Louise Russell: Points of View
There are certain artists with the passion and patience to make a particular subject their life’s work. Louise Russell has spent decades photographing 152 acres of land in San Diego’s backcountry, in a deeply personal place called the J9 Ranch. This parcel of high desert has been in her family for over 100 years, not long after the original settlers displaced the Native American Kumeyaay.
Instead of tiring of the subject or starting to make redundant images, Louise has managed to create inventive ways of photographically exploring all the nuances of her family’s land, which is why the name for the overarching project, Every Square Inch is so fitting. Not only does this project contain photographs of the landscape, plants, animals, and people that make this place so unique, but, as you see in the images here from the sub-series Points of View, Louise is able to turn the photographic process inward to create these meditative photographs of what the experience of being on this property is like for her.
These days Louise’s can be found working on Ways of Knowing, also part of her Every Square Inch project, in which she pairs photographs with botanical plant vouchers to explore ways we may experience and express our interactions with a place: visually, emotionally, viscerally, and scientifically.
Louise walks a family property in the high desert backcountry of San Diego with her camera and a plant field press. Much of her photography is done there, where as a child she developed her love of nature amongst the cattle raised by her grandfather. Her images center on the land and place: its power, beauty, past and present, and creation and destruction. She is guided by her love of the land, her curiosity to understand place, and the climate crises.
Her image making includes 8 x 10 inch pinhole negatives and silver gelatin prints, inkjet prints, prints on tarpaper, and inkjet prints with botanical specimens. Every Square Inch, Points of View, J9 Suite, Looking for a Place to Land, and Land Marks are some of her bodies of work.
Louise has an MA in Educational Technology and worked as a teacher and a developer of educational software. She’s grateful for the many photography teachers she’s had at workshops, festivals, and classes, and is a member of the Snowcreek Photography Collective. Her work has been exhibited at Open Show San Diego, Soho Photo Gallery, Size Matters Medium Festival, and PhotoPlace.
I usually photograph outdoors but when I began thinking about myself and my place, a dark room chose me. The darkness in the room was soothing and it was like my eyes were closed in meditation with feelings, thoughts and scenes floating by. Some days the cracks and reflected light suggested an inescapable trap and other days offered simple beauty. Sometimes the light sparked a flame of transformation and joy. Capturing these became part of my practice of thinking about my place.
The windows frame views where I’ve played my entire life and they reveal the magnificent oaks. Many oaks are dying from the drought and beetles, impermanent and fragile. They are reminders of my aging self and of my connection to the oaks and the spirits they have known – the indigenous Kumeyaay, my grandparents, and my mother. At times the windows were screens where I could project. Thoughts and feelings of loss, injustice, identity, joy, beauty, family, and friends were present. Being here is coming home, a place to shape next steps.
I am interested in how my experience of image-making engages my thinking, memories, and emotions and how the images may become an experience and palette for the viewer to consider their ideas and feelings, place and plans. – Louise Russell
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