María Isabel LeBlanc (1969) was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. LeBlanc is a first-generation American and daughter to Cuban and Colombian parents. Her practice investigates her relationship with the landscape, both as a documentarian and as a humanist. Her projects concentrate on a specific geographical region of Northern California, where the land provides markers of time and history. She works primarily with the large and medium analog process, working as sole craftsman from the moment the negative is exposed to the creation of the final gelatin silver print.
LeBlanc graduated with a BA in Romance Languages and a Masters of Education from the University of Georgia, Athens. After several years teaching English as a Second Language, she pursued photographic studies at the Atlanta College of Art. She lives and works in Santa Cruz, CA.
De la Luz, “of the light”, refers to the special light I experienced when photographing out in the fields in northern Monterey County, California. The crops, and more, unfold under the sun in full view. A search for the American dream is played out under this light as well.
For years during my commute along Highway 1, when I drove by the agricultural fields near Monterey County, California, I would see from my window the figures of the workers streaking by. Even though they labored out in the open, their day-to-day remained opaque to me. I found this disconcerting, as most of the parents of the students that I teach are field workers. Motivated to understand more about the communities of which my students are a part, I decided to stop one day.
At first, these vast expanses, full of people by day yet eerily empty in the late afternoons, gave me a sense of freedom. The fields and crops were laid out in geometric patterns and stretched as far as the eye could see; nature taken and manipulated, oddly beautiful. I observed evidence of time passing faster than the seasons, as multiple plantings at an accelerated pace are made possible by the continuous rotation of crops and temperate climate. One day the fields were abundant and the next day they lay barren.
De la Luz became grounded when I turned my lens to the people that worked the land. The gathering of the crops requires back-bending physical labor and the days are long, starting at dawn. In several portraits, a cloth covers the face or the person looks away, reflecting their often anonymous status in society. Through these interactions, the fields took on a new light and I came to learn that these open landscapes are deceiving in their simplicity.
De la Luz was photographed in film, primarily with my 4×5 view camera. The prints are hand-printed silver gelatin, selenium toned prints.
To see more of Maria Isabel’s work, please visit her website: https://mariaisabelleblanc.com