Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography 2018 Grantee Anastasia Samoylova Anastasia SamoylovaDocumentary photography is often produced in isolation and against the odds. So this recognition and support from the Michael P. Smith Fund comes as a great affirmation and a very welcome boost. My long-term project, FloodZone,can now be taken to a more concrete stage, as a publication and exhibition, exploring what it means to live with the threat of rising sea levels.
The funding will help me produce the first copies of the book, to be sent to community groups and to commercial publishers. And what greater honor than to present FloodZoneas an exhibition, in 2019 than in New Orleans? This city understands all too painfully just what is at stake.
FloodZoneis an expansive photographic project reflecting and responding to the problem of rising sea levels. The project began in Miami in 2016, when I moved to the area, my first experience living in a tropical environment. It was the hottest summer on record. Through daily walks that constitute an essential part of my practice, I began to realize how the city’s seductive tropical palette and quality of light concealed the growing dissonance between its booming real-estate market and the ocean’s encroachment on its shoreline.
Ocean views are prized in the real-estate world, with little regard for building projects’ locations in high-risk flood zones. Investors seem to turn a blind eye to the reality that Miami is steadily slipping underwater. Miami Beach, in particular, is a striking case study: the artificial island boasts some of the most luxurious properties, but it is subject to regular flooding. Living in Miami is bittersweet: it looks and feels like a paradise, but the only secure roots belong to mangrove trees.
FloodZone is grounded in my longstanding attention to the differences between natural versus constructed landscapes, and to the role that photographs play in constructing collective memories and imagined geographies.
Focusing first on the American South and increasingly on the East Coast—with the ultimate goal of documenting fifty communities at high risk of rising tides in Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas—the project goes beyond the familiar types of images produced in the aftermath of hurricanes and massive flooding. Mixing modes of representation that range from lyrical documentary photographs to images that challenge Southern clichés to metaphoric, allegorical, and constructed photographs—Flood Zone aims to manifest the precarious psychological state of lives that teeter between paradise and catastrophe.
Juror's StatementThis year’s Michael P. Smith Documentary Fund received a number of incredibly compelling entries this year. Photographers from the Gulf region are addressing a range of pressing or under-represented issues including climate change, the legacies of slavery and institutionalized racism, the opioid epidemic, and the vibrant cultural life of the American South. I was most struck by Anastasia Somoylova’s dynamic and poignant engagement with the issue of rising sea levels in her project “Flood Zone.” Somoylova blends visual strategies drawn from the topographic approaches of depicting the landscape and built environment with techniques of installation and assemblage to express not only the urgency of climate change but also a deep sense of foreboding and loss that is often absent from straight depictions of the topic. Her layered approach, keen sense of color, and eye for subtle details takes an issue that is omnipresent yet somewhat abstract and makes it heartbreakingly resonant. As with all the best documentary work, she has found a way to help us see the world anew, thereby imploring us to look and look again.
- Gregory Harris, Assistant Curator of Photography, High Museum of Art
Congratulations to all of the Finalists in the 2018 Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary PhotographyAllison Beonde, As yet titled work from the American South
Elijah Barrett, Rockport