Yosemite Tree Creature 1

Model: Dona Oliveira

Camera Info:  Pentax 6×7  50mm lens

Film: Kodak TMax 400

Shoot Date:  May 15, 1988

In 1988, I was invited to be Artist In Residence at the Yosemite National Park Museum.

My goal was to produce photographs for a museum gallery show, featuring images that juxtapose nude human physiques, against the dramatic natural features of Yosemite.

I was provided with extended stay privileges, a rangers residence for my home base, facilities for my assistants, crew and models, along with complete access to anywhere in the park I wished to shoot.

At the time, Dona Oliveira was a relative newcomer to professional competition bodybuilding. She recently took first place in the 1988 IFBB Women’s Pro World Championship. We had been introduced by Muscle & Fitness publisher Joe Weider. I invited her to join us with several other top bodybuilders for our photo shoot.

This photograph of Dona was one of several we did during our time in Yosemite.

A week or so prior to her arrival, I discovered this hollowed out tree in the forest. I was reminded of one I saw in an operatic performance of ’A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

When Dona arrived, I immediately pictured her as a character from the opera, and decided to portray her as a ‘fantastic creature of the forest’.

I had my makeup artist create an androgynous forest character look for Dona. Applying some basic makeup, water based paint, mud, ash and other substances that we were able to scavenge, Dona was slowly transformed into my ‘Tree Creature’.

The makeup actually took longer than the photo session. We went into the forest and found the tree again. It was only about 50 feet off the main road that goes around the Valley floor and was not visible to passerby’s. Once free from her robes, Dona stepped into the position and within moments transformed herself into being one with the tree.

We tried a few variations of the pose and finished up shooting about 2-3 rolls of film.

Then, it was a long 45 minute drive back to our cabin where Dona would take a well deserved shower, while our assistants cooked us all a great BBQ steak dinner.

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