By Leah Rambadt, American Forests

American Forests is proud to introduce Brian Kelley, our new Champion Tree Archivist!

Brian is a photographer from Brooklyn, N.Y., who made a name for himself as a commercial photographer for brands such as Adidas and Nike. He is also an archivist, a skill that led to his current project with American Forests.

His recent obsession with champion trees inspired him to create a visual archive for all of the champion trees across the U.S. With this goal in mind, Brian reached out to American Forests, the creator of the one and only national register of champion trees.

Credit: Brian Kelley | National Champion Honey Locust Tree, Hudson Valley, New York

American Forests’ National Big Tree Program was created to draw attention to the beauty and magnificence of the largest-known trees of many species, and crown them as National Champion trees. There are more than 700 of them, all of which are listed on the register.

While trees and forests are incredibly beautiful, and often times awe-inspiring, a champion tree is in a category of its own. We are excited to work with Brian, because though it may not be possible to get everyone out to see a champion tree, a photograph is the next best way to capture the immense presence and beauty of these trees, some of which are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old.

Credit: Brian Kelley | National Champion Blue Gum Eucalyptus Tree, California

For the National Champion Trees archive, Brian plans to photograph all of the champion trees listed on the registry using 4-by-5-inch photography. His photos will allow millions of people who may never get the chance to stand under these trees, to experience them. He estimates this project will take him the better part of a decade.

Credit: Brian Kelley | National Champion Green Buttonwood Key West, Florida

This July, Brian will start his journey in southern California. He’ll be traveling in a customized studio-van to locate champion trees with the help of American Forests, and in some cases, the tree hunter who nominated the tree.

Stay tuned to learn more about Brian and his goals for this ambitious project!

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