Louviere + Vanessa's "Over Awe"

By Tk Published on .

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The photography/design studio known as Louviere + Vanessa, whose "Slumberland" fine-art project was featured in Creativity in 2004, is based in New Orleans-which is to say Hurricane Katrina presented art director/designer Jeff Louviere and photographer Vanessa S. Brown with plenty of heartache, but at the same time they were faced with a tortured landscape that is surely well-suited to their style, which is often steeped in the vaguely disturbing imagery of what seems like antique dreams. Their trademark haunted-sepia look is owed in part to the use of a Holga, a plastic medium-format camera "that lends itself well to the surreal city around us," they explain. The pair just recently managed to get a portfolio of Katrina shots together, titled "Over Awe," some of which are seen here. Though they were able to move back into their house on the relatively high ground of the Upper Ninth Ward in the middle of October, they don't have phone or internet service and word is it could be another six months to a year before it's restored. They have to go to a bar that offers wireless internet access to go online, "which makes it really hard when you depend on the internet so much these days, but the beer is cold so we can't complain." Nor can they complain that they're "about two blocks from the river, which is why our house survived. The damage we had was mostly from wind. The house was built around 1867, and it's withstood quite a bit." As has everyone in New Orleans, but assessing the entire experience in words is just plain "tough to do," they've found. "There's too much to say, but then there's really nothing to say. It feels like someone broke into our house and just rearranged the furniture, but on a much bigger scale. We get lost sometimes because the familiar landmarks are destroyed. It gets tiring. The storm was bad, of course, but the worst part is happening now. The city has a heightened level of weirdness-it's a dichotomy of normalcy and utter desolation. The sounds of calliope music, jazz, streetcars and kids have been replaced by hammers, saws and the sirens of Red Cross vehicles cruising the city like ice cream trucks. But in some ways things are the same-it's winter and it's 75 degrees, the sky is blue, the clouds are beautiful and everyone is friendly."

8www.louviereandvanessa.com/nola

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