Michael R. Dietrich

The Photography of Ernest Henry Wilson

Ernest Henry Wilson (1876-1930) is famous for having collected tens of thousands of plants from around the world. He brought most of those specimens back to the collection of Harvardís Arnold Arboretum, where he succeeded Charles Sprague Sargent as Keeper in 1927. When Sargent hired Wilson to collect in China for the Arboretum in 1906, he sent him with a camera as well as a vasculum. Sargentís instructions were clear: ďa good set of photographs are about as important as anything you can bring back with you.Ē Wilson would quickly take to the camera as a means of documentation and recording his journeys. The camera would accompany Wilson on all of his later travels and even at home as he explored the trees of New England. The result of Wilsonís travels with the camera in Asia and closer to home are a collection of thousands photographs that mark the breadth of his visual research across six continents.

Scott Dietrich and myself, with support from an Sargent Fellowship from the arnold Arboretum, are working on a book project on Wilson's photographs that includes some rephotography of Wilson's trips to the mountains of Sichuan and the forests of Japan.