Frauen auf Bäumen/Women in Trees by Jochen Raiß
Several years ago Jochen Raiß was at a flea market in Frankfurt when he came across an ancient picture of a woman wearing a summer dress and high heels engaging in an activity that those clothes didn’t seem designed for: climbing a tree. Thus began a quest, call it an elaborate, lengthy scavenger hunt, to find similar photos from the distant past of demure ladies perched uncertainly in the branches of trees.
Eventually he found 91 such pictures that he deemed worthy of collection in a new (bilingual) book called, fittingly enough, Frauen auf Bäumen/Women in Trees, which was published last month by Hatje Cantz.
Whatever might be going on in these pictures is a puzzle, one that Raiß charmingly passes on to us mostly intact. The vast majority of the pictures have no context or caption at all, nothing to explain why this particular woman decided to climb this particular tree wearing these particular (often very high-quality) garments. Most of the pictures that Raiß has been able to narrow down in terms of date seem to have been taken in the 1920s and 1930s—perhaps this was a fad, a variant of our current selfies or cat pics?
In the introduction, Raiß writes:
These photos are fascinating because of their seemingly incongruous components. What was this woman in the tree’s life like? Who did she go for walks with? Whose idea was it for her to climb a tree and sit on a branch? This is something I’ll never know.
A good friend of mine is fond of posing for pictures in trees, I’ll have to ask her why she does it…..