Storyteller. Not always.
I owe you all an apology. I haven’t been telling many stories lately. My efforts have been half-baked. I’m not sure why.
Yeah. It’s been un-Godly hot. Many of us have been talking about it. It’s a different kind of heat than we are used to. There is a second line on August 23rd. A week or so from now. The season is starting. Already. Seems like it just ended. I was talking to a photographer friend of mine about it. He’s like me. He’s out on the street every week. He’s not looking forward to it. I’m not either.
But, that’s not it. That’s an easy excuse.
I’ve just been in a weird funk. I feel like I’ve lost a little of my mojo. I can work when I get paid. I can’t work for myself. You tell me. Which on is really more important? There seems to be a lot of that going on. Some of my blogging buddies have been talking about writing blocks. Some took a break. A few took a break saying that they would return. They’ve yet to return.
I’ve been also sort of denying a few things. We are two weeks away from the ten-year anniversary of something that changed my life. My city’s life. Just about everybody’s life who lived in New Orleans. I lost a house. I relocated to New Mexico for a time. I came back. Some of us did and some of us didn’t. For those of us who returned, so much changed. For a while that was okay. But, then it wasn’t.
My way of dealing with the decade anniversary of the storm making landfall at Buras, Louisiana on August 29, 2005, was to ignore it. But, that’s not possible. There is no media outlet in world that is letting this pass without publishing as many stories as possible about it. My hometown newspaper, which has morphed into NOLA.com, published a story that contains a database of every possible story that they published about Katrina. They should. They worked throughout the earliest days of storm recovery. They were journalistic heroes. The New York Times has been publishing at least three stories a week about New Orleans and our recovery. The Chicago Tribune chimed in with an editorial written by an idiot — yes, that’s the only way to describe her — saying that Chicago needs their own Hurricane Katrina to serve as sort of a reset button. Yes. The Tribune is backtracking. But, still… I would never wish a storm like Katrina on anybody.
Anyway. My friend and fellow photographer, George Long, posted something on the local photographer’s group on Facebook about this place. It is the New Orleans Katrina Memorial. He asked if we knew it existed. I certainly didn’t. But, as you already have learned about me, there’s a lot I don’t know. There are things I discover that people have known about for years. Oh well. Perfection is for angels.
I decided to go there yesterday. I decided a lot. In about ten minutes. Here’s some of what I decided.
- I went to the memorial at around noon. The worst time of day to work. And, around the hottest part of the day. I want to feel the heat of the day. I wanted to feel what it felt like during the summer of Katrina. Nobody was there. Just me. I want to make you feel it too. Light shouldn’t matter. Deal with it.
- I decide to photograph the memorial through my eyes. There are traditional ways to photograph these things. There is also a more personal way. I chose the latter way of working. I need to do that more often.
- I put myself back on a picture a day schedule. For 14 days. Two weeks. I will post my own memorial to the storm. Everything you see will be a day old. At most. You will see it the way I see it. The pictures will all have some storm reference. I will take you back to places you may have seen in the past. Maybe not. That’s a lot of work. It’s worth it. For me. For you.
- On August 29th, there will be memorials all over the city and region. I don’t know which one I’ll photograph. But rest assured, I’ll be there. Somewhere.
All of those points are a real change in my thinking. You know that if you been reading Storyteller for any length of time.
Okay? Good? Any ideas?
So. These pictures. First, I didn’t mess around with them most in post production. Mostly, I’ve corrected contrast, highlights and shadows. I’ve helped the color. But, that’s it. This is more like photojournalism, Magnum style. One more thing. I didn’t touch or move anything. You see what I found and photographed.
I found the stuffed animal almost right off. Somebody left it as their own memorial. It hasn’t been there long, but already mold is starting to claim it.
The second picture is a very short version of the Katrina story. The things to know about this place was that it was given birth by the Coroner of New Orleans. Every funeral home helped out. There are 21 unidentified bodies here. There are an additional 62 unclaimed bodies buried. That makes a total of 83. Nobody knows why some bodies weren’t claimed. Likely, they belonged to families who had no idea what happened to their kin. They probably still don’t know.
The third picture is a summer picture. The wreath is faded. Grass cuttings have been spewed onto the memorial stone. By the way, there are no names on these stones.
The fourth picture is about me. Dried flowers and my shadow. I think I said it. This is personal.
The fifth picture is a study in contrasts. Pine branches are evergreen. They grow forever. Supposedly. The stuff in the background is left over from either the storm itself, or, from the building of the memorial. I’m not sure which one. There was nobody around to ask.
The sixth picture is the memorial logo on the memorial fence.
Not to worry. Not every post on every day will be this long. Or, anywhere near this long. I just had a lot to tell you today.