This is the place. Where the final battle of the war was fought over ten days in January, 1815. Even though the Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814. it was not ratified by The U.S. Congress until February, 1815. That almost seems like a perfect New Orleans kind of thing. A little late. And, five miles downriver.
General Andrew Jackson lead a small American force in an overwhelming victory over a much larger British force. The U.S. Army, Marines and Navy were helped out by Jean Lafitte’s pirates and Choctaw warriors.
Today, the battlefield is known as the Chalmette National Park. This picture was made at just about the point where Jackson’s troops amassed waiting for the British forces. In the background there are two important locations.
Although you can’t see it, along the tree line is the National Cemetery at Chalmette. It was established in 1864 for members of the Union Army who died in Louisiana. There are veterans of the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I & II, Korean War and Vietnam War buried there. There are also four veterans who served in War of 1812 buried at the location, but only one fought in The Battle of New Orleans. Further back is a major oil refinery. It is owned by PBF Energy of New Jersey and produces about 189,000 barrels of oil per day. From the amount of writing, you can tell which one I think is more important.
That’s the history. A brief history. The picture? I made it while I was touring around with a friend of mine who had never seen the battlefield or the cemetery. I shot it at probably the worst time of day. Around noon. So, I tinkered with it. In post production.
Eight years. Funny how time flies. As you know, I rarely publish pictures or words that aren’t mine. I do that for a number of reasons. Most of them are mostly about artistic integrity. Some are for legal reasons. Others are simply because I don’t see the point in aggregating or curating other’s work. There are plenty of other bloggers who do that. And, they do that well. After all, I produce my own work. I do not see a time when I’ll stop. It’s what I do. But, every now and then, a moment comes when I either have to commemorate it or reflect on it… something that was so terrible that I must move beyond the limited scope of my work. I hope that you understand.
August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina made landfall at Buras, Louisiana. It headed towards New Orleans . It rained hard. The winds blew hard. The levees broke. And, the city flooded. So, did much of the region. You know the rest. We suffered as a neighborhood. We suffered as a city. We suffered as a state. We suffered as a region. We suffered as a country. It’s all history. I’m not here to rehash anything. I’m just here to remember… and reflect. And, think. Nothing else. At the end of the day, I’ve moved on. I’ve worked hard. I moved to New Mexico for some years. I returned. To New Orleans. The call of my adopted home was just too strong. I lost some things. And, I gained others. I can tell you that the things that I lost were not important. They things I gained are far more precious.
Later today, there will be bell ringing ceremony, a moment of silence and the scattering of flowers on the water. But, I won’t be attending. It’s not that important to me. Instead, I will be photographing in The Lower Ninth Ward. It is there that people suffered as much or more than the other neighborhood in New Orleans. Today, it’s pretty quiet in the area closest to the canal. A few people have returned. They live in homes that they had built or that were built by actor Brad Pitt’s Make it Right organization. Much of the area has returned to nature. We have a phrase, “it ain’t der no mo’. ” Well , for the most part, the Lower Ninth Ward — at least on the lake side of Claiborne Avenue – ain’t der no mo. To be sure, much of New Orleans has returned and recovered, perhaps better than before the storm. New construction abounds. More new people have moved to the city. They seem to be helping us. They are young. They are energetic. They are helping to shape things that are good for the city. But, things are different. My friends say that. I feel it. That’s okay. Eventually, I’ll feel more at home. Things change. And, that’s good.
These pictures. First off, let me be very clear. I didn’t make, take, photograph, capture or snap any of the pictures that you see in front of you. Nor, are they the most memorable or famous pictures that were produced in the days, weeks, months and years that followed. Here’s why. The very best storytelling images are owned by the photographers who made them. Their rights are protected. As they should be. The images on this post are memorable because they document the after effects of the storm. Most are not well-known. Besides, I’m a photographer. Some say I’m an artist. I don’t like it when somebody steals — er, borrows — my work. So. I won’t do it to someone else. These pictures were curated from images provided by Wiki Commons, NOAA, FEMA or the DOD. The short of it is simple. I already own them. So do you. So does every United States citizen. They are ours. Well, the exception is Wiki. But, their contributors are generous enough to share them and the rules of Creative Commons. Look at them, enjoy them. Think about them They are all part of our collective memories.