What Am I Reading: Lauren Henkin

American artist, sculptor and photographer Lauren Henkin is currently engrossed in Art Can Help, a collection of inspiring essays by photographer Robert Adams.

by STIRworld Published on : May 20, 2020

"Now more than ever, art can provide an escape, a refuge, and is quite possibly the only safe space to truly let our guards down.” – Lauren Henkin

What is the name of the book?

Lauren Henkin (LH): Art Can Help.

Who is the author?

LH: Robert Adams.

What is the genre?

LH: Art, Essays, Commentary.

Why this book - could you please highlight its most notable aspects?

LH: While Adams is primarily known as a photographer, his writing has, for me, always been equally sustaining and compelling. Art Can Help is a digestible book in which Adams presents a short essay paired with various works of art that are meaningful to him, some historical, some contemporary. Despite its conciseness, it provides expansive ideals about why the present is filled with such uncertainty and hope.

The cover of Art Can Help, written by photographer Robert Adams | What Am I Reading: Lauren Henkin | STIRworld
The cover of Art Can Help, written by photographer Robert Adams Image Credit: Lauren Henkin

Did you get any significant insights? Did you gain knowledge or did it help you unwind?

LH: Adams’ books are always filled with insights. His book, Beauty in Photography, is almost a spiritual reference for me. For some reason, I had held off on reading Art Can Help. Now seemed like the perfect time to delve into its rigorous arguments for slowing down and looking more closely.

Is there any one thing that you would take home from the read?

LH: While Adams makes a case that all of us should be more careful, more considered observers of the world, he simultaneously advocates for the importance of art. Now more than ever, art can provide an escape, a refuge, and is quite possibly the only safe space to truly let our guards down.

What is your favourite quote from the book? Why?

LH: "He and we would be naïve to claim that the view is of a new world, but perhaps not foolish enough to see in it a new beginning." Adams is talking about an ambiguous photograph by Nicholas Nixon of a calf being caressed by an arm. What I found compelling in the statement is that in this gentle exchange, Adams is once again sharing that while this should not be viewed as representative of a true shift in behavior from our casual destruction of anything wild, but could still be interpreted as a moment of hopeful engagement, as something to recognise as often and carefully as Nixon does. 

Henkin is immersed in Art Can Help, which advocates for the importance of art and encourages one to become keen observers | What Am I Reading: Lauren Henkin | STIRworld
Henkin is immersed in Art Can Help, which advocates for the importance of art and encourages one to become keen observers Image Credit: Lauren Henkin

When do you read?

LH: I read at night, when my mind is worn down enough from the day to be completely open to all ideas, both radical and homely.

What is your take on the book and one reason why you would recommend it?

LH: I would definitely recommend it, and all of his books of essays. Robert Adams has the rare ability, both in his photographs and words, to tackle monumental problems that seem completely out of reach, or infinite, with language and common sense that make them seem reversible. He has shown us the worst and best of ourselves, with an understanding that we can’t fix anything if we don’t admit to what we have done, what we continue to do, and what we have lost. And yet, through it all, there is one sustaining element that we cling to—hope.

Look up more such interesting reads from the series ‘What Am I Reading’ and watch out for more.

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