"In and Out of New Orleans" is a compilation of essays from five years of photographing life in post-Katrina New Orleans. The series began after witnessing the traumatic evacuation and migration of over a million people in southeastern Louisiana.
This project was supported in large part by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
When I drive on the bridges that lead in and out of New Orleans, I remember how, as Hurricane Katrina loomed, a million people used these bridges to evacuate the city in a matter of hours. Many city residents stayed behind to confront the dangers of the storm, in part because they did not have access to reliable transportation. When the city flooded, the bridges became concrete islands where survivors sought high ground and waited for evacuation.
Long before the hurricane, there was a subtle yet ominous exodus from New Orleans. Generations of affluent residents fled to the suburbs, pulling their wealth away from the city. During this long-term outmigration, as during the evacuation ahead of Katrina, those with automobiles and other resources had the option to leave, creating urban sprawl and a collection of economically isolated neighborhoods - a pattern seen in many American cities.
New Orleans is an archipelago of neighborhoods, each with its own unique history, economy, and culture. To move through the city is to experience the unmarked yet distinct borders between communities. Because nearly all New Orleans residents share a history a tragedy and celebration, they also share a common sense of purpose. At times, however, there is also a palpable sense of mistrust. My work in New Orleans is an attempt to make connections between people, places and myself - to map out how we can learn about and empathize with one another's experience. This project is ongoing.
To date, I have created three exhibitions from this project. New Orleans: Ins and Outs (Jenkins/Connelly Gallery, September 2006) focuses on evacuation and migration. Uncomfortable Silence (The Darkroom, November 2006) features landscapes of New Orleans emptied of its people. The third exhibition, Love and Concrete (New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery December 2008), documents life along the North Claiborne Avenue underneath an interstate overpass, from the Faubourg Tremé neighborhood through to the Ninth Ward.
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