Growth and Despair/Deer Beds
The pictures entitled “Growth and Despair” were made during the last three months in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. In the three years since Hurricane Katrina, this neighborhood has become a confusing intersection of tourist destination and ghost town. As I walk through the empty house lots, I become disoriented by the verdant grasses and bucolic landscape, forgetting that I am in a place of recent destruction. The natural world has taken back the landscape, reclaiming this site of complete devastation and turning it into a sad garden. The edges of house foundations, broken front stoops and cracked sidewalks are the humble ruins of a lost civilization. The grasses and vines seemed to indicate new growth after the storm. Now they have completely taken over the landscape, strangling the few remnants of the forgotten neighborhood.
Walking through the tall grasses in New Orleans, I immediately felt as if I were back in the fields of Rhode Island where I have made pictures of deer beds. I found the deer beds by following the paths of the deer to the nests where they sleep. Each time I came upon a bed it felt as if the deer had just departed, leaving a warm impression in the grass. I was always aware of their proximity. The pictures in New Orleans also follow the traces of an absent population, barely visible through the ruins left behind. Both bodies of work quietly embody the absence of a recently departed presence.
Katherine Wolkoff was born in 1976 and lives and works in New Orleans and New York. She graduated from Barnard College in 1998 and received her MFA in photography from the Yale School of Art in 2003. Her work has been widely exhibited and is included in the collections of the Addison Gallery of Art and the Norton Museum of Art among others. Her “Deer Beds” series was shown last spring at the New York Photo Festival and she is working on a book of the work. Katherine’s work has been extensively published in The New York Times Magazine, Aperture, Frieze, Monocle and twice among other publications. website.