I am a human geographer and I study how humans arrange themselves on the earth, why they do so in a certain way, and what happens because of that arrangement. One of the catalysts to the way people collect together is religion; sacred places are often centers for the aggregation of people. I have studied and photographed sacred places for more than 20 years, ever since I completed my PhD in Geography.

This project takes a look at conservation of the landscape through the idea of sacred forests. “Sacred forests and groves are primeval woodlands that different faith communities around the world have safeguarded for centuries as abodes of the spiritual or the divine.” ( The caretakers of these forests perform a form of conservation by tradition. "Sacred forests are also treasure troves of biodiversity and are often the last bastion for species of flora and fauna that have become rare or even extinct elsewhere in those regions" (

Sacred forests are typically the province of ancient and/or indigenous people like those who worship kodama (japanese spirits of cherry trees), the Ogoni people of Nigeria, and the ancient Celts. Some forests in the U.S. are sacred to Native American tribes. In Europe Druids, Gauls, Lithuanians, Finns and Welsh all have histories of tending to sacred groves. Elders in the foothills of the Himalayas say that up to 30 percent of their land was once protected as sacred. (Yale Environment 360, The Rio Grande Bosque, where these images were made, is not a sacred forest but exhibits many of the characteristics that might be found in one, including secret paths that the ancients used to travel through the forest, glades for worship or prayer, and places for silent meditation. There are also locations where water might emerge as a sacred pool.

A path through the forest


Silence under a tree


A spiritual grove


A path to a hidden place


A path beside the river


A secret path


At the riverside


Altar in a clearing


A glade in the grasses


A prayer tree - I first saw prayer trees at Bear Butte in South Dakota, near the Lakota reservation. The indigenous people attach their prayers virtually to the fabric then allow the fabric to blow in the wind, blowing their prayers to their gods.