Trees and naked bodies – why put them together? The environment is under siege, trees need protection and – in a Druid’s view – adoration, veneration, respect and love. Do we need to add human bodies into the picture? A couple of people I know have dedicated themselves to doing exactly this: photographing trees in conjunction with naked humans, and the result is moving and deeply meaningful. Our shared creatureliness, vulnerability and interconnectedness with the life of trees is depicted beautifully and powerfully. We are encouraged to let go of our shyness, our inhibitions, to instead celebrate our relationship to these mighty beings who are so peaceful and yet so powerful.
The first person I came across doing this sort of photography was Jack Gescheidt, whose project Tree Spirit involves inviting people to be photographed naked with trees, often to draw attention to ones that are under threat. And now along comes a book TreeGirl – Intimate Encounters with Wild Nature, which has introduced me to another person who wants to create art and celebration in a similar, though different, way. In her large, full-colour book, Julianne Skai Arbor has combined her knowledge as an arborist with her skills as a photographer, and has travelled the world, seeking out the most extraordinary trees to photograph with her body. The result is truly breath-taking. The fact that all the photographs feature the same person reinforces the sense of relationship between tree and human. Just as in a story we can identify more fully if there is one main character, so we journey around the world with Julianne, encountering amazing specimens, like this Baobab in Australia:
Tree Girl begins with a foreword by Fred Hageneder, known to many as an expert on Yew trees, and then provides us with insights into tree-lore, the botany of trees, and their spiritual dimensions. The book is full of beautiful photography, but it is much more than that. It brings messages, inspiration, and a determination that we should do more to protect these beings that we might call our brothers or sisters, but are perhaps our elders.
Find out more about TreeGirl’s work and see more photographs here.
And watch a video of Treegirl reading a chapter of her book here: