A photo essay from the Spring 2016 issue.
In late summer of 1995, photographer and musician Richard Leo Johnson and his wife, Jane, lost almost everything they owned when their friend’s storage barn burned down in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Furniture, antiques, books, records, master tapes, and the whole of Johnson’s photography career over two decades—prints, negatives, everything—incinerated overnight. Last fall, a box of negatives was discovered in a Little Rock attic, hundreds of photographs from Richard’s early career—black-and-white pictures of everyday life in rural northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas.
Thick with sludgy green water and mud, the pond was a rundown neighbor to the white bungalow next door. But Pastor Jerel Keene, whose Louisiana Church congregation uses the bungalow as an office, envisioned a mission for the land the pond occupied, so he hired someone to dump red clay into the water and waited four years for it to settle like cement. He planted grass to reclaim the earth it became.
Photographs from This Land: An American Portrait.
Jack Spencer spent thirteen years working on the project and traveled more than eighty thousand miles across all forty-eight contiguous states looking for scenes and moments that he says are “an expression of the perception of an ideal.”
Down a dirt lane, I park under a pine grove. I spot the old man I’m looking for standing beside the front door of a small white home, dressed in charcoal slacks, braided belt, and red suspenders over a pin-striped dress shirt, snow-white hair slicked back. He gazes with shiny, vacant eyes at the treetops, as if he has just stepped outside to smoke a cigarette, only he has no cigarettes. The last chief of the Apalachee beckons me in.
My scream moves through a body that has been in working order for more than thirty-four years. It is a five-foot-six-and-one-half-inch female body, around 140 pounds, and its bone structure appears larger than those of most women I see in the park or at the gym or in the market. Only one of these larger-than-average bones—a metatarsal—has broken, but this still affects the body posture and consequently, according to some, the resonance of the voice. I think, however, that the warped state of the neck and shoulders after years in front of a laptop alters the sound much more significantly. Twenty-five-and-one-half percent of this body is fat and up to sixty percent of it is water. It is not without its tonsils or its appendix and it has never been impregnated. All these facts are a part of the sound you hear when I sigh, sing, or say “hello,” or scream it.
An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.
Since 2001 Christopher Sims has been “investigating, with a profound and insistent curiosity, American military ventures from the perspective of the home front.” For ten years Sims photographed staged Iraqi and Afghan villages on the training grounds of U.S. Army bases deep in the forests of North Carolina and Louisiana.
Watching a movie or television show with my husband can be vexing. He’s a scenic painter, on the hard labor side of the movie-making equation in Hollywood South, as Louisiana is often called these days, now that tax credits have made our state the number-one filmmaking destination in the country.
The problem wasn’t just the sinkhole and the fears about how big it might grow, but the lethal gases that the shifting earth had unleashed beneath Bayou Corne. Landry and others were now sitting atop a mound of methane, invisible and potentially explosive and trying to find a way to the surface, a way out.
On the morning of August 28, 2005, I evacuated New Orleans with my parents, less than twenty-four hours before Katrina came ashore, driving fourteen-foot storm tides ahead of it. We spent hours on the five-mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, watching Lawrence of Arabia in the back seat while waterspouts spun beyond our windows. When I woke up the next morning in Nashville, a newscaster in a dry poncho was standing near the Superdome; she talked only of wind damage.
A featured short story from the Summer 2019 issue.
You’ve always wished your mother, who is so deft with the cards, would learn to read fortunes. You want her to tell your future, holding nothing back. You want all of it confirmed, your luck and your losses. You haven’t asked her, though. You can imagine her shaking her head, incredulous again that you, superstitious girl, are her daughter. That you long to convert each game into a prophesy.