WW1 Avenue of Honour

Trent Parke photograph of a tree

Just as man, at the head of the animal kingdom, is the noblest work of God, so the giant trees of the forest represent His noblest work in the plant world. Monuments of bronze or stone, architectural designs, or imposing buildings may serve as memorials in a collective sense; but the avenue of honour in which each tree commemorates a soldier, introduces a living breathing individuality. The same wonderful vital forces are inherent in both’.

The Argus, 1922

At 22 kilometres the Ballarat Avenue of Honour is the longest avenue of honour in Australia and one of the earliest known memorial avenues to have been planted in Victoria during the First World War. Begun in May 1917 and now comprising 3,801 trees, each tree is planted to honour the service of a particular man or woman from Ballarat who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces. 

In 2014 Australian photographer Trent Parke was invited to participate in the international exhibition The First World War Now. This was presented by the renowned Magnum Photos agency in Bruges, Belgium, to mark one hundred years since the German invasion of the city. In response Parke produced the series WW1 Avenue of Honour, twenty-two images made at the Ballarat Avenue of Honour. 

Parke, who describes himself as a storyteller, was drawn to the Ballarat Avenue of Honour because it is a living memorial where each tree stands for a particular life. In selecting and photographing a particular tree he sought to explore both tangible and abstract parallels between the natural forms as he encountered them and the fate of the individual whom the tree commemorates. Parke undertook detailed research drawing on the Red Cross Wounded and Missing files to find links between biographical records and the appearance of the corresponding tree in planting position, size, shape, texture, irregularities of growth, setting in the landscape or it’s silhouette against the sky. His photographs capture these visual forms as an act of contemporary commemoration. 

About the artist

Trent Parke (b.1971) was the first and currently is the only Australian to be accredited as a full member of the prestigious Magnum Photos agency. While working as a press and sports photographer in his early career he received numerous awards including five Gold Lenses from the International Olympic Committee and numerous World Press Photo Awards. Having established a career as an influential artist whose images challenge our expectations of documentary photography, his work has been exhibited and published globally to wide acclaim. His work has been collected by major national institutions including the National Gallery of Australia, The Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria. In 2015 the Art Gallery of South Australia presented a major exhibition devoted to his work The Black Rose.