In Ovid’s myth of Daphne and Apollo, the forest nymph Daphne, worn out from fleeing a lustful Apollo, cries out to her father, Peneus, the river god, to save her. Answering her plea, Peneus turns Daphne into a laurel tree — her legs become heavy, rooted; her skin turns to bark, her hair to foliage. She’s escaped, but now, of course, she’s a tree.
Looking at the found photographs of women collected by German photographer Jochen Raiß and transformed into the books “Women in Trees” and the recently released “More Women in Trees,” it feels as if the women in the images have also become trees. The photographs, all estimated to have been taken between 1920 and 1950, root the women in time, affixing them eternally to the branches of the trees that they’ve hoisted their skirts to climb.
Even so, there’s an alluring freedom that persists in their faces. Maybe it’s defiance, the thrill of the climb or even the bittersweet knowledge that though the comedown remains imminent, for the time it took to snap the photograph, they were aloft, untouchable.
All images courtesy Jochen Raiß.