For decades, my work has focused on place and space. I began photographing while studying architecture in school, documenting the landscape as a way of imagining what I might impose on it. I would draw onto the photographs, testing whether a form would impede or enhance what was there. The process made me sensitive to how we engage space, in both natural and urban environments.
I began this series of photographs made in Central Park while still living in Portland, Oregon. I was surrounded by the wild that is the Pacific Northwest, a place where the color green is rendered in millions of shades, made more potent by constant rain. I traveled by train across the country during the summer of 2009, a journey that was both exhausting and rejuvenating, allowing me to slowly digest the vast beauty that is this country. When I arrived in New York, I expected to immediately visit the museums, as I normally did. This time, still feeling claustrophobic from the train and needing to walk, I bypassed the Met and drifted into Central Park.
I had no intention of starting a body of work that day. My aim was to see, to slide into that heightened state of both awareness and detachment that the camera triggers. The photographs I made that day became prompts. Looking at them repeatedly back in Oregon, there was something in them that I needed to pursue. Eventually I moved to New York to complete the series.
I wanted to make photographs that showed the park as I experienced it, as an interplay of people, nature, and architecture. There are moments of intense engagement with the place itself, people almost embedded in the ground. There are scenes that can clearly be identified as Central Park and others that look like the Southwest or West Virginia. There are tourists clumsily traversing the rocks and elevations, mistakenly confusing Central Park for a Disney park. The park is a large stage where the complexity of human activity would play out before my camera.
Photography offers us the chance to stop time, flatten perspective, and think about our relationship to the outdoors in ways we would otherwise be unable to perceive. As we spend more time indoors, in what the writer Richard Louv describes as an “electronic bubble,” it is important to track these shifts, and, more important still, to see.
ARTerrain Gallery by Lauren Henkin Central Park | Photographs
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About the Artist
Born in Washington, D.C., Lauren Henkin graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis. For the last two decades, Henkin’s work has focused on the American landscape and our relationship to place. Her work resides in over 20 institutional collections, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, Portland Art Museum, Smith College Museum of Art, and Brown University’s Bell Gallery, among others. Yale University has the largest collection of her work at 160+ photographs. She was recently awarded Duke University’s Archive of Documentary Arts Collection Award for Documentarians of the American South.
She is also the founder of Vela Noche, a publisher of handmade books and editions.