These images question the relationship between human destiny and the surrounding environment by combining southern Louisiana landscapes with mugshots of African American men. I was initially moved to create environmental portraits during a flight when I noticed the visual correlation between urban streets and cornrows. In this portfolio, I combined mugshots, cityscapes, and large scale landforms taking inspiration from Dorothea Lange's dustbowl observation "As the soil erodes so does society."
Mugshots capture people in a highly emotional state, often becoming state documents which hold surprising emotional power. The central figures were appropriated from Mugshots.com and Lafayettemugshots.com. Mugshots are a prolific source of contemporary vernacular imagery employing an anthropological aesthetic. Currently, Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the nation with African American incarceration five times that of whites proportionally. Thus, mugshots may well be the most complete public visual archive of the African American male population.
The mugshots are layered with Google Earth images of southern Louisiana including: flooding after Katrina, cloud systems, barrier islands, and industrial environments. Some landscapes are patterned, while others are single views. The Google Earth images focus on dominant features in the landscape often including highly polluted water systems. From the dissociated aerial view, aqueous dispersion of toxins appear as brightly colored abstractions.
It is frequently stated that individuals are products of their environment. However, the natural world is usually left out of the picture. These environmental portraits aim to visually unify the natural world and the individual. Chief Seattle said "We are part of the earth and it is part of us ... What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth." This portfolio asks the question "what if he was right?"
Calvin Beroid 2