Draw Me a Tree
Photographs by Dan Shepherd
YOU KNOW THE ONE: that tree you first climbed and got stuck in as a kid, the one that you see every morning as you drink your coffee, the one whose leaves always fill your gutters, or even the favorite sought out by your dog on evening walks. Not just any tree. For this project, I ask people to tell me about a tree that holds some importance to them. These really end up being stories about the people, stories of loss and love and a lot in between. After I hear someone’s story, we work out a time to visit the tree together, and I give them a little pad of paper and ask them to draw the tree. Everyone says they can’t draw, but they do. While they are drawing, they share more of their tree story, and I tell them about their tree’s natural history. When they’re finished, I set up the camera and shoot a double exposure, one with their hands holding their drawing kind of lined up with the outline of the tree, and then a second exposure without the drawing. The whole thing usually takes about twenty-five minutes. I started the project with two dozen tree stories from residents of Los Angeles and plan to expand it to other cities across America.