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Deborah N. Luster (American, born 1951)
Untitled
2010
Photogravure on paper
22 1/4 x 30 inches
Edition of 20. Published by Brodsky Center, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Collaborating Master Printer: Randy Hemminghaus.


Deborah Luster

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This photograph is part of a series entitled Tooth for an Eye: A Choreography of Violence in Orleans Parish, which photographer Deborah Luster also published as a book (Twin Palms Publishing, 2010).  The photographs document locations of homicides, committed in the past or more recently in the city of New Orleans, where Luster lives, co-terminus with Orleans Parish, or county. 

A ledger, in which the artist has logged in each image in precise details based on police documentation, describes this photograph as follows: “Tooth for an Eye.  Ledger 05–15. Location: 1200 block of Turo Street [sic] (7th Ward).  Date(s): September 12, 1996.  November 27, 2003, 6:30am. Name(s): Artiero Alvear (55); Leonard Mitchell (49).  Notes: Hit in the head with tire iron.  Gunshot to torso.  Lying on sidewalk.”   

As recorded by Luster, this location looks inconspicuous and desolate, and does not reveal traces of the facts that compelled the artist to document it.  But Luster began this body of work in the late 1990s, in reaction to the violent murder of her mother, in 1988.  Indeed, in her eyes, this place remains haunted. The symmetrical staircases hint at two deaths.  Once a house, the walls in ruin gravitate toward the uneven pavement, under overgrown weeds, pointing down.

Writers have commented on the singular tondo format of Luster’s photographs and found it to reference historical Kodak prints or the lens field of view.  Luster has added that it also derives from disk-shaped carnival wheels of fortune that she collects; as such, her view enables us to connect to the victims’ unforeseen destiny.