Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography 2018 Finalist Elijah Barrett Elijah Barrett
Rockport is an account of the weeks and months after Hurricane Harvey swept through the community of Rockport, Texas and the surrounding area in 2017. On its surface, this group of photographs takes the form of a traditional photo essay, but it preserves what might otherwise be considered the outtakes or rejects, generating an interpretive retelling of my experience sorting through the visual evidence of the hurricane’s aftermath.
While photographing, I found myself squinting, either to shield my eyes from the glaring sunshine or to take a closer view of something before me. Reviewing the work, I observed that many of my photographs demanded a similar kind of squinting in order to see the bare description of the destruction, the clash between the formal elements in the abstract still lifes, or the bright glint of light reflecting off the water.
Rockport thus materialized not only into in a documentary account, but also a meditation on seeing and perceiving disaster. In a time when hurricanes and other natural disasters appear more frequent and severe, these photographs ask us to reflect on the natural impulse to shield one's eyes or divert one’s attention from what is overwhelming, and the strain that is required to see these hard realities more clearly. Amid these observations, it is my hope that this work offers a quiet testament to the unique and still alluring shimmer of the Gulf Coast that perseveres amid the destruction.
~ Elijah Barrett