The tension between trees and female disobedience is biblical. After succumbing to the snake’s suggestion and partaking of an apple from a tree, Eve gets some bad news: her body will bring her shame and pain. She is not meant to reach into trees or climb them; she should quietly remain on the ground and bear new life. Get down, history has said to the grown woman brazen enough to take even a brief arboreal leave from her earthly duties. Once a woman is off the ground, it may occur to her to keep on climbing. A man might find himself standing beneath her, subject to the sight of her womanly behind on a branch above his head.
To defy history and climb a tree as an adult woman is exhilarating. The German photographer Jochen Raiß discovered, through old photos he found at flea markets and in junk shops, that primly dressed women all over Germany, from the twenties to the fifties, posed in trees during Sunday strolls. His first volume of these found photographs, Women in Trees, became a best seller in 2016 and led to the recent sequel, the aptly titled More Women in Trees. Together, the two volumes contain nearly two hundred of Raiß’s amateur finds, all roughly dating from that time period when he estimates the phenomenon of German women posing in trees for their male companions was most popular. Cameras during this period, Raiß writes, were considered complicated machines best handled by men. And the mischievous smiles the women display in the photographs were most likely for their male companions behind the camera. Their expressions are often coy; there is a canned mischievousness to them—young women performing for boyfriends on a leisurely walk. Read More