In 2017, Brian Kelley began the Gathering Growth Archive, partnering with the nonprofit American Forests to create a photographic record of the National  Register of Champion Trees in the United States. A Champion Tree is recognized as the largest of its kind by using a simple formula: trunk circumference (inches) + height (feet) + 1⁄4 average crown spread (feet) = total points. There are currently 778 Champion Trees listed in the register.

Kelley started tracking and recording one Champion Tree at a time in 2018, while living and working out of a van while traveling across the country. Currently, he has created large-format photographs of 68 trees throughout 16 states. Each photograph provides an insight into the Champion Tree’s life and the environment it occupies, whether it be major tourist destinations, the streets of New York City, or the Lost Forest in the Oregon Desert. Alongside the images, he has also been gathering audio recordings of the surrounding landscape, capturing the distinct narrative of each tree, activating the imagination and cultivating an intimate experience with nature.

How to View

During the day, the installment can be viewed on monitors inside the ICP Museum and during evening hours, images are literally “projected” onto the windows of the ICP Museum; they can be viewed from the sidewalk outside the Museum and are most visible after sunset. Learn more about Projected.

About the Artist

Brian Kelley (b. 1988) is a photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. He received his BFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in 2010. Kelley has worked with a wide variety of commercial clients focusing in action and lifestyle as well as still life photography. In 2017, he created images for the Whitney Museum of American Art’s photographic archive of Alexander Calder’s works in the exhibition Calder: Hypermobility (2017). Kelley’s extensive work in still life photography continues to support his artistic pursuit of providing to the cultural archive of American ephemera.  These include a variety of long-term projects, such as Gathering Growth—The Champion Tree Archive, the National Park Service Brochures Archive, and the Archive of New York City Transit Authority Artifacts, which resulted in a 356-page book that showcases over 400 artifacts related to the New York City subway.

Image: © Brian Kelley