The Fine Art of Bonsai

A podiatrist-turned-photographer finds elegance in an ancient horticultural art.

See this article's accompanying photo gallery

Retired podiatrist Jonathan Singer has worked magic in Fine Bonsai: Art & Nature, an elegant album featuring hundreds of full-page images of the miniature potted trees that represent a horticultural art form dating back 2,000 years. Granted unprecedented access to both public and private collections, Singer photographed some of the finest existing bonsai creations. Here, a 250-year-old Sargents juniper “shows how a heavy-appearing bonsai can become elegant” in a master's hands. Named “Odori,” meaning dancer, its reddish-brown living bark interlaces with pallid older wood. These creations, writes editor W. John Kress, a curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, show how “humans can tame nature not to destroy, but to glorify; not to conquer, but to exult; not to flee from, but to meditate on.”