Friday, January 18, 2013

Allison Barnes and Eleanor Owen Kerr on 1:1000

The Southern photography ezine One: One Thousand features work in the November 2012 issue by Savannah-based photographer Allison Barnes and by Baton Rouge-based photographer Eleanor Owen Kerr.

Both these photographers work in black and white, and both attend in their work to the land and the water of the South, and to the traces of life, both human and animal, that makes its way across the Southern landscape.

Barnes is concerned with the transitory character of the marks we leave on the land, and the illusion of permanence that the camera gives to the landscape it records.

Her images -- from her portfolio Autobiogeography -- she says, "document marks as a collection of clues, suggesting that place is itself temporally layered, a palimpsest of the multiple traces left by individuals and groups. 

"These markers are sometimes literally embedded within the landscape, such as raccoon tracks in the earth and the evidence of human passage, or commemorate a natural event, including a boars passing and the death of an animal."

The traces of human and animal transitions across the landscape, in her view, "offer a visible history of a past presence yet carry a tension between the ephemeral and permanent." 

The role of the photographer, in her view, is to give some permanence to the traces of the past's impermanence. 

"The landscape I walk remains after my departure and a new trace is formed when the index of that landscape is transferred onto paper. A print is the material and permanent manifestation that provides access to a mark now erased but remaining persistently present." 

Eleanor Owen Kerr's landscapes also document the effects of the human on the natural landscape, especially the ways in which we have intervened between the land and the water, and especially the land of Louisiana and the water of the Mississippi River.

Her portfolio is called On the Batture, the land between the river and its levees, a no-man's land that is called in French "batture" – literally, the land that is "beaten on" by the river. 

Kerr notes that the "batture is ephemeral. It ebbs, flows, and reforms, controlled only by the whims of the river. Sometimes under water, sometimes choked by vines and dense undergrowth, the batture is a raw, transitional space where the landscape fluctuates in accordance with the river's pulse." 

Kerr says the project began when she walked over the levee and found "a different world." 

"I was immediately engulfed," she says, "by the powerful mystery and primal energy in this ribbon of wild land separated from towns, cars, and highways by the mere sixty foot ribbon of levee between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. "Governed only by the push and pull of flood and drought, nature holds sway on the batture while urban life goes on just a few hundred feet away."

 Trace, illusion, permanence, the ephemerial, the enduring -- aspects of the South's haunted landscape, well-seen and well-captured in this work. 


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