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Photographer's Showcase: Ben Depp's Louisiana

photo-eye Gallery Photographers Showcase: Ben Depp's Louisiana Jovi Esquivel photo-eye Gallery is pleased to welcome Ben Depp to the Photographer's Showcase and his series based on the wetlands on Louisiana's Gulf Coast.

Ben Depp, Jeannerette, Flooded Sugar Cane Field, 2016, Archival Pigment Print, 22½ x 30", Edition of 10, $3,000

photo-eye Gallery is delighted to welcome artist Ben Depp, and feature his arresting photographs of the Louisiana Gulf Coast, into the Photographer's Showcase

Ben Depp is an artist and National Geographic Explorer based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Much of Ben's work has been centered around environmental issues, and his ongoing work documents wetland loss and coastal erosion in Louisiana. Over the past eighty years, the Louisiana Coast has lost 2,000 square miles of wetlands. 

This week, we are sharing an interview between the artist and Gallery Associate Jovi Esquivel. The two discussed Depp's passion for documenting the changing landscape of the Gulf Coast, and the motorized paraglider Depp uses to travel throughout the coastline to capture his images. 

•    •    •

Jovi Esquivel: What is your background as a photographer, what drew you into the world of picture-making? 

Ben Depp: The magic of being able to see and connect with people and places around the world through photographs is what first drew me into the world of photography. I studied photography in college. I lived in my car during that time so that I would be able to pursue photography without the burden of debt. I then worked at a newspaper and freelanced for magazines, newspapers, and non-profits in a number of countries. I lived in Haiti for five years, which precipitated a shift in my photography to cover environmental issues. I was in Haiti when the 2010 earthquake struck, and I covered the aftermath of the earthquake, the cholera epidemic, and much political unrest. I have PTSD from some of those experiences, and making beautiful (but also meaningful) landscape photographs has been part of my healing process.

JE: Wow, it sounds like despite the trauma you experienced, you are still committed to the medium.

BD: I still believe in the power of photography to connect people to the earth and to each other. The environments I currently work in are very remote and hard to access. Through my photographs, I think people can begin to see the beauty and value of this landscape and better understand what we are losing. I think making these photographs is the most worthwhile use of my time right now.

Ben Depp, Pelicans in Scofield Bay, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 30x40", Edition of 10, $4,000

JE: What inspired you to create your current body of work?

BD: When I moved to New Orleans in 2013, I wanted to photograph a project about Louisiana’s coast, which is the largest area of wetlands in the United States and the fastest-eroding coastline. The human impact of land loss in Louisiana has been well-documented, so I wanted to do something different. I first saw this landscape by air when flying into New Orleans on a commercial flight, and knew it was an incredible vantage point. I learned how to fly a powered paraglider and started exploring. My aerial photographs contribute to the existing body of work on Louisiana by centering the landscape.

JE: Will you share your process — how do you prepare to go out and shoot for your current project, what’s it like once you’re out making photographs?

BD: South Louisiana is flat, so to get any perspective on the landscape it helps to be able to get off the ground. To do that, I’ve been exploring the Louisiana coast by powered paraglider for eight years. A powered paraglider is maybe the world’s smallest aircraft. I wear a motor on my back with a propeller on it and have a paraglider wing overhead. I usually launch half an hour before sunrise or a couple of hours before sunset and fly for hours at a time.

With the paraglider. I can fly between 15 to 10,000 feet in the air. I enjoy flying low and slow to see all the textures and detail in the grasses, flowers, and trees below me. I rarely go out with a plan to photograph a specific place or thing. All of the magic I have found has been while spending hours exploring.

JE: Does your powered paraglider allow you to hoover in place — to allow you to compose your photograph?

BD: I wish I could hover. But, no, I’m always moving at somewhere between 15-40 miles per hour, so my process would be similar to photographing from your car window as you drive. I use a very high shutter speed to avoid motion blur, and I have to compose intuitively to try and get the composition I’m hoping for.

Ben Depp, Mayflies, 2021, Archival Pigment Print, 30x40", Edition of 10, $4,000 

Ben Depp, Grand Island, 2022, Archival Pigment Print, 30x40", Edition of 10, $4,000

Each flight is still simultaneously exhilarating and a little terrifying. One of my favorite things is to be a few hundred feet up at sunrise over the wetlands and watch the colors change in the marsh as the sun comes up.

JE: Sunrises are my favorite, this sounds glorious!

BD: I spend a lot of time camping. After exploring accessible parts of the coast for several years, I built a 19-foot wooden sailboat to access Louisiana’s remote barrier islands. I carry my powered paraglider in my sailboat, which I can sail and row to an island, where I then launch my paraglider. I’ve camped for up to a week in some of the most remote parts of South Louisiana.

Although I’ve been a photographer for almost 20 years, I’ve found my photographic voice through this project. By slowing down, spending days at a time camping, traveling slowly by sailboat, and then powered paraglider, I am seeing the natural world around me more clearly. The photographs I’m now making reflect my increased connection and sensitivity to this place.

Ben Depp, Cameron Truck, 2021, Archival Pigment Print, 30x40", Edition of 10, $4,000

•    •    •    •

Ben Depp is an artist and National Geographic Explorer based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Much of Ben’s work has centered around environmental issues and his environmental photography has been funded by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, the Ford Foundation, and the National Geographic Society.

Ben's ongoing work documents wetland loss and coastal erosion in Louisiana. The wetlands on Louisiana's Gulf Coast are eroding at the rate of a football field every 30 minutes. Ben's work serves as a memorial to this vanishing landscape. 

He makes aerial images by powered paraglider, which allows him hours of exploration, a low flight path, and the time-intensive search for surprising compositions. 

Print costs are current up to the time of posting and are subject to change.

If you are in Santa Fe, please stop by during gallery hours or schedule a visit HERE.

For more information, and to reserve one of these unique works, please contact photo-eye Gallery's
Gallery Director Anne Kelly or Gallery Associate Jovi Esquivel

You may also call us at (505) 988– 5152 x202

photo-eye Gallery

1300 Rufina Circle, Unit A3, Sant Fe, NM 87507
Tuesday– Saturday, from 10am– 5:30pm