The thing that I saw.

This is what I saw.

I told you about this yesterday. I made this picture in the Lower 9th Ward. Houses stacked on other houses. Houses stacked on cars. Cars completely left to die after the water finally receded.

The Lower 9th Ward was a vibrant community on the downriver side of the Industrial Canal. It more-or-less sat by itself away from the rest of New Orleans. It started out as small truck farms feeding the restaurants of The French Quarter. Most of the folks who resided there lived in old family homes, many of which were built between 1900 and maybe 1930. They were smallish. They were insured for replacement costs when they were built. The houses passed from family member to family with out a deed or proof of mortgage.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Without the proper paperwork, FEMA funds and LRA funds were unavailable to the people who just lost everything. They might be able to file an insurance claim and be paid at full value. But, a house built at 1,200 square feet that cost maybe $8,000 to build in 1920, cost about $200,000 to replace. The current family members didn’t have that kind of money. The original insurance had never been upgraded and they couldn’t qualify for Federal money.

The community pretty much died.


There was actor Brad Pitt’s foundation called Make It Right, who built maybe 40 new homes clustered around one or two streets. That didn’t make a dent. Worse, the very high end architects who volunteered to design energy efficient modern homes didn’t design houses for our very extreme climate. A number of them have serious issues. One was demolished because it couldn’t be repaired. Make It Right doesn’t seem to want to repair the others. As usual, the whole thing is ending up in court.

That’s the story.

Thank you all for your comments and good wishes. They matter. A lot.

I’ll post like I did yesterday when I can. But, producing yesterday’s post was very emotionally draining.

The picture. I saw it. I photographed it. This is a kind of photojournalism so I don’t tinker with it except to correct things like color and contrast. I do remember that when I made the picture it was so hot. So humid. We had one of those hot, hot summers. That’s what heated the gulf, which fueled the storm, which destroyed 80% of the city. Then, there was the smell. The stench of rotted everything. Of mold. Of the oil and chemicals that flooded everywhere. That’s what I remember when I look at this picture.

A little too much...
A little too much…

We watch Netflix. Netflix tells you when a television series you’ve been watching has new episodes.

Like Walking Dead. Season 4.

For those of you who don’t watch the show, it’s basically a video produced from a comic book about life after some huge armageddon when zombies rule the planet. Or at least, the country. You know. Walkers. Biters. Night of the Living Dead kind of stuff. But worse. Far worse. It never ends. It’s pretty well done.

I don’t get very political here — or anywhere, for that matter — but it occurs to me that zombies already do rule the country. Or was that drones?

That bit of nonsense written, the show is very violent. Bleak. Dystopian. And, it spurred a huge amount of zombie anything. Zombie flying monkeys who turn into lawyers. That may be the best thing I read. Or, was that the other way around?

This picture really isn’t about the show as much as it is about its propping, location selection and color hue. I think that I have the color hue about right. Props? Well, I’m not a production crew. Locations? It appears they are all over the south. There is a website — well really it’s WordPress-based  — that lists every location by episode. I’ll eventually get into that. I’m not that big of a fan to study these things. But, maybe I can go there and take pictures. And, my timing? Oh. Good as usual. Season Five starts in 11 days. We won’t be watching it then. We binge watch via Netflix.

This location. You’ve visited this place with me in the past. Many times. Just not this view. I’ve been saving it. It’s that timing thing again. It is the powerhouse. Down by the riverside.

Quick edit. How cool. WordPress’ very own spell check thinks that “wordpress” is spelled in correctly. Makes you wonder.

Somewhere in the Seventh Ward.
Somewhere in the Seventh Ward.

The whole place looks burnt out. It isn’t. It’s just a little wet from a late storm. But, it was pretty heavily flooded during and after Hurricane Katrina. This neighborhood sat in flood water from August 29 until sometime in mid-November. Just about like my neighborhood.  I have no idea what was in that water, but I don’t want to find out. I had my old wet darkroom stored in an out building. Everything was destroyed. But what concerned me most was the stainless steel film developing tanks. They were well designed to handle chemicals. Most photo process chemicals are pretty mild and benign, but if you process color film, some chemicals are strong. When I found these tanks, they were corroded and eaten through. In seven weeks. All officials denied the existence of anything harmful in the flood waters. Really?

Obviously, this neighborhood hasn’t recovered yet. Maybe a few people are living there now. But, I’m sure it is a ghost town compared to pre-storm. About this chair? And, those bricks? Likely, somebody hangs here. Maybe a couple some bodies. But, not on the day that I stopped by.

Not much to taking this picture. I decided to use the three-legged chair as the main subject, shoot with a real small aperture so that there is a lot of sharpness in the background to give you a sense of the neighborhood.

9 Ward Post copy
Rain falls on the yet to be fully rebuilt Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Things are going to get a little busy around my normal posting time, so here goes. Sunday. Oh yeah. That’s gonna get a little weird too. I’ll deal with that later.

Anyway. A few weeks ago, I took a couple of out-of-town friends on a tour of The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. They were pretty amazed that not more property had been repaired and restored. They also were pretty unimpressed with the Make It Right Homes. Brad Pitt’s project. I have to say, that after a few years, those Disney-like homes look pretty worn and tattered. So. I decided to go back and work. I usually go back and wander around every month or so. But, I’ve been a little busy and I haven’t gotten back as often as I should. I went back on a good day for what I was feeling. Dark. Stormy. Bleak. I don’t care how many homes have been built by Make It Right, or the few that have been built by home owners who managed to cobble together enough money to rebuild, it still looks and feels very sad. It’s coming to eight years.

This picture. Hmmmm… Music was the key. I played a somewhat new Neil Young song called Ramada Inn. It’s long. I still managed to play it about five or six times. The lyrics have nothing to do with this place. They are about a couple who have been married “for forever” and alcohol is getting in the way. But, the melody just set the tone for this work. Dark. Brooding.