Wonder South

Surplus & Sight

Dispatch 36: Where land and water blur

Words and Photographs by Virginia Hanusik

An intrepid photographer now based in New York City, Virginia Hanusik spent several years living in New Orleans and venturing into the wet, wild kudzu of surrounding south Louisiana to capture some remarkable scenery, a lost land of old growth and culture clashes threading through the vanishing world of Louisiana's eroding coastline. She says:

"Louisiana is a water world. The boundaries between land and water are blurred in the most beautiful, terrifying, and complex ways."

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Hanusik's work can be viewed at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans as part of the group show "Constructing the Break," on view now through October 6. 

Drawing from her projects "A Receding Coast," "Impossible City," and "Louisiana Cont'd," Hanusik provided a special selection of Louisiana images for a #WStakeover of the Wonder South Instagram account this summer, and here is an edited version of her posts which spanned a full week. Those images and captions are reposted below ~

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This is a picture of my favorite places on earth—Fontainebleau State Park near Mandeville, Louisiana. 

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I spent a lot of time exploring the landscape on a kayak. Some of the best experiences I’ve had are at sunrise like at Fort Proctor in Saint Bernard Parish which is pictured above. 

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Since the Mississippi River Flood of 1927, the river has been leveed and tamed to protect communities along its banks. However, as a result of this infrastructure, the natural course of the river has been altered and a land loss crisis has ensued. If you drive to Venice, Louisiana, you will see one of the most vulnerable parts of the state where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico.

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My background in architecture draws me to buildings like this one in Delacroix which have been elevated to mitigate recurring flooding from storm surge.

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Golden hour in the Parish. Yscloskey, Louisiana.

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Kayaking in the winter can be worth it if you’re able to capture that beautiful light on Lake Maurepas at sunrise.

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Because of the region’s vulnerability to flooding, there has been a lot of divestment and retreat toward urban centers like New Orleans. You can see remnants of commercial spaces as you pass the flood protections gates in Saint Bernard Parish. Reggio, Louisiana.

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Who wouldn’t want to live on a houseboat? I mean, come on! Ruddock, Louisiana.

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I’ve been so lucky to have wandered the quiet bayous that pour into Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartain. I’ve been able to capture these special places because my best friend has a kayak and I get to tag along. When we aren’t about to flip over the car on a cliff of mud going down to the river (yes, cliffs exist in Louisiana), we are in awe of the somber beauty of this place. Blind River, Louisiana. 

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I would be so bold as to say that you’ve never really seen a sunset until you’ve seen one on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I don’t think I am. Mandeville, Louisiana.

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Preach. All day. In the swamp. Blind River, Louisiana.

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Welcome to the “end of the world” a.k.a. Delacroix, Louisiana. There is only one way in and out of this small fishing community which is experiencing rapidly encroaching water. 

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Shell Beach, Louisiana.

#WONDERSOUTH