Developed over the course of two years, Louise Long’s series ‘The Understory’ is a body of work which considers the dichotomy between presence and absence, asking us to negotiate the relationship between the appearance of a landscape and the realities it conceals.
“The Understory is the ecological classification for the lowest-most layer of undergrowth on the rainforest floor, where animal and plant life abounds, but sunlight is scarcest. This series was produced in response to two unique locales – an extinct sugar plantation in the West Indies rainforest, and its neighbouring trading town of Soufriere, on the Island of St Lucia. Two sites inextricably linked not simply through geographic proximity, but social history.
From the darkness of the rainforest, images reveal the history to which the impenetrable undergrowth lay witness: the ruined plantation house, the former sugar cane store, the crumbling church attended fortnightly by workers. Whilst alongside, moments of quotidian modern-day life of the Soufriere community: the Market Square, deserted town houses, swathes of fishing nets on the dock and expectant rum bars. Here, glimpses of the everyday intersect with sublime ruin; unruly natural forces amidst domestic cultivation, humble industry coinciding with historical trauma.
At its heart, ‘The Understory’ aims to examine a human relationship to place. By calling into question the fiction of the wilderness, the series underscores the fundamental fact of landscape cultural environment: a repository of values as ancient as nature itself. But beyond this, the work is a rumination on the reciprocity of past and present – reaching beneath a current state of appearances, and reconsidering history in this new light. The complex and often subtle tensions that characterize places marked by human-hands cannot be overlooked. Yet, how, as outsiders, do we confront these conflicts? The series asks us to consider our role in the landscape: how we should treat the land in light of its perpetual unfolding.” – Louise Long
Louise Long is a photographic artist based in London. Her practice is centered on site-specific enquiry, a duality of research and making in response to natural and manmade environments. Her work is focused on the intersection between photography and other forms of image-making – both as a means to examine the physical materiality of a place, as well as negotiate unseen narratives. The material and handmade is interwoven with the psychological and metaphorical, literary and philosophical, the historical and archaeological.
Louise’s work has been exhibited across Europe, following artist residencies at the Cite des Art Internationale, Paris, and Tomma Rum in Sweden. Louise was awarded the Labyrinth Royal College of Art Photographic Award, and the Travers Smith Graduate CSR Award. Louise holds a Masters from the Royal College of Art in Fine Art and a BA from Cambridge University in Art History.
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