Lauren Henkin’s photographs feature trees growing in unlikely places
Today is Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish new years for trees. In addition to Monday’s suggestions of different ways to honor the holiday, it seems important to highlight a set of photographs examining the darker, more unyielding elements of nature, and the enduring struggle for survival and growth.
In 2004, at the age of 29, Portland-based photographer Lauren Henkin learned she had a growth in her abdomen. The tumor was benign, and though the doctor recommended surgery to remove it, Henkin resisted. By 2009, a different growth had taken over one of her ovaries, and she had to undergo surgery to remove the ovary. Still, she elected not to have doctors remove the original mass, which she describes as having become, strangely, an adopted part of her body. It took another year of increasing discomfort and illness for her to elect to have the mass removed.
In despair, she found inspiration, turning to her surroundings to make sense of what was going on inside her:
Sometime before the first surgery, I began photographing urban landscapes—trees, weeds, shrubs and other vegetation attempting to grow in unlikely places. At times invasive, at times reclaiming, at times succumbing, it was hard to know whether to champion these subjects or hone my garden shears. There is a fine line between what is deemed invasive and what is merely reclaiming a rightful environment. Who am I to judge, even when the domain is my own body? I never connected these urban growths to the ones in me. I was drawn to them because they persevere. They are survivors. Emerging through asphalt, suffocated by electrical wires, trapped between buildings, standing proud even in defeat, they are both accommodating and unyielding. I respect them.
Her images, profound and disturbing, feature trees growing out of dumpsters and brilliantly green vegetation clinging to massive concrete bridge supports. What better time than Tu B’Shevat, which honors nature and life and growth, to reflect on survival in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. It’s what nature is all about.
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.