“I have now seen sucrose beaches and water a very bright blue. I have seen an all-red leisure suit with flared lapels. I have smelled suntan lotion spread over 2,100 pounds of hot flesh. I have been addressed as “Mon” in three different nations. I have seen 500 upscale Americans dance the Electric Slide. I have seen sunsets that looked computer enhanced. I have (very briefly) joined a conga line.” So begins David Foster Wallace’s infamous treatise on cruise life “Shipping Out” published in Harpers in 1996. The essay, a vivid account of Wallace’s time on a Celebrity Cruise, details the dread that accompanies his catered vacation: “There's something about a mass-market Luxury Cruise that's unbearably sad.”
Inspired by Wallace’s essay, Athens-based photographer Brittainy Lauback embarked on a five-day vacation on the Carnival Liberty cruise ship in order to capture the decadence and leisure promised to American cruisers. The boat, 952 feet in length with 1160 onboard crew and up to a 2974 guest capacity, stops at several ports in the Bahamas. For this new series, Lauback turned her camera away from the obvious seascapes and sunsets and instead focused on the details of cruise life from the exceedingly opulent ship interiors, crowded decks, to various intimate portraits of the people on board. While uncovering the excesses of cruise culture, Lauback simultaneously reveals a larger set of constructed and conflicting desires -- notions related to leisure, human connection, and ultimately, all you can eat buffets disguised as freedom.
Brittainy Lauback received her BFA from University of New Mexico and her MFA from University of Georgia. She has shown work nationally and internationally and was recently featured in "New Southern Photography" at the Ogden Museum of Art in New Orleans. She teaches photography and design at the University of Georgia.