PhotoNOLA: Laurie Peek: In Lieu of Flowers
This week we are sharing some of our discoveries from the PhotoNOLA Reviews an annual celebration of photography in New Orleans.
Laurie Peek is a fine art photographer based in New York. Her vast career in photography includes years working as a photojournalist as well as an arts promoter.
In 2020 her son, Jackson, drowned in Mexico. There was no funeral due to restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. What physically remained was the shipped cremains of her son.
As humans, we encounter life events that shake us to the core. An artist’s continuous journey to find clarity of meaning offers a path to embrace obstacles in search of healing.
Peek’s recent series In Lieu of Flowers is dedicated to her son’s memory. Yet, this work represents so much more than a dedication. Peek bravely illuminates the inconceivable with beauty and grace, offering the viewer a path that leads to healing and hope even in the most turbulent of times.
In Lieu of Flowers is dedicated to the memory of my son, Jackson Turner, who drowned in Tulum, Mexico in 2020. Because of covid there was no funeral, only his shipped cremains. It is also for my mother, my grandmothers, teachers, and friends whose funerals I could not attend, as well as for all those who’ve experienced a similar loss, particularly in this age of covid. In my son’s case, as many do, I asked well-wishers to donate to a cause in lieu of sending flowers. These are the flowers that were not sent.
My process combines a mélange of materials and techniques that include cyanotypes, pressed flowers, plants (mostly from my garden), a light pad, water, and shadows. I fuse the resulting separate elements into a multi-layered, ghostly image which I print on semi-transparent vellum. I then gild the back of the vellum with gold or silver-toned metallic leaf and finally varnish the gilded photographs.
Each image has a distinct character in keeping with the people I knew. The flora, once alive, will die. The archival images will last for some time. The gilding with its metallic sheen is suggestive of illuminated manuscripts and sacred objects. Subtle variations in the hand-painted brushwork make each print unique. Creating the work has been cathartic.
After he died, I discovered my son had set aside some photographs of himself along with an enigmatic note to me: “Live life as if time had stopped.” If photography can be said to freeze time, it seems I’m fulfilling his dictum with this work.
Laurie Peek is an award-winning fine art and documentary photographer with a knack for elevating the everyday. Growing up in Sarasota, Florida, she then attended high school in Charleston, SC. Studying with Nathan Lyons at the Visual Studies Workshop/SUNY Buffalo, she got her MFA in Photography in the late 1970s. While working at The George Eastman House Museum of Photography in Rochester, NY, she immersed herself in the history of photography. She then taught photography in Washington DC for two years.
Moving to New York City in the 80s, Peek became a photo archivist, working for the Bettmann Archive and later as photo librarian for Sygma Photo News. Inspired by events of the day, she then became a photojournalist covering issues like toxic dumps, crime, politics, negligent landlords, as well as anti-nuke and other protest movements for publications that included The Village Voice, The Brooklyn Paper, City Limits, The Progressive and The New York Times. Her photographs were also featured in film documentaries Tupac-Resurrection and Koch. As staff photographer for NY City’s Dept. of General Services, she documented the city’s community gardens, housing, and Mayor Ed Koch for exhibitions and annual reports.
After a second career selling creative services to corporations, in recent years Peek worked as administrator and gallery directory for The Art Students League’s Vytlacil campus in Sparkill, NY. A decade ago, she returned to her fine art photography full-time, winning awards and exhibiting her work across the US and internationally.
Peek’s work has appeared in photography publications Fraction Magazine and The Photo Review. A selection from “In Lieu of Flowers” has been accepted into the 17th Julia Margaret Cameron Awards exhibit in Barcelona, Spain. She is a finalist in the 2021 International Garden Photographer of the Year competition.
Peek resides in the New York City suburbs where she is an avid gardener and supporter of environmental and civic causes.
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