Duck Blinds : Louisiana is a twelve-year photographic documentation of unique duck blinds discovered in the southwestern waterways of Louisiana along the Calcasieu River and its adjoining bays near Lake Charles. I began this project in Summer 2001 when two retired teacher friends, Ray and Denton Henrich, took me on a boat ride to see blinds they had spotted while fishing. The first photographs were made on that initial boat ride and the most recent photographs were taken in October 2013. Currently, the series is comprised of approximately one hundred photographs. A narrative component was added to the project in 2011 when I recorded interviews with elder hunters who’ve been hunting and constructing blinds in this region for over sixty years.
The blinds of the Calcasieu River and its environs are accessible only by boat. All are located in the public waterway which may be used without charge, though a stipulation requires that no blind block waterway traffic. The blinds, a form of vernacular architecture, are built by the hunters who use them – providing necessary shelter and camouflage while they await the arrival of ducks and geese – and all are handmade using scrap lumber and native plant material such as palmetto fronds, Spanish moss, roseau cane and river foliage. Cypress and other trees may be used as part of the structural framework, although in shallow water wooden supporting posts may be driven into the muddy river bottom. Sections of the framework may be assembled on land and brought in by boat, or the entire blind may be assembled on site.
The photographs were shot while I was standing on the flat bow of recreational fishing boats, one piloted by my friends the Henrichs and the other by my nephew, Johnny Watkins. I used a Mamiya 7 rangefinder film camera with a 6×7 centimeter negative for all the photographs and color negative film. The original prints were all Type C photographs which I printed myself using a Kreonite paper processing machine. Now, no longer having access to a color darkroom, I make high resolution scans of the (film) negatives and produce archival pigment prints.
Nell Campbell is a documentary photographer living in Santa Barbara. Campbell was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, and spent her childhood years in New Orleans and Lake Charles, Louisiana. Campbell’s forty-year pursuit of documentary projects includes subjects concerned with cultural representation and issues of social justice: anti-war demonstrations of the Vietnam and Iraq wars; organizing drives of the United Farm Workers Union in 1976; a six-year project on Mardi Gras in New Orleans; panorama landscape photographs of wetlands in southwest Louisiana; documentation of Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; street photography in Havana, Cuba, and campesinos in the Pinar del Rio and Valle de los Ingenios regions of rural Cuba; and her current project, Duck Blinds : Louisiana, a twelve- year documentation of handmade hunting blinds located on the Calcasieu River and its adjoining waterways near Lake Charles.
In addition to her photographic work, Campbell works as a teacher, photo editor, and writer. Louisiana Cultural Vistas, the magazine of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, published two of her photographic essays in 2004 and 2006. An image from Duck Blinds : Louisiana was published in the January 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Since 2000, Campbell has been writing profile articles on photographers which have been published in Photographer’s Forum, BW, and Color magazines.
A selection of images from Duck Blinds : Louisiana was exhibited at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans in April 2012. Campbell is represented by the Jane Deering Gallery of Santa Barbara, California. Campbell’s photographs are included in the permanent collection of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans.