Deborah Luster is the latest artist to be featured in the on-line ezine One One Thousand, with a selection of photographs from her Tooth for an Eye portfolio.
Luster's images in this portfolio are of empty lots, railroad trestles, barren bedrooms, alleyways, and drainage ditches. The images seem to have disparate subjects, but they are linked by the fact that they all document places where people have died, and died violently.
Luster is best known for her portfolio One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, images made in several of Louisiana's prisons, including the infamous Angola Prison. These images present people cut off from society for long prison terms, often for violent crimes.
Luster's work in prisons is about making connections, about establishing a sense of presence, seeking to affirm a common humanity between those inside the prison and those of us outside the prison. One way she does that is to print images of prisoners on sheets of metal and coat them so that the images of those remote from us can be touched and handled.
Luster now turns to absence, to places where murders have occurred, leaving whatever traces of violence might survive the removal of the victim's body. Her goal is to document "contemporary and historical homicide sites in the city of New Orleans and is, as well, an exploration of the empty, dizzying space at the core of violence."
These images are all long exposures; movement leaves its traces in these images, even as these spaces seem imprinted with the force of the violence that has taken place here. All the images in this portfolio are circular in format; one might imagine them glimpses of the last things someone being murdered might have seen before he died.
She also finds that as she works the city itself is changing, so her work also documents "physical loss" as New Orleans' "unique material culture crumbles and transforms following generations of political failure."
Luster continues to mature and develop as an artist. There is much fine work here to contemplate. In addition to the thoughts one might have about New Orleans and about American society, one might also consider once more the nature of photography as a creative act.