Color,, Photographs, Pictures, Ray Laskowitz
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Getting Started

Magnolia Projects

Magnolia Projects

So. I started. I wrote that I was going to begin about the recovery in post-Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. We are approaching our ten-year anniversary. Seems like the right time. I am photographing what still needs work and what has been done. There are a lot of contrasts. There are a lot of similarities. In many ways, I’ve been doing that since I returned to New Orleans. But, the work is much more focused for this series of pictures.

I thought that I would start in the heart of things.

Central City.

Rain was spitting or pouring down in turns. As they say, “When the weather turns bad, the pictures get good.” I don’t know about that, but the weather set the scene.

This picture is a bit of what is left of the Magnolia Projects, officially known as C.J. Peete Housing project. It is abandoned, condemned by HANO (The Housing Authority of New Orleans) and is slowly being torn down and replaced by Harmony Oaks Housing. Rebranded, as they say.

A quick little bit of history.

The original buildings were built in 1941 with the entire location expanding in 1955. The entire area was known for extremely high violent crime rates and for spawning a huge amount of hip-hop artists. At its height, there were 1403 units that housed some 2,100 people. Oddly and accidentally, I photographed Unit 1403 both from in the outside and inside. I’ll show those pictures to you in the next couple of days.

In the 1980s and 90s conditions deteriorated greatly with demolition beginning in 1998. By 2005, only the section built in 1955 had been torn down. Hurricane Katrina did the rest. Well… not exactly. These are strong brick buildings. They were flooded but not destroyed. Some people came back and were asked to vacate in 2008 with the further demolition still continuing. My little bit of poking around found evidence that there may still be a few people using the buildings for shelter. There is no water. No power. No appliances. But, the buildings are strong and somewhat secure. There are plenty of discarded food and drink containers in a few of the buildings as well as some beat up clothing and rolled up blankets and sleeping bags.

New construction has begun in what is now called Harmony Oaks. The first of it was completed in 2011. There are 460 units, a new YMCA and a new school located within it’s boundaries. It includes public housing, mix-income and market rate units. There is a lot more to come, especially as Central City continues on its steady march toward gentrification and new urbanism.

More housekeeping.

WordPress sent me an email yesterday. I’ve never had one of those. It seems that Storyteller is now one of 99 photography blogs that it on their recommended list. I guess that’s something. WordPress claims about 120,000,000 blog sites. Of course, that’s very mixed content. It also includes I- don’t-know-how-many sleeping or dead sites from which there haven’t been posts in months. Or, even in years. Even so… congratulations to me. It does mean a lot.

In the last — well, less than 24 hours — I’ve had a large number of new subscribers. Welcome, all of you. I hope you enjoy my work which does veer around a lot. At its core, Storyteller is always about pictures. Sometimes I write a lot. Sometimes I don’t. Since I’m embracing on this new project, I’ll be writing more.

One more thing. My usual style and color palette is pretty bright and energetic. I’m not all that sure that is appropriate for the subject matter. What do you think?



  1. If it looks good it is appropriate. And it looks good. Then also, you document renewal after destruction so it is appropriate on at least two counts.
    Congrats on your WP stats!


    • Thank you, Vera. I suppose what really matters is the light. On rainy days, with more creamy light pictures like this energy. On a bright, sunny dusk something pretty comes out. That recombination from WordPress is driving more and more follower here. That’s good. I hope. 🙂


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