Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Day 4 - Times Picayune


Wow, what an amazing day. We got the opportunity to spend the day with 4 Times Picayune photojournalists, four photographers who were on the front-lines when Katrina hit and who were the first to show the world what was really happening in New Orleans. I rode around with photographer Chris Granger, along with Anthony and my academic director Colleen Mullins. My first impressions of the newsroom at the Times was, "WOW. COOOOOL." It was exactly like what you see on TV, and I can just imagine the drama that has unfolded there. Chris was incredibly helpful and enthusiastic right from the start. He gladly took us into the printing press - so cool! It was like children at Christmas when we walked in there, our faces lit up and of course we took lots of photos. We tagged along with Chris to an assignment where he photographed the owner of a well-known Po-boy shop. And that was where we saw the tallest house in N'awleans! Hot dog was that thing high up! Come hell and high water again and that home-owner will be dry as a bone. Chris than graciously chauffeured us around town, showing us the places where he photographed, areas that were devastated by the storm, and a very interesting chapel in a graveyard full of body parts . . . That's right. After meeting up for lunch we headed back to the base. The kindness the Times showed us was topped when they gave each of us a gift - a copy of the Times Picayune book with photos from Katrina. I was truly blown away by the out-pouring of love they showed us students. I really don't know if they realize just how much that meant to us, to me, and how amazing of an experience that was. By far it was the best part of the trip and I give all my thanks to Doug Parker, Chris Granger, and the rest of Times staff for allowing us to have that opportunity. You truly made an impact on me and I will never forget you. Thank you.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I'm home.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day 2 - Miss Gertrude LeBlanc


So I refused to be lazy this morning and got up early to do some sunrise shooting! We headed to the lower 9th ward, in the neighborhood where Brad Pitt and Make It Right are rebuilding homes. It was crazy, just crazy. First thing I noticed were the shells all over the ground. Shells? When the waters flooded the neighborhood and then receded they deposited shells everywhere. So strange . . . The houses were completely wiped away by Katrina, and in their place she left shells. Not quite an even trade-off . . .

We met a Miss Gertrude LeBlanc while shooting in the lower 9th. She sat on the front porch of her little yellow house, watching the world go by. I think meeting her was the most prominent event of this trip for me. What she said, as simple as it was, will never leave me. She opened my eyes to the true strength and beauty of humans. There is no way I can ever completely understand New Orleans and what these people have been through, but because of people like her I can grasp it just a little better.

The former steps to Miss Gertrude LeBlanc's porch

This is a memorial created by the owner of the trailers, to his mother and 3 yr old granddaughter who were killed in the storm.

Day 1 - Meeting Amzie Adams


I was so nervous to meet Amzie. Mostly because I didn't know what to expect. But when I walked into his gallery and saw him there, looking exactly as he did in the PBS documentary, I felt just fine. We talked a little, I explained what I was doing and why. Not long after we started talking then in walked a Mr. Peter Nu. He's a local musician, originally from England, and quite the character. He completely lightened the room with his cheerful chatter, and then asked if he could play music for me! Are you kidding me????!!! Yes please! It was an awesome experience, and awesome photo op.

Peter Nu invited me to his show on Wednesday at Byblos which I think I will definitely be attending. I need to get in contact with Byblos to see if I can photograph him there. Amzie also introduced me to a young artist on Jackson Square named Dominic Navarra. He was incredibly kind and interested in what I was doing in New Orleans, and was more than willing to help. He gave me the name of another artist who would be interested, who just so happens to have a gallery across the street from Amzie!

It's crazy how things are working out, how one person can lead you to five more, who will lead you to five more, and so on. This town has a crazy but beautiful energy about it that flows in and out of the streets and I definitely have been moved by it.

Day 1 - Tour of New Orleans

Oh dear, already day 3 . . .


After a divine breakfast courtesy of The Country Inn & Suites it was off to tour the city! I was excited as well as a bit apprehensive about going on this tour, which have been my general feelings about this trip all along. Excited to see first hand what happened to New Orleans during Katrina, but apprehensive because I felt like a foolish tourist. I know there are a number of people in New Orleans who despise tourists. They feel we are only here to gawk and exploit them.

We drove past homes that had been damaged and as we did a family stepped outside of their home, which had been restored, and began video taping us. I wanted to crawl under my seat. I can understand the frustration they must feel, that all these people are coming from around the world to stare at the destruction of their lives and then they get to hop on a plane back to their reality where everything is hunky-dory. It's a sad and difficult situation. It upsets me that people would think that way about us. Yes, I do agree that busloads of people on "Katrina Tours" is rather obnoxious, but New Orleans is a part of MY country too. These people are MY fellow citizens, and Hurricane Katrina was also MY tragedy, even if I don't live in New Orleans. I am sheltered from the truth of Katrina by default because I live in Minnesota, but it does not mean I don't care. And getting the chance to see first hand exactly what happened is an opportunity I definitely will take even if others don't understand my purpose. I don't want to drive through this town and stare out the window and take snapshots so that I can go home, tell a good story, and then put it all behind me and live my nice content life. I want to see what happened, hear the stories and experience the truth so that I can understand what really has happened in my country and do what I can to change it. It is so obvious to see the failures of the United States when you come here and it's a very sad and very disappointing reality.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hello N'awleans!

We're here! It's late, I'm tired, but so so excited for what this week will bring. This is gonna be grand.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I've been having a difficult time getting a hold of some contacts . . . I'm beginning to worry that I won't find any before our trip. From what I have researched so far Jackson Square seems to be the hotspot for artists, so if all else fails I'm sure I will have no trouble finding people there. It would just be reassuring to know I had more of a plan. 8 days really isn't that long of a time, and I don't want any of it wasted on trying to find something to take pictures of.

On a more positive note I am more than excited for this trip! Last week it really began to hit me more just how awesome this is going to be. When I was 17 I was blessed to be able to spend 10 days in Italy. It was a trip that changed my life, and I have a feeling that New Orleans will have a similar impact on me. I can't believe we only have a week left before we leave! Agh!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Sources . . .

I've been looking online for different people or groups I could contact before we leave. I don't want to end up spending my short 8 days there just wandering around hoping to get images of street artists . . . I want to KNOW before hand where I'm going and who I should talk to. These are some websites I've found that have names and contact information for a variety of N.O. street artists:


I plan on contacting some of the people mentioned as well as those who wrote the news articles to see if it will get me anywhere. I'm excited with what I've found and hopeful it will give me the answers I'm looking for!!

My Essay . . .

So I've had plenty of time now to consider what I want to photograph once I get down to New Orleans, PLENTY of time. Yet I still find myself flip-flopping between different ideas. I first wanted to capture images of hope, i guess you could call them. New Orleans being rebuilt, people helping each other out, life continuing to move forward and upward, and just in general capture the good in New Orleans. I didn't want to spend my time looking for images of tragedy and hardship - I feel as though I've seen enough. Or maybe I just don't think I'll have the strength to do a series like that . . .

Another avenue I've thought about taking and will most likely run with is doing a photographic essay on street artists. Before seeing some of the documentaries about N.O. I had no idea that there was such a community of street artists. Musicians, painters, actors, poets, performers, etc. Perhaps I am so attracted to these people because I too am an artist. An artist struggling very hard to find my voice. I often feel overwhelmed and intimidated by my peers, I have little confidence in my abilities at times, and seeing these artists out on the streets just being raw and doing what moves them from inside is so damn amazing to me. I envy them, and maybe by capturing them and spending time with them I too will start to feel a little more free . . .

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Response to "Shelby Lee Adams Appalachia - The True Meaning of Pictures"

This documentary immediately hit home for me and I found myself able to really relate to Adams. About 5 years ago I spent 2 weeks in a remote Appalachian town in West Virginia. Although my time spent there was significantly shorter than Adams', my life was still changed forever. I have been lucky enough, and I'm well aware of just how lucky, to grow up financially stable with a complete and loving family. Consequently I also became incredibly sheltered and naive to what life may be like for other people. My trip to West Virginia was the best learning experience I've had, and it completely opened my eyes to the truths of life. Here, in America, there is poverty. It was and still sometimes is such an absurd concept. I was shocked while in West Virginia to learn that we had people living as though they were in a third world country. All I wanted to do was fix it, and bring home with me every child I came to know and love. Knowing this was impossible I vowed to tell the story of my experience, tell THEIR story, so that maybe people would realize what is wrong with our country and do something to change it. That was the only way I knew how to help.
I have always honored documentary photographers, because they too are doing what they can to make a difference, simply by taking photographs. In this movie there was a lot of focus put on whether or not Adams was a true documentary photographer. In my opinion he isn't, although his photographs do accurately portray the people of Appalachia. A true documentary photographer doesn't become a part of the scene, they only capture it. Adams spent a lot of time and energy on creating his images -posing his subjects, setting up the scene, using lights, etc. Yet despite the fact they were manufactured images they still held a lot of truth. Rather than calling them documentary photographs I see them more as environmental portraits and fine art images. I completely disagree with those who oppose his work and claim he is exploiting the people in his photographs. Everyone in his images were willing and delighted to have their photograph taken. I imagine if they felt they were being exploited and insulted they would have let Adams know and not allowed their photo to be taken. Adams was not exploiting but simply showing us the truth, whether it was pretty or not.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Response to Ch.12 of The American Experience - N.O.

There were only 2 things I thought of when I would hear mention of New Orleans: Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina. After watching the American Experience I am aware of just how ignorant I was. How could I ever define something so indefinable? I feel like blushing at the mere thought of how I used to think the worth of New Orleans could be defined by two events. New Orleans is so much more . . . The culture, the color, the pride, the music, the passion, the life, the people, the history, the spirit, the sound, the taste, the smell, the energy, the dreams, the fight. New Orleans is made up of all of it. And all I could think of while watching the documentary was, “Damn. I wanna go to New Orleans!” And then, “Damn, I’m GOING to New Orleans!” Out of all the chapters in the documentary the one that stood out the most for me was Chapter 12. It’s a shorter chapter, just over three minutes, but it’s the one that has stuck with me the most.

Perhaps it’s because I can relate to the artist, Amzie, who allows the cameras to follow him, or maybe it’s just because he’s so odd looking. Either way I was moved to hear him express his love and see him manifest his feelings about his hometown through his art. It seems as though everyone in New Orleans turns what they’re feeling into something tangible, whether it be music, art, dance, food, writings, etc. And that is so admirable to me. As an artist I am always striving to get my point across, a point that often is so hard to take from inside my brain and my heart and form into something others can hold. New Orleans is built for that. Every corner Amzie turned there was another human, molding their feelings into something everyone could see, feel, hear. How amazing it must feel to just turn a corner in New Orleans. I can’t wait, to turn corners in New Orleans.