Photographer Dillon Marsh documents the cell phone towers posing as trees in his native South Africa.

Marsh says he become "intrigued by [their] peculiar nature" after a tower went up near where he grew up.

Nothing to see here. Just us trees. Keep scrolling for more amazing images.

Nothing to see here. Just us trees. Keep scrolling for more amazing images.

Nothing to see here. Just us trees. Keep scrolling for more amazing images.

Nothing to see here. Just us trees. Keep scrolling for more amazing images.

Nothing to see here. Just us trees. Keep scrolling for more amazing images.

Nothing to see here. Just us trees. Keep scrolling for more amazing images.

Nothing to see here. Just us trees. Keep scrolling for more amazing images.

Nothing to see here. Just us trees. Keep scrolling for more amazing images.

Nothing to see here. Just us trees. Keep scrolling for more amazing images.

Nothing to see here. Just us trees. Keep scrolling for more amazing images.

2013-04-26

Co.Exist

12 Beautiful Photos Of Ridiculous Cell Phone Towers Disguised As Trees

The poor attempt by cell phone companies to disguise our mobile infrastructure as something natural is almost insulting. Photographer Dillon Marsh has documented some of the most egregious examples.

You’ve all seen them. One lone spectacle of arboreal majesty, towering above the treeline as you drive down the highway. It’s only when you get closer (though not too close, because the disguise is not so good) that you realize the impressive tree is nothing more than a cell phone tower with some rudimentary camouflage, meant to blend into its surroundings, but actually sticking out more for their poor attempt at blending in.

Dillon Marsh, a South African photographer, has created a photo series of the incongruous pieces of infrastructure. They’re from various places around that country: Durbanville, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Eerste River. Amazingly, it seems as though the problem is even worse there: the giant trees are made even more surreal by their total misplacement.

Marsh says he became "intrigued by [their] peculiar nature" after a tower went up near where he grew up. Then he started seeing more of them, and he became hooked:

"In 2009, when I came across another one, I decided to track down and photograph as many of them as I could find around Cape Town. This proved to be way more than I expected and in the end I decided to limit the series to 12 photos so that I could concentrate on new projects."

Wired has more on the history of towers-as-trees. Some of the first examples appeared in the U.S. Southwest in the early 1990s, made by a company called Larson Camouflage. Another photographer, Robert Voit, has snapped trees-masts in Portugal, Italy, and other places. His images are pretty interesting, too.

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25 Comments

  • Carl

    I live in Cape Town and have seen my fair share of these cell towers. I think I've actually seen more than half of the towers in this slideshow. I'll say unless you are really paying close attention to these things you won't even notice that they are there. I like that the cell carriers are doing something to make their towers blend into the existing landscape. 

  • Guest

    This used to be my job, and I have intimate knowledge about how it works, two of you below got it right. My job was to drive around, take photos of potential properties or land sites for cell towers and base stations, and also take photos of specific types of plants and landscaping for that area of the US. I created photo renderings in Photoshop so our sales people could get these towers added to the property. The crazy requests I would get were not my choice but usually the land owners/zoning commissions who wanted the money to allow the cell tower to be built but would want to hide it some way, esp. public buildings, churches, and small towns/communities. We would do whatever we could to land the deal, but typically used images of deciduous trees to cover the base station and would paint the towers or antennas to match the building, or the sky. Those were the craziest, as if the sky is always light sky blue every day and night, so yeah, lets paint this thing light blue! It was actually a fun job with really nice people. His photos look way better than mine, but I will say I loved that job because they all really appreciated my work and how I could make it look so realistic. Alas, this was over 10 years ago.

  • Patchouli514

    It looks a bit strange but I probably wouldn't even notice it and it looks so much better than a cell phone tower..besides, I bet you would have a MUCH BIGGER list of complaints if you couldn't get reception on your phone right???

  • Hj_jordan_61

    The cellphone carriers HATE these things.  They only put them up when local zoning commissions insist.  They're more expensive, harder to maintain, and most of the time just look stupid.

  • lump1

    Would it be possible to build a tower and have a chamber of fertilized soil somewhere near the top so that it could be overgrown with actual vegetation? Even if it was just ivy, that would be better than these plastic things.

  • Russ Alman

    Honestly, I've never seen one of these before.  Guess it hasn't caught on in the Pacific NW.  To be honest, I don't think they look that bad.  Sure they don't look real, but neither do the fake Christmas trees people put in their houses.

    I don't have a problem with it.

  • Sam Sproul

    they dont looks terrible. there needs to be clusters of them though, so it looks slightly more natural.

  • noabsolution

    your answer does not surprise me considering the effects of what these towers really emit. "Cell phone towers transmit radio waves and must be placed above ground, unlike subterranean telephone cables. Wireless cell phones send and receive messages using radio frequency energy in the 800-900 megahertz portion of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum"...pretty much equivalent to microwaves. 

  • Adam

    I don't know - it's not that bad. At first glance you probably don't even notice. At a second glance, it looks a little "off" but nothing that I would actually take the time to think and complain about. I think it's a pretty good idea. 

    And what else would they do to make it look better? Short of hollowing out a thick tree and sticking a big metal pole in it - this is about as good as it's going to get - unless some new technology comes out that doesn't require them. 

    I'd rather have this then have no cell phone service. Wouldn't you?

  • Colin Baker

    I would like to know Ben's thought on what they should really look like. poor attempt my butt. That palm tree one is pretty awesome and much better than a metal pole. Must they all be copper works @100' tall? 

  • Douglas Duchon

    This is a poor attempt???  It seems ingenious to me. Like Joeskinnoch said its ingenious. If you want to be critical then criticize the landowners who make contracts with the cell phone companies.  Also, what would you rather have? An uneducated middle America with no access to the internet or cell phone companies putting up ugly towers that 'might' pose a risk to human health.  I'd side more with mitigating the risk of ignorant demographics.  Everyone needs cell phone service. 

  • september11th

    "The poor attempt by cell phone companies to disguise our mobile infrastructure as something natural is almost insulting."

    Cynical much? They look much nicer than a regular metal tower.

  • josh80

    I think the point is that these still look a lot better than a hideous metal antenna sticking into the sky. 

  • Joeskinnoch

    This isn't the idea of the cell phone companies. This is done to comply w/ various codes so that the local community allows the company to place a tower at all. Everyone wants cell phone coverage, but nobody wants to have to look at the towers. Then, when a compromise is found by disguising the towers, the companies are called "ridiculous". Genius.