Exhibition Pick: Ben Depp

At A Gallery for Fine Photography, Myles Poydras looks at Ben Depp’s aerial photographs documenting ecological changes in South Louisiana.

Ben Depp, LA 1, Elmer’s Island, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, 2016. Pigment print. Courtesy the artist and A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans.

“Bayou’s End” at A Gallery for Fine Photography is an exhibition of aerial photographs by Ben Depp featuring the various wetlands of Louisiana. The photographs, taken as Depp paraglided above, retune viewers’ visual perceptions of the landscape as well as document its erosion. LA 1, Elmer’s Island, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, 2016, shows a secluded section of the state seemingly shredded to green scraps that stretch to and from the edges of the composition in abstract patterns. The only immediate trace of humankind among the green of the marshlands and the pervasive waters is a single winding road splitting the frame and leading the eye to a lone house at the bottom of the photograph.

Depp’s method of surveying the landscape by paragliding places him at unique aerial heights—getting as close as 10 feet and as high as 2000 feet above ground—flying lower and capturing more detail than airplanes or satellites. This process allows him to reveal a wider spectrum of colors than the swampy green one might expect to see—creating mystical, dreamy sights within Louisiana’s wetlands. In Montegut, Algae Blooms Near Montegut, Louisiana, 11/1/2016, 2016, Depp captures a medley of glowing greens that appear in different shades and variations across the pooling water and surrounding banks where algae and sunlight mix. Faint oranges and streaky blues are also found among the assortment.

Depp’s focus on environmental issues and recording Louisiana’s rapidly eroding coastline—as he has for the last three years as part of his Louisiana Drowning project—is especially evident in the photographs in “Bayou’s End.” Floating above the vanishing coast on a motorized paraglider enables him to capture, through abstraction, the scale of the ecological effects of human industry, saltwater intrusion, and rising waters.

Editor's Note

Ben Depp’s “Bayou’s End” is on view through September 27, 2018, at A Gallery for Fine Photography (241 Chartres Street) in New Orleans.