Picturesque poplar toppled by Japanese farmer as photographers won’t stop trespassing on his land


posted Monday, February 29, 2016 at 7:11 PM EDT


Last week, we told you about an iconic shipwreck in California that was gutted by a fire which, it's believed, was started by an irresponsible photographer. Today, news reaches us from Japan of the equally heartbreaking loss of another local landmark, after photographers wouldn't stop trespassing on a farmer's land to gain access to a particularly photogenic poplar tree.

Known to locals as the "Philosophy Tree", the poplar became extremely popular with photographers attracted by its picturesque nature. Unfortunately, it wasn't on public land and the masses of camera buffs showing up to shoot their own take on the scene drew the ire of the landowner, an unidentified Japanese farmer whose crops were regularly trampled in the quest for yet another photo. As if that wasn't bad enough, the snap-happy crowd also regularly left their cars blocking the road whilst they trekked across his fields, preventing the farmer from going about his business unhindered.

After signs warning photographers against trespassing and explicitly banning photography on his land were simply ignored by the hordes of camera-toting photography buffs, the farmer sadly -- if rather understandably -- took action to end his frustration. The result: In the middle of last week, the tree was felled and hauled away, putting an end to the farmer's woes, but in the process also gutting what had clearly been a rather delightful rural scene.

Speaking frankly, it's hard to feel anything but understanding for the farmer here. As photographers, we wouldn't appreciate trespass in our photo studios by random strangers, let alone interference with the business of shooting our next great artwork. Nor should the farmer have had to fight for access to his own property, and for the right to grow his crops without fear of them being stomped on by an inconsiderate shutterbug.

Tree of philosophy

In an ideal world, the posting of signs warning that the property was private and photography wasn't allowed would have been the end of the story. Sadly, it seems to have made not one iota of difference, which brings us to the crux of the matter.

As photographers, we're understandably keen to protect our own rights in the face of photography bans on public lands, but we should also remember that others have rights which we, too, must respect. The oft-cited rule for photographers is that we should "take nothing but photos, and leave nothing but footprints". Perhaps, though, it's time to reword the latter, given that the footprints were the problem here.

And so we humbly offer our suggested spin on that well-known adage: Perhaps it should read "Take nothing but photos; leave everything unharmed." Sure, it's not quite as catchy as the original, but we're open to feedback if it results in a snapper spin that retains the same meaning. (Got any suggestions for how we can improve upon our updated maxim? Sound off in the comments below!)

(Seen via DIY Photography.)
Index image: 
Kevin Liu via Wikimedia: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)