Saturday, March 24, 2007
Photographs of Photographs
These photographs were taken in the lower 9th ward in New Orleans, about 7 months after Hurricane Katrina. My family visits NOLA often. We were not touring the 9th ward as part of a "devastation tour", but on our own as part of my parents' ongoing efforts to absorb and participate in the changes that have overtaken this magnificent city. I took a lot of pictures that day, of Lakeview, New Orleans East, Gentilly, the 9th ward, Mid-City, and the surprisingly large Vietnemese community on the east side of town. These pictures, however, seemed the most beautiful and sad when I looked them over later. The photo albums were laid open on the green, lush lawns, undoubtedly having drifted out of one of the open doorways or windows of the many homes in the neighborhood on a wave of flood-water. These singing, smiling, dancing people may have lived blocks and blocks away, for all I know. The waters could have carried the album a great distance, as it did with countless other heirlooms and appliances.
I wanted to rescue these pictures, to find the dancing people and return to them this archive of church gatherings and family reunions. Instead, I took these photographs of photographs. I showed them to my 7th-grade students in Los Angeles, along with other pictures of New Orleans both before and after the flood. It seems strange that now I have these photographs, even if they are just photographs of the originals, instead of the people who posed for and originally took them. It doesn't seem like they should be mine, which may be the reason I want to post them here. To share them opens up the possibility that I can somehow return them to their owners, however improbable that may seem.