Introducing A New Handmade Book:
Still Standing, Standing Still
“The example of trees does suggest a harmony for which it seems right to dream.” — Robert Adams
It is with great pleasure and pride that I present my third handmade book, Still Standing, Standing Still based on the portfolio of images here.
This project, about eight months in the making, was my most challenging to date, and I hope that you will find the result as rewarding as I do.
This series began in 2010 with the discovery of a lone tree. Slowly—around and around and around— I examined it in varying light and perspective. It stood alone, with its scars unclothed, threatened by vines, but still standing. A branch was broken off by lightning or other violent act. The tree didn’t seem to mind, the flaw adding to its power, a permanent reminder that it had survived the violation and was unashamed of the defect.
I became obsessed with its form and photographed it more intensely than any subject I have ever focused on. When we met, yet another relationship was ending, I had moved 3,000 miles across the country from the safety of my family, and my body, like it, was being scaled by threatening growth.
Soon after photographing this series, I had two major abdominal surgeries. What I am left with, beyond my ongoing fear of being broken, are marks—the scars I now wear both emotional and literal. My stomach is stamped in blemishes. And yet, I think about my big sister, Debbie, who lives independently with Down Syndrome. Every day, without reprieve, she is reminded through stares, labels and other subtle humiliations of her vulnerabilities. I can still hide mine. She cannot; this tree cannot, and I look to them both as models for how to proudly persevere.
From the beginning, my goal for the book was to lead the viewer through the same experience I had in photographing the tree—an opportunity to get lost in one thing, in the layers of complexity discernible only by looking closer and closer. The question of how much information I should offer (whether even to reveal whether it is one specimen) was always in my mind. In exhibition, I leave the last image in the series, a large contextual shot of its position in the landscape, to answer any lingering questions about what you’ve viewed up to that point. Whether the structure of the book would allow for that was uncertain.
I started thinking about structure and turned to Rory Sparks, an extremely talented bookbinder here in Portland. Of one thing I was certain—I wanted the viewer to be able to read the book in the traditional way, page by page, held in the hand, but I also felt it necessary to experience walking around the book, as I did the tree, to expand the book into a sculptural object. I was fascinated by the idea of being able to walk around a book, with the hope also, that seeing the images spread open in that way would create a third, unexpected perspective where the images would blend to form a single abstract image that from afar, would be recognizable only by color, line and form.
Rory and I decided to employ a drum leaf structure that would allow me to use single-sided sheets and the book to be fully opened and secured with a magnet. Next came paper, size and how would I present the full image of this tree—if at all. I made test prints on Moab Entrada, Hahnemühle German Etching, Museum Etching, Japanese kozo, and a few others. The images are colorful and bright with consistently warm yellows and greens. The Entrada and German Etching, normal standbys for me, weren’t going to work here, they were too white and bright. I also needed a heavier paper to reinforce the book when being displayed vertically. I chose Museum Etching, and despite it being the most expensive option, it was perfect for this project.
With the 14 images, 7 spreads, and 7” x 7” size determined, paper selected and structure designed, the hard questions of how the book could be displayed when completely open, and what to do about the full image of the tree lingered. Rory and I met with Chris Held of Von Tundra, an artist and designer specializing in wood creations, to brainstorm.
We talked over months trying to decide on materials, structure, design and function. It culminated in a 1-day session spent together in his studio building, piece by piece, the box. Chris had created a beautiful prototype early in the process as an initial response to my description of what I wanted which served as the foundation for producing the final box. He suggested a structure where the book would be housed within, but when the lid was lifted and flipped, a routed-out underside would be revealed, allowing the book to sit securely on it. I didn’t want a traditional clamshell box for this. I wanted it to feel like you could’ve picked up broken branches from around this tree, and created the box from the remnants. Piece by piece, layer upon layer, we added and subtracted until it came together in a meaningful and functional way.
Images of the box in process:
In architecture school, I was scolded by my professors for working too intently in sculpture, by building models instead of drawing. I could see that way. And I could quickly tear pieces of board, glue them to the model, and then rip them off if I wanted to. The process of making the box reminded me of making those models, something I’ve missed, and what I enjoyed the most in school.
Images of the final pieces:
Lauren Henkin design, photography, pigment printing
Rory Sparks design, bookbinding, letterpress printing
Chris Held design and woodworking
Cover Paper cave paper
Interior Paper hahnemühle museum etching rag
Chine Collé Print pigment with kitakata on aquarelle rag
The book alone is offered in an edition of 30 at $175. Purchase before 4/15 for $135.
The book with maple/white oak display box and loose print is offered in an edition of 10 at $500. Purchase before 4/15 for $395.
I thoroughly enjoyed this process. It would not have been possible without the brilliant guidance and skill of both Rory Sparks and Chris Held. The inspiration gained from this experience has seeped into other areas of my thinking related to photography. I am grateful to both of you.
I also want to thank those that have also helped, both directly and indirectly, with this creation, especially ProPhoto Supply here in Portland. I could not publish these books without all of your continual wisdom, support and encouragement. So, thank you so much to:
And thank all of you, for your continued support…