An internationally recognized photographer and New Orleans native, Tina Freeman’s most recent work, Lamentations, pairs images from the Louisiana wetlands and Arctic and Antarctic glaciers that function as “little stories about climate change, ecological balance, and the connectedness of things across time and space”.
Q: Please describe your work and the medium/media you use. Why do you make this type of art?
A: Lamentations is a project that culminated in an exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art that opened September 12, 2019 and closed October 18, 2020. This work took approximately seven years to complete consisted of landscape photographs paired in diptychs. One image was of the Louisiana wetlands and one image of locations in the Arctic and Antarctic.
I make this type of art to increase awareness of the challenges we face as inhabitants of our planet with the hope that it will spur action to save what we have. We don’t have an extra planet to go to once we have despoiled/used up this one.
Q: What is most striking or inspirational to you about the wetland landscape?
A: While sitting in a small boat the wetlands seem vast. I think as humans it is hard for us to see our Earth as that small blue pearl in the universe. This is all we have, and what looks vast is finite. We think we will never run our of resources but we are. Our scoring canals and waterways through the wetlands is analogous to cutting between veins of our body it is making this fragile environment “bleed out.” We are losing our wetlands at an alarming rate, they are not infinite.
Q: In what ways has the Louisiana wetland landscape changed in your lifetime?
A: As a child I remember it as vast and seemingly intact, although the wearing away started in the 1930’s. I remember when I started to talk about the disappearance of the wetlands fifteen or twenty years ago people outside of Louisiana thought I was talking of wetlands disappearing due to land fill. I had to explain, no, it was becoming open water. This was a difficult concept for people from other areas at the time.
Q: Why is it important to you to create art about Louisiana wetlands?
A: The Louisiana wetlands protect my home (I am a New Orleans native). If we had had the 20+ miles of wetlands intact that had been lost before Katrina between New Orleans and the Gulf there is the possibility that the levees would have held. People need to know how we are despoiling our natural resources. The water held in the Poles is melting at alarming rate. The water in the Poles as it melts will end up in our wetlands.
Q: In your opinion why is coastal restoration in Louisiana is important? For folks out of state, why is Louisiana’s coastal restoration work important for the nation?
A: After Katrina, when I visited our lawmakers to lobby for wetland restoration in Washington DC a Senator from Nebraska asked me why the restoration of Southern Louisiana was of importance to his constituents. After all, I asked him how the farm production of his farmers would get to their markets if it were not for the Port of New Orleans.
The Louisiana wetlands produces a large percentage of seafood produced in United States.
It is home to Indigenous Tribes and they are losing their land at an alarming rate.
Q: How does your art challenge existing barriers and assumptions about our environmental crisis?
A: When I started this series the connection between the melting glaciers and sea level rise was not universal. After all that was in 2011. Lots has happened in those 10 years. I think when people see the paired images they have a clearer sense that what is there (ice) will end up here (LA wetland.) I know that in the Lamentations exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art the wall that show the retreating (2139) vs advancing glaciers (136) was a shock to many that saw the list in such a graphic form.
Q: Where can people view your work (displayed in galleries or links to websites)?
A: My website: tinafreeman.com and opening November 18, 2021 Lamentations will be on view at the Spartanberg Museum of Art
Google Arts & Culture: Tina Freeman: Lamentations
From the NY Times:
To order the book:
Lamentations, the video:
long cut: https://vimeo.com/376878286
short cut: https://vimeo.com/376881581