Underwater photographs of erosion sites in the Mississippi River Delta (the New Orleans vicinity) caused by pollution and mining.
Test images and an early prototype of the book are viewable at: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2440177
Much of my previous work is viewable at pcm.pcmxa.com.
Over the past ten years, I have been interested in how landscape can be understood through the notion of writing and how language creates and changes landscape. These bodies of work examine the ways in which history, language, and geography combine to produce place and have sought to complicate our ideas of location and history. Recently, these works have begun to use writing as a metaphor to examine diffuse processes of environmental change and to locate the viewer as an agent in that change. The work has shifted from visual theoretical commentary to using photographs to engage and reveal particular aspects of our world.
Since 2001, I have been imaging the marks aircraft leave in the sky. Contrails are artificial clouds that trace the travels of aircraft. Sometimes they last mere moments, tiny smudges of white against a brilliant blue sky. Other times they persist much longer and the successive passing of aircraft begins to build a density to the clouds until the whole sky becomes overcast and what started out as a strange form of mark making has become an environment, a nature of its own.
For the past two years I have been photographing large scale transformations of the landscape caused by the grazing of cattle on arid lands. This series of images (The Weight of Cows), examines how the accumulated actions of numerous individuals can alter the landscape both on a vast scale and almost invisibly. I cannot eat grass. I can eat cows. Cows can eat grasses. These landscapes, with the grasses chewed down to nubs, edible leaves stripped off of plants, and ruts worn into the surface of the earth, bear evidence of the use of cows as prosthetic stomachs. The large scale images (up to 40” x 90”) reveal the absences in the landscape, focusing both on the close details (cow dung and foot prints, grass stubble and erosion) and the vastness over which this occurs (mountains almost lost in the haze on the horizon). The images attempt to indicate all that has been removed from the landscape. They image the invisible weight of cows.
More recent work has begun examining the Mississippi River Delta. Early in the last century it was recognized that the Mississippi was shifting its outlet into the Atchafalaya Basin. A levee system was built to keep the Mississippi River on its current course, preventing the major port of New Orleans and other ports downstream being bypassed by the river. The flow of the river at Head of Waters was also channeled to cause sediment to be deposited only once it was past the continental shelf, making for a better shipping channel with less need for drainage. The channeling of the Mississippi River has caused the rate of erosion to overtake the rate of sedimentation, threatening both the current lobe, as well as adjacent historical delta lobes. (1)
Simultaneously to this channeling of the Mississippi River, navigation and gas pipeline canals were cut into the existing delta formations. These canals, built for economic purposes, are allowing salt water further inland resulting in the death of trees and other vegetation that stabilize wetlands. Wind blowing along the canals also produces erosion, while sea level rises increase wave action leading to further deterioration. The entire Deltaic region of southern Louisiana is sinking at an estimated rate of 4 to 4.5 feet per century. The loss of the delta removes the shield that has traditionally mitigated the affect of storms on the urban areas of southern Louisiana. (2)
The photographs of Delta image the navigation canals and man made waterways that crisscross the historical river deltas of the Mississippi. Concentrated on the intersections of these artificial channels, the photographs picture the dead and decaying trees and eroding banks caused by man made geological processes. The land is shown as thin strips of green punctuated by the brown dirt of the banks, and the gray of tree stumps while the water and the sky have been pushed to white, overwhelming the thin strips of land left from this process of erasure. The large scale of the prints (30” x 51”) of which only thin strips (1/2” to 4”) remain occupied by earth, emphasize the vastness of the destruction.
Land in Water continues this investigation. Using a high-end DSLR camera housed in an waterproof casing, I will create underwater photographs of the silt, debris, flora, and fauna in various locations stretching from within urban environments all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Each image will be a record of the ongoing erosional process occurring in environmentally or historically important locations. Each image will be, in part, of the land slipping into the water. While formally the individual photographs will simultaneously work as unique color fields that also document a particular moment of environmental action (blue/gray silt stirred into the water as light filters down from an overcast sky, debris disappearing into a brown haze while shafts of afternoon sun strike down), conceptually the images will be united in immersing the viewer in a broad location of radical environmental change. While I am only seeking funding to produce initial artists proofs to show to curators and gallery directors, it is an initial step in the process of creating a body of large prints designed to be exhibited together. In its final form, Land in Water will consist of 40” x 40” prints mounted under plexiglas and framed in heavy, black, wooden frames. Displayed with little room between each print, the works will form a nearly continuous, highly reflective band, a wall of variously colored waters reflecting the viewers' images back to them. Land in Water will use the formal language of abstraction and beauty along with the material properties of the images to submerge the viewer in the waters of the Mississippi River Delta.
While I was making the work Delta, I realized that a direct impression of the erosion I was seeing could be imaged. Already possessing an underwater housing for my point and shoot camera, I began making images by sticking the camera in the water at many of the locations where I was shooting the surface conditions of the canals. Making the photographs blind (not being able to see what was in front of the lens underwater), the results were color fields with highly obscured bits of flotsam. I found the images to be formally beautiful, while simultaneously documents of the conditions of the water at the time the image was made. The play of form and content was fascinating. Each location had its own unique color and clarity. Each image was a unique signature of the changes lacerating the landscape.
Unfortunately, the images made were highly limited technically. That camera only shoots to JPEG (a highly compressed format), on a very small sensor. This creates images with significant amounts of noise and very little control of color. While the images created last May are promising sketches, the files they came from are not capable of producing large scale, exhibition quality prints.
The images for Land in Water will be made during two trips to the Mississippi River Delta region. Scheduled for May-June and August-September, each trip will last approximately one month. New Orleans, as the lowest crossing of the Mississippi River, allows access to both the eastern and western contemporary and historical deltas and is within a thirty minute to two hour drive to a boat launch for all locations that I plan to image. It also (along with Houma) contains canals and bayous within its boundaries. The duration of the trips is necessary to ensure encountering the proper environmental conditions to create the work and to allow time to get to locations miles from land based forms of transportation. These trips will be my fourth and fifth trips to the region to make work. During two of the previous trips, disasters have occurred that have prevented me from hiring boats and guides to photograph in remote locations. The first was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that closed much of the region’s water ways to anyone not involved in the cleanup and consumed all available water craft in the region. The second was the historic flooding that occurred this last spring and similarly limited travel on the water ways anywhere significantly west of the Mississippi. The lengths of the stays ensure more than adequate time on the water making images, even accounting for weather and other issues.
Currently, I have identified more than 335 sites that I will travel to in order to create the images (see appendix for maps). The sites have been selected because they are major routes for travel to and from oil and gas platforms, exist primarily to service oil and gas industry infrastructure (such as pipelines), are significant canals that are contributing to the salt water incursion that is one of the underlying causes of erosion in the region, or are historically significant in that they are locations where previously occupied land is now underwater. While some of these are close to roads and accessible from land, most are inaccessible except by boat. Even for the locations close to roads, the underwater housing for the camera is large and awkward, making taking images from the shore without either damaging the housing on the bottom or stirring up additional silt difficult. For these reasons I will be using a boat, a 16' inflatable kayak/boat powered by a 9.8 HP outboard particularly suited to the environmental conditions of the river delta, to access sites.
Using the boat to access the charted locations, several thousands of images will be taken in these waterways of the historic and current delta. The procedure is simple and open to chance and serendipity. A 5D Mark II camera with either a 24-105mm or 24mm TS-E lens in a Nimar underwater housing mounted to a 51” monopod pole will be lowered into the water to various depths and in varying orientations. Images will be taken using a ten second timer and each image will be evaluated for its aesthetic and conceptual appeal until enough images have been created at that location to ensure I have files suitable for exhibition quality prints. This procedure will be repeated at the locations identified as well as in any suitable location that I come across. Because the process relies in a large degree on chance, a large number of images from each location may be needed (anywhere between 10 - 50) so that the best chance of finding an image with the right balance of color, detail, arrangement of subject, and play of sharpness against the diffusion of silt in the water can be achieved.
The time between the two trips will be used to make test prints of the images and to evaluate how well the images work both formally and conceptually as they relate to the locations in which they were made. It will also allow for deciding which locations may need to be revisited and what types of images may best round out the series in order to guide future shooting.
From the thousands of images shot, 40 to 45 images from locations whose environmental, cultural, and/or economic significance is echoed in the image, will be chosen for printing. Five 40” x 40” artist proofs, and forty 16” x 16” artist proofs will be made to share with curators and gallery directors at different portfolio reviews. Work will also be submitted directly to galleries in application for shows.
Selected works from the previous series Delta have been shown at the Museum of Fine Arts at Florida State University and at Las Manos Gallery in Chicago. Works from Automatic Writing have been shown in several exhibitions in Elizabeth Town, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Albuquerque. Works from Ouroboros have been published in Diffusion Magazine, exhibited at Las Manos Gallery, and at The Atrium Gallery at the Santa Fe University of the Arts. I have every confidence in exhibiting Land in Water. I will be showing samples of the work (both the preliminary images from Land in Water and selections from Delta) to curators and gallery directors at PhotoNola in December 2012, and Photo Lucida and Photofest in 2013. In addition, I currently have a relationship with Las Manos Gallery in Chicago and hope to show this work there in late 2012 or early 2013, of which these images will be a part. Your funding will help me complete the work for these venues and significantly help with my artistic career and bringing the beauty of a location and the damage it is undergoing to a wider audience.
I have received funding from the University of New Mexico that covers the cost of the boat, motor, underwater housing, boating gear, and some of the cost of living in New Orleans for two months. I am seeking funding for the cost of vehicle suitable to hauling all this gear from New Orleans to suitable launch sites and storing it between trips (a used van to be exact) and for offsetting the remaining costs of living in New Orleans (rent and food), as well as the cost of framing the final work for exhibition.
Thank you for your consideration.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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Set of 8 4.2"x5.5" postcards of images from the series. 5 of my favorite images in postcards produced directly from the work. Completely mailable. Printed on high quality glossy stock.Estimated delivery:
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One 5.6"x4.3" photo magnet of my favorite image from the series.Estimated delivery:
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4" x 4" editioned, signed archival inkjet print. Each will be printed on Canson Platine paper (an archival paper without brightener, making it even more stable over time) with a surface very similar to glossy fiber-based black and white papers. International backers please add $16 for shipping.Estimated delivery:
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A set of 22 4.2"x5.5" postcards of images from the series. 5 of my favorite images in postcards produced directly from the work. Completely mailable. Printed on high quality glossy stock.Estimated delivery:
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An approximately one minute looping underwater HD video from one of the erosion sites. Shot in full HD (1920 x 1080) these videos are static shots of a location taken a short distance below the surface. The video is an edition of 1 with an artist proof.Estimated delivery:
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Unframed 8" x 8" archival inkjet print. Your choice of an 8" x 8" print, each limited to an edition of 25 plus one artist proof. Choice of print is given in the order of pledges given. Each will be printed on Canson Platine paper (an archival paper without brightener, making it even more stable over time) with a surface very similar to glossy fiber-based black and white papers. International backers please add $16 for shipping.Estimated delivery:
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Signed and numbered copy of small (7" x 7") softbound book including all of the images from the series Land in Water. 36-38 full color plates with an introduction, printed on high quality glossy paper. International backers please add $16 for shipping.Estimated delivery:
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10" x 10" mounted archival inkjet print in a custom hardwood frame. Your choice of a 10" x 10" print, each limited to an edition of three plus one artist proof. Choice of print is given in the order of pledges given. Each will be printed on Canson Platine paper (an archival paper without brightener, making it even more stable over time) with a surface very similar to glossy fiber-based black and white papers. The print is matted under four ply museum board and framed in a custom 20" x 20" graphite black hardwood frame. Glazed with plexiglass. Donation is inclusive of shipping. International backers please add $100.Estimated delivery:
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Unframed 22" x 22" archival inkjet print. Your choice of a 22" x 22" print, each limited to an edition of eight plus one artist proof. Choice of print is given in the order of pledges given. Each will be printed on Canson Platine paper (an archival paper without brightener, making it even more stable over time) with a surface very similar to glossy fiber-based black and white papers. Donation is inclusive of shipping. International backers please add $25.Estimated delivery:
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22" x 22" archival inkjet print in a custom hardwood frame. Your choice of a 22" x 22" print, each limited to an edition of eight plus one artist proof. Choice of print is given in the order of pledges given. Each will be printed on Canson Platine paper (an archival paper without brightener, making it even more stable over time) with a surface very similar to glossy fiber-based black and white papers. The print is mounted to archival foam core and framed in a custom graphite black hardwood frame. Glazed with plexiglass. Donation is inclusive of shipping. International backers please add $100.Estimated delivery:
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36" x 36" mounted archival inkjet print in a custom hardwood frame. Your choice of a 36" x 36" print, each limited to an edition of three plus one artist proof. Choice of print is given in the order of pledges given. Each will be printed on Canson Platine paper (an archival paper without brightener, making it even more stable over time) with a surface very similar to glossy fiber-based black and white papers. The print is mounted to archival foam core and framed in a custom graphite black hardwood frame. Glazed with plexiglass. Donation is inclusive of shipping in a custom light plywood crate. International backers please add $100.Estimated delivery:
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