Deborah Luster Photographs Grim New Orleans Crime Scenes

Posted by David Ozanich — 26 Jan 2011

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This week's New Yorker brought my attention to the photographer Deborah Luster. In her new show, "Tooth for an Eye," she uses actual crime scenes (usually murder by gunshot) in New Orleans as her subject. Vince Aletti writes in his Critic's Notebook:

Luster turns the locations into memorials, and the subjects of her carefully focussed attention are impossible to ignore. Her format emphasizes that focus by framing each site in a circle not unlike the lens of the view camera she uses. The device is old-fashioned, recalling the circular vignettes of early Kodak prints; for modern-day viewers the effect is both seductive and unsettling, like looking through a peephole or the sight of a gun. Suddenly, we are there, and desolation, desperation, and death are very real.

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Seeking to find out a little more about Luster, I found this story from earlier in the year on NPR which might point to her fascination with the subject matter:

On April 1, 1988, Luster's mother, Jeanne Tovrea, was murdered in her bed by a contract killer who came in through her kitchen window, walked down her hall and shot her five times in the head.


Luster had met the man who years later was convicted of the killing. He had came to her mother's home a short while before she was killed posing as a journalist to interview Tovrea about her ex-husband. Because Luster was the only other person who had seen him, she reasoned that he might be after her as well, she says. For about seven years after her mother's death, Luster says, she was "pretty much a mess."

So she turned to photography.

"My mom had photographed constantly, my grandmother had photographed constantly," she says. "Photography became something that I could think to do to try to dig out of the place I had found myself."

"Tooth for an Eye" is open at the Jack Shainman gallery in New York until February 5th.

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Photos via everyday i show on Live Journal.

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