Lauren Henkin

Lauren Henkin, Visual Artist

Why I Photograph Trees

The example of trees does suggest a harmony for which it seems right to dream. Robert Adams said this in an interview with Constance Sullivan in response to a question about why he photographed the same cottonwood tree in the '70s.

As one of the most photographed subjects, trees are to me the more responsible, more beautiful, more giving versions of ourselves — and I look to them more and more for inspiration. I find myself being drawn more and more to them lately, particularly the ones with unusual or damaged forms, ones that aren't traditionally beautiful.

When I was little, I had a difficult time letting go of possessions. I kept old, ratty pillows, unwearable clothing, stuffed animals whose fur had been so matted there was no fluff left on them. I thought that non-living things had souls too and that by discarding them, I would be disrespecting their right to exist. I have always been prone to seeing the life in inanimate objects – that in understanding them I would better understand myself.

I have been photographing a single tree lately. I studied it from all perspectives in varying light and conditions. It's never the same. It has a branch that has broken off either by lightning or other violent act. It doesn't seem to mind. It adds to its power, a continual reminder that it has survived the violation and is unashamed of the now permanent flaw.

Of course I realize that this form has had no control over its ability to avoid the damage. But I am learning from the way that it copes and this enables me in turn to dream of finally accepting my own flaws.

More images to come...