The Weight of Air by Amy Elkins

Issue 17

The Weight of Air touches upon on my fascination with portraiture and psychology and specifically how heat, humidity and the threat of hurricane season affects those who returned to New Orleans after Katrina and call it home. Having lived in New Orleans for several years, some of my most vivid memories include the humid, sticky weight that hangs over the city for the summer months. The tropical flora thrives and blooms, the air becomes oppressively thick and damp, the cicadas roar in chorus. Everything sweats and becomes sensual, untamed. Hurricanes loom, things flood and swell, crime burgeons. The city becomes nocturnal, tense, restless.

The portraits in The Weight of Air were shot in daylight studios constructed throughout different wards in New Orleans, LA in August of 2009, four years after Katrina hit and destroyed vast parts of the city. These daylight studios were put together outdoors and the portraits were shot while temperatures and humidity levels soared, mosquitoes swarmed and thunderstorms loomed, sometimes dumping heavy rain due to a tropical storm pounding the nearby South. Working with a heavy camera and a tripod, I photographed slowly and my subjects had to remain still for each frame while in varying states of discomfort. The sessions were languid, like most things in the South in August.

The portraits to me are about that stillness- about the weight of air and the underlying tension present throughout these sweltering summer months and throughout hurricane season in the wake of Katrina. This is a work in progress.

Amy Elkins is a Brooklyn, NY based photographer.
To view more of Amy's work, please visit her website.

  Bella, Uptown | New Orleans, 2009

Bella, Uptown | New Orleans, 2009

  Deshaun, 9th Ward | New Orleans, 2009 

Deshaun, 9th Ward | New Orleans, 2009 

  Rene, Midcity | New Orleans, 2009 

Rene, Midcity | New Orleans, 2009 

  John Ben, 7th Ward | New Orleans, 2009 

John Ben, 7th Ward | New Orleans, 2009 

  Mike, Midcity | New Orleans, 2009 

Mike, Midcity | New Orleans, 2009 

  Margaret, Uptown | New Orleans, 2009 

Margaret, Uptown | New Orleans, 2009 

  Daniel, Midcity | New Orleans, 2009 

Daniel, Midcity | New Orleans, 2009 

  Vaughn, Uptown | New Orleans, 2009 

Vaughn, Uptown | New Orleans, 2009 

  Tamara, Midcity | New Orleans, 2009 

Tamara, Midcity | New Orleans, 2009 

  Erik, Midcity | New Orleans, 2009 

Erik, Midcity | New Orleans, 2009 

  Heidi, 7th Ward | New Orleans, 2009 

Heidi, 7th Ward | New Orleans, 2009