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Survival Elements

Lauren Henkin’s photographs feature trees growing in unlikely places

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An image from 'Growth.'(Lauren Henkin)

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.

Lauren Henkin
Related: Green Day [Tablet Magazine]

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To balance Jules’ anti-Israel posting on everything,

here is an excerpt from a tree planting political article:

Planting Trees is Racist?!
By Steven Emerson

An international campaign wants to stop a non-profit environmental organization that has been functioning for more than 100 years by purporting fallacies and anti-Israel propaganda.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was established with the hope to help the birth of the State of Israel. JNF plants trees for forest development in Israel, creates parks, battles forest fires, is responsible for soil conservation, pioneers innovative solutions to help Israel’s water supply, among other notable work.
A look at the founders of the Stop the JNF Campaign helps explain its outrageous agenda. It was started by the Habitat International Coalition (HIC), the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), the Scottish Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)……

wow, thanks for this, stephanie. creepy and beautiful. i just finished reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, so fiercely determined, unstoppable growth — and how simultaneously gorgeous and terrifying it is — is on my mind right now.


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Survival Elements

Lauren Henkin’s photographs feature trees growing in unlikely places

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