Armed with nothing but a camera, Deborah Luster gained access in 1998 to the East Carroll Parish Prison Farm in Transylvania and spent the next three and a half years taking pictures of inmates there and in two other Louisiana state prisons.
Deborah Luster: One Big Self by The Kitchen Sisters, npr “My mom… It’s hard to talk about your mom. She was very glamorous but she never put on any airs. There was no saditty with her. She was infected with that southern ancestor worship thing, all into the arts of dress and manners and home…
Photography can do powerful things. Deborah Luster, for example, tells a story of how one of her photographs reunited a family: A mother, who had spent 15 years in an Louisana prison without seeing her children, requested that Luster take her portrait — thinking that if she sent the image to her children, it might “soften their hearts.” It did. A few months later, when Luster followed up, four of the woman’s children had come to see her.
New Orleans photographer Deborah Luster searched newspaper archives for the locations of murders. They weren’t hard to find in the Crescent City, one of the country’s killing capitals. With a cumbersome camera that produces odd, old-fashioned circular photos, Luster documented the weedy lots between blighted buildings, out-of-the-way roadsides and miserable hotels where people violently lost their lives.
Media and Press
NOVEMBER 14, 2008
PHOTOGRAPHER DEBORAH LUSTER’S MUDERSCAPES ARE A PROSPECT.1 NEW ORLEANS REALITY CHECK
By Doug McCash
WHEELS OF MISFORTUNE
New Orleans photographer Deborah Luster searched newspaper archives for the locations of murders. They weren’t hard to find in the Crescent City, one of the country’s killing capitals.
The Arthur Roger Gallery is very pleased to be a part of Art Miami this year. At Booth B100, we are exhibiting works by John Alexander, Luis Cruz Azaceta, David Bates, Jacqueline Bishop, Douglas Bourgeois, Robert Colescott, Stephen Paul Day, Lesley Dill, James Drake, Troy Dugas, George Dureau, Lin Emery, Vernon Fisher, Tim Hailand, Whitfield Lovell, Deborah Luster, Gordon Parks, Holton Rower, and Amy Weiskopf.
Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art questions and explores the complex and contested space of the American South. One needs to look no further than literature, cuisine and music to see evidence of the South’s profound influence on American culture, and consequently much of the world.
“Face to Face: a Survey of Contemporary Portraiture” by Louisiana Artists is one of the recently exhibited selections available for viewing at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum this fall season. The exhibit, which opened Sept. 9, features a set of “12 nationally and internationally acclaimed artists working in a variety of media,” as cited by the museum’s website.
Face to Face features work by twelve nationally and internationally acclaimed artists working in a variety of media. It includes Willie Birch, Douglas Bourgeois, George Dureau, Elizabeth Kleinveld & Epaul Julien, Aubrey Edwards, Deborah Luster, Rashaad Newsome, Tameka Norris, Gina Phillips, Jennifer Shaw, Jonathan Traviesa, and Heather Weathers.
Deborah Luster, a photographer from Louisiana, was named the 2015 winner of the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, an award bestowed by the Gibbes Museum of Art.
Decisive Moments is drawn from the extensive, rich collection of 20th-century and contemporary photographs assembled over 40 years by Jim and Cherye Pierce, including works by Luis Cruz Azaceta, Dawn DeDeaux and Deborah Luster.
Send It On Down is an exhibition of photographs by Deborah Luster related to The Lost Roads Project: A Walk-In Book of Arkansas and The Rosesucker Retablos from the nineteen nineties that rewards the viewer with the sense of having that firm grasp on reality that characterizes the best straight photography and the intellectual satisfaction that comes from technical mastery of the medium and the artist’s sense of design. Although obviously posed and composed, Luster’s photographs have an elusive quality that challenges one’s ability to stay focused on the photographs themselves and their subjects and not to wander into the miasma of interpretation. Like the work of predecessor southern photographers Walker Evans, Eudora Welty, and Thomas Eggleston, Luster’s work evidences a world hitherto unknown to the typical viewer for whom the photographs are surrogate experience in the best tradition of documentary photography. The clarity of the artist’s vision leads one to trust the integrity of the photographer and the photograph, finding interest in what the subjects would consider as ordinary and everyday, an interest that makes the ordinary and everyday something special.
What really qualifies as news? A mass shooting at a school understandably generates widespread national outrage, yet the rampant killings in our inner city — or any American inner city — are too routine to garner headlines. The philosopher Hannah Arendt once referred to Nazi genocide as “the banality of evil” for the bureaucratic way it was enacted, but Deborah Luster’s Tooth for an Eye photographs of local murder scenes (now on display at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art) exemplify what might be called the “ordinariness” of evil: The most startling thing about them is how utterly unremarkable they are. Only the photographs’ circular compositions differentiate these scenes from others that go unnoticed on any given day.
Murder. Victim. Scene. Spirit. Photograph. The unrelenting specter of violence is turned into ethereal art via a distinctive vision by photographer Deborah Luster. Her exhibit, “Tooth for an Eye: A Chorography of Violence in Orleans Parish,” is a compass that pinpoints place, but evokes peace where immeasurable pain and horror once occurred.
More than any other medium, photography is about time and time’s relationship to light and circumstance. In the hands of three Southern photographers, the results are often poetic. Deborah Luster’s early works, on view at Arthur Roger Gallery, predate her more famous images of Louisiana prisoners and crime scenes, but the same insightful whimsy illuminates views that include rural children posed with captive eels or dressed in their Sunday best amid fields of billowy cotton.