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A fine art photography book taking a new look at the art of bonsai.
A fine art photography book taking a new look at the art of bonsai.
A fine art photography book taking a new look at the art of bonsai.
222 backers pledged $20,398 to help bring this project to life.

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In Training: a book of Bonsai photographs

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In Training is a fine art photography book about bonsai, empathy and slowing down that I've been working on for the last year.

I want to make this book because I want to share the feeling of being close to these remarkable trees. I want to share their peaceful presence and their humble, rugged beauty.

For someone who has never seen a bonsai before, I hope this book will be a meaningful visual introduction to this art form. For those who know bonsai intimately, I hope these photos will present a new way of looking at these trees - a fresh, but respectful interpretation of the artist’s intent.

Sargent Juniper, training date unknown
Sargent Juniper, training date unknown

I’ve loved bonsai trees since I first saw one almost twenty years ago at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. I’m humbled when I think about the commitment of generations of bonsai masters who care for these trees. 

What I love most about bonsai is the empathy of its practitioners that is reflected in these trees. Practitioners who care for and maintain trees that will outlive them, that will eventually be watched over by someone else, long after they’re gone.

California Juniper, in training since 1985
California Juniper, in training since 1985

And so after a year of thinking hard about this project, making dozens and dozens of trips to photograph the bonsai, and editing down thousands of images I’m asking for your support. I’m working with one of my favorite designers to create a beautiful, hand-crafted book of my photos.

I hope this will be a book that rewards a long, slow look, that can be returned to again and again.

Crape Myrtle, in training since 2010
Crape Myrtle, in training since 2010

The book will come in two versions:

First Edition Book -  Hardcover - 12" x 12" - 40 pages
Limited Edition Book - Hardcover, 12" x 12" - 40 pages in handcrafted slipcase. Limited to 50 copies. The book will also include one 12” x 18” print only available to Kickstarter backers (see choices below).

(book size and # of pages subject to change as design progresses, but page count will only increase)

These museum-quality prints will be made by a printer in New York who works regularly with NYC galleries and exhibiting photographers worldwide. After exploring a wide range of photo papers, I've found a special matte paper that will preserve the beautiful, rich detail of the images.

8" x 12" signed print, Bald Cypress, with $200 reward

Bald Cypress, in training since 1972
Bald Cypress, in training since 1972

12" x 18" signed print (choice of 1), with $400 reward

Sargent Juniper, in training since 1905
Sargent Juniper, in training since 1905
Chinese Quince, in training since 1975
Chinese Quince, in training since 1975
Drummond Red Maple, in training since 1974
Drummond Red Maple, in training since 1974
Rhododendron 'Gunki', in training since 1982
Rhododendron 'Gunki', in training since 1982

20" x 30" signed print, choice of five limited editions prints, each in an edition of 10, with $500 reward

Trident Maple, in training since 1918
Trident Maple, in training since 1918
Toringo Crab Apple, in training since 1905
Toringo Crab Apple, in training since 1905
Japanese White Pine, in training since 1625
Japanese White Pine, in training since 1625
California Juniper, in training since 1985
California Juniper, in training since 1985
Chinese Elm, training date unknown
Chinese Elm, training date unknown

These greeting cards have five of my favorite images that didn't make the final edit for the book. Each will have the photograph on the front and the information about the tree printed on the back of the card.

 About Stephen

Stephen is a photographer based in Washington, DC who works with clients like Time Magazine, Wired, NPR and The Wall Street Journal. He loves running, gardening with his kids and rock-climbing.

You can see more of his work at his website: stephenvoss.com.

You can also follow Stephen on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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Risks and challenges

I've had my photographs published in many books before, but this is my first experience publishing my own book. To that end, I'm working with designer who has a tremendous amount of experience with publishing and a well-established printer who specializes in producing the finest art photograph books. Both make meeting deadlines their business, but if there's any real risk, it's the risk that there may be a delay due to an unforeseen issue.

Regardless of whether that happens or not, I will be transparent in keeping my supporters up to date on a regular basis on the book's progress.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    A hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    A set of 5 work prints, as seen in the video. These are the actual prints I used to decide on the final edit for the book.

    A hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    Set of 5 greeting cards + envelopes from images that I loved, but that didn’t make it into the final edit for the book. Each card set contains five different images.

    A hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    Signed copy of Michael Hagedorn’s wonderful book, Post-Dated: The Schooling of an Irreverent Bonsai Monk. The quote in the video comes from this book.

    A hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Signed, 1st Edition copy of In Training.

    Your name listed in the book as a supporter and a hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    2 copies of the signed, 1st Edition copy of In Training.

    Your name listed in the book as a supporter and a hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Signed, 1st Edition copy of In Training.

    A signed 8" x 12" print of “Bald Cypress” (see image below) only available to Kickstarter backers.

    Your name listed in the book as a supporter and a hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $400 or more About $400

    Signed, limited edition copy of In Training in handcrafted wooden slipcase.

    Choice of one 12” x 18” print only available to Kickstarter backers (see images choices below).

    Your name listed in the book as a supporter and a hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Signed, limited edition 20" x 30 print" - Trident Maple, in training since 1905 (see image below).

    Signed, 1st Edition copy of In Training.

    Your name listed in the book as a supporter and a hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Signed, limited edition 20" x 30 print" - Toringo Crab Apple, in training since 1905 (see image below).

    Signed, 1st Edition copy of In Training.

    Your name listed in the book as a supporter and a hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Signed, limited edition 20" x 30 print" - Japanese White Pine, in training since 1625 (see image below).

    Signed, 1st Edition copy of In Training.

    Your name listed in the book as a supporter and a hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Signed, limited edition 20" x 30 print" - California Juniper, in training since 1985 (see image below).

    Signed, 1st Edition copy of In Training.

    Your name listed in the book as a supporter and a hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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  13. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Signed, limited edition 20" x 30 print" - Chinese Elm, training date unknown (see image below).

    Your name listed in the book as a supporter and a hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    For this reward, I will travel to wherever your bonsai collection is (North America only) and spend a day making photographs of your trees. I will produce a beautiful, handmade copy of the book of my photographs presented in a beautiful, handmade wooden slipcase as well as an 11 x 14 print portfolio of five of your favorite images from the shoot.

    Signed, 1st Edition copy of In Training.

    Your name listed in the book as a supporter and a hand-written bonsai postcard saying thanks!

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Funding period

- (32 days)