Exhibition dates: December 4, 2021 – March 4, 2022
Opening: December 11, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
“Ever the river has risen and brought us the flood,
the mayfly floating on the water.
On the face of the sun its countenance gazes,
then all of a sudden nothing is there!”
– Epic of Gilgamesh
This work is part of my ongoing project documenting the rapidly shifting landscape of southern Louisiana. To make intimate landscape photographs I learned to fly a powered paraglider. The paraglider allows me to spend hours aloft, waiting for light and searching for compositions to memorialize this place.
When I first encountered a cloud of mayflies on a summer flight in Plaquemines Parish, I was moved by the parallel between the ephemeral insect and the South Louisiana wetlands. In the final stage of its metamorphosis – called the imaginal stage – a mayfly molts and emerges from the water to live for a single day. On a geologic time scale, South Louisiana’s lifespan seems just as transitory. South Louisiana is the youngest part of this 200 million year-old continent, built from sediment carried down the Mississippi River over the last six thousand years. It is also the first swath of the continent now reverting to open water.
My photographs capture South Louisiana in its imaginal stage – the moment between its emergence as solid ground and its disappearance.
Reviews of Ben Depp’s aerial work
These dreamy, surreal perspectives of a slowly submerging world are scenes of conflict. They exert a fascination from which we turn away, until we become personally engulfed in that reality. Most of us live on safe ground. But we live with the knowledge of an encroaching tide. —Thomas Beller, Smithsonian Magazine
Depp vividly illustrates that in Louisiana the boundaries between art and life are as shifting as the boundaries between the land and the sea. —D. Eric Bookhardt, New Orleans Art Insider
Ben Depp’s images show the fragile beauty of an ecosystem under duress. From the aerial vantage point, climate change stops being a sterile political concept or an assignation of blame and becomes instead a comment on what we will have left to protect. —Kate Bubacz, senior photo editor, BuzzFeed News
While the wetlands erosion has been well documented, no photographer has done it quite like Depp: He gets his shots while flying in a powered paraglider. The resulting images are precise and intimate, capturing both the narrative arc and the formal beauty of one of North America’s most endangered environmental treasures. —Jonathan Hahn, Sierra Club
Image: Ben Depp – A Cloud of Mayflies