(A magazine publication containing all the photographs is in the works and will soon be available in print and digital.)
I have always associated olive oil with the Aegean town of Ayvalik. When I was a child, my mother would buy some brand of Ayvalik olive oil , but Kirlangic has been the dominant olive oil brand name etched in my mind. Although I had a rough idea about what olive trees might look like, my first actual encounter with an olive tree was probably in Ayvalik when we passed through the town during a group trip when I was in college. But the impression it left on me was not a strong one.
Later on, when my sister and brother-in-law bought a small condominium in a new development in Ayvalik I came touching close to olive trees. The development was named Zeytin Koy, literally translated, Olive-Ville. The condo houses were built on an olive grove with a great deal of care in planning to preserve most of the trees. That development still is one of the nicer residential areas in Ayvalik. My sister and her husband sold that condo to restore a larger stone house in the center of the town.
In my repeated visits to Ayvalik I admired and photographed olive trees, and learned that they live extremely long lives, centuries, even millennia. The damage that may come to the tree trunk and branches may be repaired in time from its robust root structure. A well-kept olive tree presents itself with grace and power. For reasons I do not know, most olive trees seem to grow with a clockwise rotational movement. It may be due to its effort to chase the sun, or maybe even to have a larger surface to absorb moisture. This twisting growth is visible on most olive tree trunks as twisting lines. Some even manifest a pair or even a trio of trunks growing with a similar movement. These lines give the olive trees a unique appearance and a strong character to study.
The elongated olive leaves have slightly different coloring and texture on each side. One side, slightly glossy in appearance, is gray-green; and the other slightly matte side is more silvery in color. Under light the leaves display a shimmering light show that may be as unique as the twisting trunks on which they grow. Depending on the pruning, and the quality job done in maintaining the branches, olive trees may look like finely coiffed hair on elegant ladies, or a chop job done on a restless kid’s hair. This, I say only as a descriptive statement with no judgment on the trees based on their haircut for they are all interesting; even those whose branches are all removed for rejuvenation have appealing qualities.
In this collection I tried to present these relatively short trees in their environment. Photographs date from different visits to Ayvalik, but most are recent from my 2012 visit. I revisited some locations as I remembered them, and many others during a 15-mile drive between Ayvalik and Altinova. The old road connecting the two towns cut through olive groves on either side for as long as the eye could see and we made frequent stops to photograph interesting specimens. You may notice that a few trees appear in earlier photographs as well as the most recent ones. The differences may be very striking or barely noticeable.
The photographs are presented as monochrome images as I wanted to remove color to focus more strongly on the peculiarly attractive trunk, branch, and leaf structures of the olive trees. Other than this conversion from color to monochrome and slight toning, I did not remove elements some may find distracting like telephone wires or fence posts. They are part of the environment in which these trees now grow. They are cultivated, cared for, or neglected, but regardless of the attention given to them, their ability to survive hundreds, maybe even more than a thousand years is nothing short of remarkable.