Debbie Fleming Caffery: In Light of Everything

Debbie Fleming Caffery: “In Light of Everything” is showcased from October 6th, 2023, to March 3rd, 2024. Featuring almost 100 striking black-and-white photographs strategically displayed in three unique areas within the museum, this exhibition marks the inaugural career retrospective for the influential Louisiana-born photographer, Debbie Fleming Caffery. The display includes samples from her significant series captured in the American South, Mexico, and France, spanning from the 1970s to the present.
Although Debbie Fleming Caffery has long been acknowledged as a prominent photographer from the American South, her extensive body of work from Mexico, France, and various regions across the United States has elevated her career beyond its Southern origins. In each location where she has focused her lens, Caffery has dedicated substantial periods immersing herself in the lives of the people she photographs. Her work underscores the profound emotional connections between individuals and their surroundings, prompting reflections on social and economic structures, and delving into a diverse range of human relationships and rituals.
In Caffery’s own words, the exhibition encapsulates “that moment, in taking a photograph, when everything works…eyes, guts, heart, life experiences, [and] years of paying attention.” Her distinctive blend of rich shadows, compelling lighting, and mesmerizing long exposures transforms her photographs into meditations on various facets of human experience — faith, the dignity of labor, childhood, and the natural world — presented in ways that are simultaneously familiar and enigmatic.
Spanning three unique spaces at NOMA, “In Light of Everything” commences in the museum’s Great Hall, featuring a selection of the photographer’s most recent work. Visitors encounter Caffery’s large-scale portraits of birds in rehabilitation facilities across Louisiana, New Mexico, and France, radiating a gothic sensibility that unveils the distinct personalities of the birds and underscores Caffery’s enduring relevance as a contemporary artist. The Templeman Galleries on the museum’s second floor house bodies of work initiated in the 1970s and extended through the 2000s. These include images of sugar cane workers in and around Caffery’s home parish, ranging from intimate portraits to intense landscapes, photographs from small-town Mexico where the cultures of the Church and the cantina intersect, depictions of community-building and home life in rural Mississippi, and her most focused series: portraits of Caffery’s friend and muse Polly Joseph in her home. Lastly, in the A. Charlotte Mann and Joshua Mann Pailet Gallery, Caffery’s photographs of churches and religious statuary in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita provide a contemplation on hope and faith.

Accompanying “Debbie Fleming Caffery: In Light of Everything” is a catalogue of the same title, published by Radius Books in October 2023.

The exhibition is organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art and receives support from the Del and Ginger Hall Photography Fund, the Robert and Betty Fleming Family, James and Cherye Pierce, Milly and George Denegre, and the A. Charlotte Mann and Joshua Mann Pailet Endowment.

A portrait of Debbie Fleming Caffery

About the Author

Debbie Fleming Caffery (1948) grew up along the Bayou Teche in southwest Louisiana and still lives in the area. Early on in her career, she was inspired by the work of Dorothea Lange and many of the artists working within the FSA and Federal Arts Project of the WPA during the Depression. Like these forebears, she is interested in telling stories with her pictures, but unlike those earlier photographers, her work is as much artful as it is documentary. Her rich, and dramatic prints are the result of the deep relationships with the people and places she photographs, a visual corollary to the reverence she has for her subjects.
Caffery has photographed the sugarcane industry and its community in Louisiana since the late 1970s. She has also photographed in rural villages in Mexico for many years, creating works that draw connections between those communities and the ones in Louisiana that were so familiar to her from her own upbringing. In 2005, Caffery was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for the work she made of women working in brothels in Mexico. In 2006, she received the Katrina Media Fellowship from the Open Society Foundations to continue to photograph the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Recently Caffery received a commission from the High Museum in Atlanta for their Picturing the South photography initiative. Her monographs include: Carry Me Home (Smithsonian, 1990), The Shadows (Twin Palms Press, 2002) and Polly (Twin Palms Press, 2004), The Spirit & The Flesh (Radius Books, 2009) and Alphabet (Fall Line Press, 2015).


Debbie Fleming Caffery: In Light of Everything
October 6th, 2023 – March 3rd, 2024
New Orleans Museum of Art – Louisiana

Hardcover: 225 pages
Publisher: Radius Books/New Orleans Museum of Art (January 9, 2024)
Language: English
Size: 9.25 x 1 x 12.25 inches
Weight: 3.9 pounds
ISBN-10: 1955161402
ISBN-13: 978-1955161404

Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?

Create Account