Robert Maxwell Finds Quiet Potential
The last time Robert Maxwell was in New Orleans was before hurricane Katrina hit the city, and even nine years later, the change is obvious. It's quieter there than it was before. The pride is still there, and the native love for the place goes unchanged, but the tourists have dwindled and left behind a silence and stillness. “It broke my heart,” Robert explains.
He was there on assignment from New York Times Magazine to photograph Quvenzhané Wallis, the unbelievably young actress who burst onto the scene in 2013 with her Academy Award Nomination for Beasts of the Southern Wild at the remarkable age of 10. Unlike the rest of his visit to New Orleans, his experience with the young actress was not heartbreaking at all. Instead, he found something beautiful.
The Wallises invited Robert into their home to photograph their daughter. What he found was no actress, no stage mom, no ignored siblings. "I spent about an hour and a half, two hours with her father in the backyard,” Robert tells it. “What a solid, solid foundation that little girl’s got. Unbelievably so. Discipline, love, morals. It was really refreshing.”
What we see in Robert’s photograph is the stillness and quiet that Robert felt on his visit to the city. Quvenzhané is at the family pool, her pants rolled up, her legs in the water. She has scripts to the side and one open on her lap. She's in control. She's young, we can see how young she is, and we know it's her future on her lap, her choice to pick one of these scripts to work on. After an Oscar Nomination and the lead in the upcoming Holiday Blockbuster Annie, she has her choice to make, and in the rarest of moments, we see this young girl in that decision.
What is remarkable, almost alarming as a viewer, is to see this girl in this decision alone. Her family supports her and her choices, and always have, but there is no pressure to make any decisions or go in any directions that she doesn’t want to go in. “I was in a wonderful home with a young girl that whether she wants to be a movie star or anything else will achieve it,” Robert says. Her parents don't feel or express the need to direct her away from where she wants to go. Robert met the rest of the family, and each of Quvenzhané’s siblings have their own hobbies that are equally supported in the Wallis home. "They each have their own thing," Quvenzhané explains to NYTimes Magazine.
In their plot of New Orleans, Robert found the same quiet and stillness as the rest of New Orleans. But in this home, it's a quiet support, a quiet collective to bolster every dream. Whether it's the little league game on Saturday, or a big Hollywood opening. Every Wallis will have their moment, but today belongs to Quvenzhané.