In Katrina's Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster
This series, photographed in New Orleans in November and December of 2005, portrays the cost of Hurricane Katrina on a personal scale. Although the subjects are quite different from those in my earlier Intolerable Beauty series, this project is motivated by the same concerns about our runaway consumerism.
There is evidence to suggest that Katrina was not an entirely natural event like an earthquake or tsunami. The 2005 hurricane season's extraordinary severity can be linked to global warming, which America contributes to in disproportionate measure through our extravagant consumer and industrial practices. Never before have the cumulative effects of our consumerism become so powerfully focused into a visible form, like the sun's rays narrowed through a magnifying glass. Almost 300,000 Americans lost everything they owned in the Katrina disaster. The question in my mind is whether we are all responsible in some degree.
The hurricane’s damage has been further amplified by other human causes, including failures of preparedness and response on many levels; existing poverty conditions; levee problems that were mired in political maneuverings; poor environmental and wetlands practices that left some areas more vulnerable; and the conspicuous absence of federal resources that were already being used in the Bush Administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From that perspective, my hope is that these images might encourage some reflection on the part that we each play, and the loss that we all suffer, when a preventable catastrophe of this magnitude happens to the people of our own country. Katrina has illuminated our interconnectedness, and it makes our personal accountability as members of a conscious society ever more difficult to deny.