Last year when I was writing my editor’s note for the 2021 Photo Issue, I admittedly got wrapped up in the “comeback” of it all. It had been two years since our last photo issue and at that stage of the pandemic, even the slightest return to normalcy elicited hope in some of the most skeptical among us. Unfortunately, as we now know all too well, that hope is often dashed by the next major news event or tragedy that requires our energy, our empathy, and our extra materials and dollars (if we are privileged enough to have them in the first place). It’s exhausting at best and demoralizing at worst; and while I promise to end this intro on a relatively high note, I don’t want to sugarcoat the very real anger or melancholy that I and lots of other people are feeling.
Focusing my energy on hoping no longer feels optimistic, it feels futile. And I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom that rings true. Instead, I’ve recently switched my focus to finding relief and protection—for myself, for people I know and love, and for people in my community. The two powers rely on each other to work: You find relief when you feel protected, and you feel protected when you find relief.
When the pandemic first started and the very first lockdown was afoot, ANTIGRAVITY editor-in-chief Dan Fox called Zoom hangs for each department of the magazine. And although the photo team Zoom was hilariously short (I think we officially called it at 10 minutes because many of our contributing photographers—myself included—fit somewhere into the quiet, solitary, sometimes socially anxious stereotype that photography tends to attract), it was heartwarmingly well-attended. Even during one of the most bizarre and devastating human experiences of the 21st century, to know that we all still showed up was a relief.
Last month, when the court formerly known as supreme overturned the right to a safe and legal abortion, an overwhelming number of AG photographers dropped what they were doing to document the reactions to the decision. To see my friends and colleagues all show up again on that day made me feel protected.
You will see images from those protests in this issue. You will also see portraits and street photography and live music and conceptual art. Dan likes to say that the Photo Issue exists as both a showcase for contributing photographers as well as a summertime palate cleanser amidst the heat and turmoil of life in New Orleans. This issue was designed to provide relief, and I hope you find a glimmer of that in these pages. The photographers highlighted here show up and do the work, and it is an honor to present some of their finest work to you. —Katie Sikora
Photo of the author by Sam Weil
Cover photo by Benry Fauna