LIKE A WEED is a series of portraits of my son Jake, which began when he was six and evolved from my interest in Victorian photography and culture. When examining dictionaries of Victorian flower language, I discovered that moss commonly served as a symbol for maternal love. I soon began “planting” Jake in my studio, burying him in moss and – later – dirt, flowers, roots, etc. The work is a personal reflection on the hopes and fears of parenting, within which one struggles to find balance between embrace, entanglement and release. The Garden became a central metaphor, with nods both to the Christian ideal of purity and to the concept of Mother Nature. I’m deeply interested in how women are portrayed in art, literature and popular media, including pervasive metaphors linking the feminine with nature. Many argue that this association creates a dichotomy between the feminine world of empathy and ‘fecundity’ and the masculine world of analysis and construction, with the fruits of rational (masculine) efforts inevitably more valued than those of the intuitive (feminine). In my ‘garden’ I’m able to juxtapose the natural world with personal narratives in which I often feel out of sync with nature. I’m sometimes asked if these are digitally composited scenes, but they’re virtually “straight” photographs. I enjoy working with my hands, and while the photographs are ‘developed’ and output digitally, they’re created in the studio using simple materials: lumber, fabric, paint, photographs, plants ­– and lots and lots of dirt.



Laura Hartford is an Associate Professor at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky and currently serves as Assistant Dean. She earned her MFA from Indiana University and her BFA from the University of Louisville. She’s received grants from the Kentucky Center for the Arts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, as well as a travel grant from the Society for Photographic Education. She completed artists’ residencies at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, England and the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park. Her work is in the collection of the University of Louisville Photographic Archive, the Kinsey Institute and the Fox Talbot Museum.