CUT - OFF
Cut Off is just one of many small towns located south of the Intracoastal Canal in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, and it is here is where I spent my entire life. Bayou Lafourche runs through the center of the Parish, hence its name, and the only useful directions are “Up the Bayou” and “Down the Bayou.” Driving down the bayou to my grandparents house, I see the shrimp and supply boats along the main road, a hint at what powers the local economy. Inside the floodgates, it would be hard to tell this area apart from many others in the state. Outside their safety, however, the true nature of our situation becomes immediately evident.
Coastal communities exist within a fine balance of industrial, environmental, and cultural factors. A sustainable community recognizes these elements and can be economically viable while also preserving the ecosystem which it was built upon. The bayou communities of Louisiana’s Gulf coast, however, are not sustainable. Over three generations, the landscape of the Bayou has drastically changed; the Bayou my grandpaw knew is one I only know from hurricane damaged family albums.
As much as 18% of US oil imports pass through the area, servicing over 90% of oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Canals for supply transport criss-cross throughout the marsh, floodgates stop the flow of water, and on top of this, sea level rise continues to swallow large swaths of land. The oil industry cannot last forever, and what happens when it is gone? Looking back at times when the oil industry slowed, I know that it will not end well. What will people do when the oil industry dies and there is no more marsh for seafood populations to sustain themselves? Even this assumes there will still be land for people to live on.
In reality, Louisiana is a collage of disastrous infrastructural, socioeconomic, and environmental issues. No single answer to the cause of Louisiana’s disappearing coast tells the entire story, however, the effects of climate change compound them all. When the Bayou dies, the question should not be “what killed it,” rather, “why did we let it die?” Everyday I learn more about a family history I never knew I had, and everyday I see that history eroding away.
CUT - OFF is a continuously growing and evolving body of work. Much like the destroyed photo albums of my family history, I make this work now to show my future children a home that will no longer exist. I hope that what remains can be saved. If not, let this project stand as an artifact of a people, culture, and land that will have been lost to the Gulf.