shared ancestral forest. This deeply personal photographic sequence is part visual narrative of family myths and part origin story. Pine Tree Ballads is fueled by both truth and imagination, which, in many instances are the fundamental ingredients of our personal history. The “docu-literary” structure of this monograph celebrates and fully exploits the duplicitous nature of photography/text to be simultaneously interpreted as both fact and fiction. At the surface, this project explores the emotive, contextual, and material constructs of history, culture, personal identity, memory, and folklore.
Pine Tree Ballads is Thulin’s first book. With an afterword, by poet Dora Malech.
Pine Tree Ballads is available now through Candela Books. For purchase and info visit — candelabooks.com
Paul Thulin’s photographs have been exhibited nationally and internationally at United Photo Industries, NYC; Miami Scope; Candela Gallery, Richmond Va.; Chicago Art Fair; PPAC, Philadelphia; AAC, Washington DC; Toronto Art Fair, Foto Gallery, Barcelona; Grand Prix Fotofestival Lodz, Poland; the Athens Photo Festival, Greece; the Center for Fine Art Photography, Colorado; Mt. Rokko Photography Festival, Japan; the Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards, Nera di Verzasca Photo Festival, Switzerland, FIF_BH – International Festival of Photography, Brazil; and the Noordelicht Photo Festival, The Netherlands.
Thulin has been the recipient of a variety of photographic prizes and awards including a 2001 TPI National Graduate Fellowship, a 2006 Virginia Commission for the Arts Artist Fellowship, 2013 Conveyor Magazine Exhibition Grant, 2015 Hariban Award Honorable Mention, 2015 Critical Mass Top 50, and the 2015 Lensculture Emerging Talent Grant. Pine Tree Ballads, the series, was highlighted in the May 2016 British Journal of Photography and awarded the 2016 Renaissance Prize London for Best Series. He currently lives in Richmond, Virginia and works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Photography and Film at Virginia Commonwealth University.