I first met Jack Gescheidt at a music festival in 2011. We are both professional photographers. We both photograph nude people in nature. We also love and enjoy the wisdom and beauty of nature. We became friends, and in 2013 Jack facilitated me joining him and taking promotional photos on a nude Caribbean cruise. I am a big fan Jack’s work. Not only are his images beautiful and provocative, he’s making a positive impact on the world. treespiritproject.com
Kyer: You call yourself an “environmental artist.” What does that mean to you?
Jack: I photograph outside in nature, and the collection of TreeSpirit images have an environmental purpose, which is to raise awareness of the critical role of trees and forests in our lives. Forests are critical to the Earth as an ecosystem, especially in this era of human-caused global warming (aka anthropogenic climate change). Ending massive deforestation is one of the biggest, simplest, low-tech solutions to the greatest threat humanity now faces. Continuing to cut down forests, especially rainforests, is suicidal.
Kyer: Why did you create the The TreeSpirit Project and how do you believe you’re making a positive impact environmentally?
Jack: I wanted to express my strong feelings for trees, which in 2003 was heightened by heartbreak in my life. The project gained momentum, more people wanted to participate. In 2006 I learned of tree sitters living in trees in the Memorial Oak Grove in Berkeley. They put their bodies on the line to save the trees from being cut down to build a gym. I offered to make a large group TreeSpirit photo to draw media attention — which it did. (Google: "treespirit berkeley oak grove”.) Since then, I’ve made a dozen other photos around the country to help save specific trees and forests. We don’t value what trees are and what forests do in our society, especially their key role in mitigating global warming.
Kyer: Why are people naked in your photos? When I created images for my Sacred Form nude yoga calendar, my motivation was to show the nude body in a non-sexualized, yet provocative and beautiful way. What has been your motivation as an “environmental artist”?
Jack: People are vulnerable when stripped of clothing. Trees are also vulnerable to the actions of humans. Once naked, people often become tenderer with the trees. Being vulnerable then makes people more present for the photo session, more aware of the ground, the cold, sensations of the tree, its bark, and so on. They’re less likely to think of other things (out of reach of their smart phones). Clothing individualizes people; nudity unifies the group. Nudity also draws media attention to the environmental cause of saving and protecting trees.
Kyer: Is being photographed naked a big edge for many of your participants? Is it empowering for them?
Jack: I’ve seen every behavior across a spectrum, from nudists who get naked before I ask them to be, to the person clearly struggling with being nude-in-public for the first time. I never anticipated that participating in the TreeSpirit Project would be liberating, or even healing for participants. All are volunteers, not paid models. Men and women have written afterwards to say how powerful, liberating or spiritual, and fun, it was.
Kyer: What are your future plans and desires with TreeSpirit Project?
Jack: I have several projects in development, including a coffee table book that a major publisher is considering, as well as a reality TV show that is being pitched to the networks. I’ve learned that TreeSpirit has a life of its own. My goal is to reach more people with my photographs, written and spoken word, to rekindle our love affair with trees. We Homo Sapiens have been here about 200,000 years. Trees have been here about 350 MILLION years, and they have made our existence possible. Trees also enrich our lives. By spending more time among them, we can more easily appreciate all they do for us on this beautiful Earth.
Kyer: How can people participate in the TreeSpirit Project, or learn more?
Jack: Fellow tree and nature lovers can sign up for my TreeSpirit email from The TreeSpirit Project. They’ll learn about upcoming events, including my “Giant Sequoias Experience” retreats for those who’d love to spend intimate time with the world’s largest trees and participate in a TreeSpirit portrait.