Palo Alto Artist Gathers Tree Photos

One of the last remaining fruit orchards in Silicon Valley inspired photographer Angela Buenning Filo to turn her lens toward trees. Her 2003 visit to an abandoned plum tree orchard, beside the San Jose IBM campus on Cottle Road, led to a monumental project: a three year endeavor photographing each of the 1,737 trees. She explains, “I wanted to map these trees and find a way to hold them in time.” Today, the orchard lives on in Buenning Filo’s meticulously laid out photographic grid of the original trees, on permanent exhibit in San Jose City Hall.


Her latest photographic project, The Palo Alto Forest, is a continued effort to document and celebrate the trees around us. The project encourages the public to submit photographs of their favorite tree and a six word story about the tree, which will be immediately posted to an on line gallery and displayed on the project’s website. The deadline for submissions is June 15th. The final project will be unveiled at the Palo Alto Art Center’s grand reopening exhibit, Community Creates, this fall.


“I wanted to think about how trees around us impact us,” she explained. “Palo Alto is a place that honors and values trees. Our concept for The Palo Alto Forest was for people to choose a tree and honor it by photographing it and telling a story about it.” So far, over 270 people have submitted photos and text.


Angela encourages tree photos that are personally significant, “I think it’s interesting that people are posting trees that are so personal and specific to them, in their daily lives, in their yards, their parks. I’m amazed at the stories…always anxious to see the next one.” She noted that Palo Alto City Arborist Dave Dockter recently posted a photo of a tree being driven to its new home in Heritage Park a few years ago. “That’s now our family park!” she laughs. “And that’s the tree that I run around with my one year old and my three year old.”


Angela has photographed the Silicon Valley landscape for more than a decade, capturing the rapidly changing environment. Her work is on display at San Jose Mineta Airport, in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and she exhibits regularly. Click here to see more of her work.


Recently, Angela Buenning Filo joined a tree walk hosted by ReLeaf Network member Canopy. Participants were invited to bring their cameras to photograph trees during the walk.


If you’re in the Palo Alto area, upload your tree photographs and accompanying six word story to The Palo Alto Forest or you can email them to, before June 15th.