An-My Lê (b. 1960), Film Set (“Free State of Jones”), Battle of Corinth, Bush, Louisiana, 2015. Inkjet print, 40 × 56 1/2 in. (101.6 × 143.5 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy the artist and STX Entertainment, Los Angeles
Narrator: An-My Lê made all of these photographs in New Orleans and the surrounding area. The group began with the photograph of a battle scene. Lê made it on the set of Free State of Jones, a film about a rebel force that fights the Confederacy in the American Civil War.
An-My Lê: There’s something about working with history in the present time that ended up being so attractive to me.
The film set was 2015 and I returned to New Orleans 2016 and this was right after the Charleston Massacre, and all of the memorials to Confederate Generals and other leaders were being contested.
All of the monuments were be asked to be taken down and there was a huge controversy, so I started photographing those monuments because they are such an incredible reminder of the history but also perhaps there was something about history repeating itself, or something about progress not quite being progress. So this looping around of past, present, and future was interesting. I think as the elections became more complicated and we all got anxious about trying to make sense of what people were telling us, I gained a kind of urgency and I realized that the film set and the monuments went hand-in-hand, and I realized that I needed something that was more about the present, but also with the help of those other two sets of pictures, question the future and connect us back to our history. And so I went back down to New Orleans around election time and made a lot of photographs then.