Thanks to social media, we have seen particular locations across the world grow insanely popular. Sadly, this same popularity has also made these locations prone to damage, or even being destroyed by visitors. This sad video from vlogbrothers shows just how dangerous it can be to share photos of your favorite place with the entire world.
Every day on his way to work, photographer Patrik Svedberg would pass by Lake Vättern in Sweden. Among several other trees, there was a beautiful crack willow that particularly caught his attention. In May 2013, he photographed it with his broken iPhone for the first time and posted the picture to Instagram. It received a “mind blowing 43 likes,” as the photographer writes.
After a year and a few shots of the same tree, Patrik figured out that the tree deserved its own Instagram account. His friend named it Broccoliträdet, and Patrik turned it into “more internationally accepted name,” The Broccoli Tree.
Patrik continued to photograph his favorite tree over the years and post photos of it to its dedicated Instagram account. If you ask me, this account is a perfect example of how the exact same location can be interesting over and over again and let you make so many different photos. As Patrik explains, “the tree is the protagonist, but rather a passive one, letting the plot unfold around it. Each photo contains a story of its own.”
Thanks to the wonderful and versatile photos of the same tree, and all the stories around it, The Broccoli Tree started amassing followers on Instagram. It’s quite amazing to think how popular a single tree can become. The Broccoli Tree Instagram account has 30.6K followers at the time of writing this article. Patrik was selling prints and calendars with the tree photos all over the world. He even exhibited photos of the tree, under the tree. But, this kind of popularity turned out to be a double-edged sword.
As The Broccoli Tree became more popular, people started to regard it as a tourist attraction. Even Google Maps shows you its location when you type in “The Broccoli Tree.” Sure, it has its bright side: people learned about Patrik and his work this way. However, in September 2017, Patrik noticed there was something different about “his” tree. He took a closer look and realized that someone had sawn off one of the branches.
In a bitter and emotional post on Instagram, Patrik wrote: “but the saddest thing of all, however, you absolutely cannot un-saw a tree.”
View this post on Instagram
Ever since the tree got viral a couple of years ago the number one joke has been ”what if someone cuts it down..?” Or ”What´s next, maybe you should cut it down and take photos haha.” I´ve never had good answer to that question, or joke. It´s not like we´re planted together, we live different lives the tree and I. This question was so common so I guess it was just a matter of time before some guys genetic depraved enough would crawl up from under a stone and make it happen as a part of a bet or something. Clearly it´s a obsession in lots of minds out there for some inscrutable reason. One (edit: most) of the trees branches has now (a couple of days ago..?) been sawn in almost all the way through and it´s just a matter of time before it´ll fall off. I won´t be around to document it, others will for sure so I guess you lunatics who did it can enjoy every moment. You can win a bet. Get cheered at. Even get a bit infamous. Congrats. What an accomplishment. I guess you were excited like little children while you did it, must have taken quite a while. For sure you are excited now, aspecially when the word is out. Now is your moment. High fives, maybe some back slapping. Suck it in. Time will erode those memories, excitement will turn into second thoughts. But the saddest thing of all, however You absolutely cannot un-saw a tree. —– I leave the judgement to others and have to move on to work, you can talk to each other about this below of course, but I feel for now this is what I have to say in this matter. Cheer up, there will be a tomorrow after this. // Patrik
But worse was to come. Within a few days the tree was completely gone. Patrik wrote in an Instagram post that the main jokes over the years were “what if someone cuts it down..?” or “What’s next, maybe you should cut it down and take photos.” Apparently, someone wasn’t joking about it.
This story illustrates just how the vast popularity of a location can sometimes be harmful. The same thing that happened to The Broccoli Tree might happen to the fragile Lake Wanaka tree. Tourists are climbing it just so they can take photos, which might well destroy it beyond repair. I guess things like this are the reason why some photographers are reluctant to give away the exact location of their favorite places.
On the other hand, I understand the need to share your fascination with the world, like Patrik did. I believe we should educate people and make them aware that they need to be responsible and respect the location. However, there is still a long way to go before people actually start acting responsibly.