“It was pitch black and dead quiet,” the New York-based photographer Julia Fox remembers. It was night on the Louisiana bayou, and she and friends watched a mammoth shrimping boat pass them by, its twinkling lights like pinpricks against the obsidian sky. “I’ll never forget that moment because it’s when I knew I was in the right place,” confesses Fox, whose new book PTSD chronicles her six-month-sojourn on the water.
Like 1985’s Ballad of Sexual Dependancy, PTSD is shot on 35mm, and the kinship between Fox and Nan Goldin seems unmistakable. Fox too is driven both by love and a ferocious refusal to be sentimental about it. At the heart of PTSD is the photographer herself and John, a man she met by accident—or fate— down South.
She and a friend didn’t plan their trip to Louisiana; their car gave up somewhere along the way to someplace else, and they wound up staying with a friend on the marina. Fox had a room that shook with impending hurricanes, and the surrounding area was ravaged by unemployment, poverty, and drugs.
“John was somewhat of a brother/lover/best friend all rolled into one,” Fox says of her relationship with the book’s central figure. The images are punctuated by love letters and poems shared between them— they’re Romeo-and-Juliet level tragic. Throughout the tale, told in words and pictures, is the knowledge that the love, for all its intensity, will end one way or another in disaster.
There’s that famous line from Bob Dylan’s It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding): “He not busy being born is busy dying.” It’s that same crazy urgency about being alive, about staring down death and emerging victorious, that drives this book forward.
When asked if John has seen the book, Fox admits that he has not. She wants to go back to Louisiana to show it to him in person. PTSD a story about a young, all-consuming, star-crossed love, but it’s also a story about the land itself and what’s been lost there. Hurricane Katrina, though never mentioned by name, looms large in every frame.
PTSD will be sold exclusively as part of Magic Gallery’s exhibition of the work in NYC.
All images © Julia Fox