Sunday, April 13, 2008
I'll be doing a final image post of my favorite images once I've decided what those are. I also might add some images to various blogs as they apply if I have the time and inclination. But there will be at least one more image post that I hope to have up before the show on Saturday.
A few of us wanted to go down to the Lower 9th again, so we met in the lobby around 6:15. There was some amazing light when we got down there and there was a heavy layer of fog that just made it very peaceful and quiet. We did have the military police follow us around for a bit. But being down there at that time, with that weather, was a really nice way to cap off the trip.
Unfortunately, that peace didn't last. Basically it was a huge mess and I ended up getting home about 24 hours later than I had expected. I think a huge part of that was that it was a draining week, emotionally and physically and I just wanted to be home to recharge for classes the next day. It didn't happen. I really hate missing the first day of class and I still feel like I'm playing catch-up.
New Orleans was amazing. The people were so awesome. There's a lot I got to see and a lot that I didn't. I want to go back. Soon. That city just works it's way into your blood and you don't even realize it until after you've left. I think that next time I go down to help, it's going to be something that I can see immediate results. But I'll still bring a camera.
We left the hotel at 8 to drive about 45 min for an optional swamp tour. We saw an alligator eat marshmallows so that was pretty cool. The day was overcast and kind of muggy though, so it just felt like one of those days that you just want to stay in bed.
We headed over to the 9th ward to shoot a tree planting event. We also got the best Chinese food ever from a little corner market. A couple of the girls that were planting were brought their by their uncle. Their names were Tabitha and Nicole. They are seniors in high school. They were in 10th grade when Katrina hit. They told me that there was 8 ft. of water in their school, but their amazing principal worked really hard to get the school up and running by January.
After that, we went down to the lower 9th, right near the levees. It was so bizarre. There were a few houses that were being rebuilt, but it was basically a field. There were some lots that had a foundation. There were more than a few that had only three concrete steps. It started raining, so we packed it in early.
We had the night free, so it was back to the French Quarter for some last minute shopping and dinner. I had something with crawfish, so I was pretty pleased with myself for that. I headed to bed early because we were going down to the Lower 9th again at 6:30, even though it was our last night.
By now, the days were really starting to blur together. We had a late morning-we met at 9. We walked over to St. Louis cemetery. It was an older
one. There was a lot of French on the tombs. It was getting really hot. After this, we walked down to the streetcar and went to Audubon Park, where we met the other class for a picnic. We walked through part of the Garden District on the way home. The houses were really beautiful, but after seeing the neighborhoods still affected by Katrina, they seemed rather ostentatious.
We had the evening off. A few of us walked do
wn to the French Quarter. We went to Cafe du Monde-I totally am in love with it. We also did a bit of shopping. I bought an alligator head for my nephew that he was pretty excited about.
Another early call-7 am in the lobby. We were off to photograph the Rebuilding New Orleans organization. Their organization works with rebuilding the homes of the disabled and elderly. We met up with a rep from the organization named John-really nice guy. He took us to meet a few of the residents who were helped by RNO.
The first gentleman was named Sidney Davis. Also a very nice man. He talked to us about his Katrina experience and then invited all of us into see his home.
We looked at a few of the other houses in the neighborhood that had been rebuilt or in the process of rebuilding. We also visited another resident-Miss Gibbs. I know I keep writing that everyone has been so nice, but it is really true. It's amazing to hear these people's stories and to see their strength and faith and then, to top it all off, have them invite 15 strangers into their house for coffee. It's a truly amazing city with even better people. We also went to a house that was just starting to be cleared out. The group doing the clearing was a Hillel group from California, I believe.
We ate at Mother's-which is apparently a place that you have to go to when you go to New Or
leans. And for a good reason-it was amazing.
We then took the ferry over to Algiers-a pretty little neighborhood. We talked to some people and photographed the architecture.
We then went back to the hotel to edit and blog.
We were up and out early shooting Habitat for Humanity in the Musician's Village. I had heard the houses described as Easter Egg colored. They were so stinking cute. I love it. They were bright green and purple and pink. The house colors and architecture is just really refreshing coming from the shades of grey and blue that are more common in MN. We wandered for a bit around the neighborhood in the morning and shot the construction of a new house and some recently finished houses later in the morning. At lunch a school jazz band from Illinois performed. They were amazing. I couldn't believe they were in high school. It was just a really fun atmosphere that I hadn't seen yet in the city, but seemed to be a truly New Orleans experience.
After an afternoon crit, we took the streetcar to one of the cemeteries. We "broke" in-it was technically closed, but there was no gate in the back! - and shot there for about an hour. It seemed to be a newer cemetery as it was rather clean and pristine. We waited forever for the streetcar to come back, but it was really rather fun to ride.
We edited and blogged in the evening and then went to bed.
Ok, so it's been a busy few weeks and I have been editing for the show and getting back into the swing of classes. But here's a brief overview of what happened the rest of the trip.
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art was awesome. The curator of the photo dept. and the head of the museum were there to talk us through their collection. They even pulled some images from storage-including a couple of Walker Evans and Henri Cartier Bresson images-that were amazing to see. That was amazing of them to take the time and effort to do that for us. Thanks again!
That afternoon and evening we ventured into the French Quarter to shoot street performers and architecture. It was interesting. I had an experience there that I am trying to block from my mind, so I'm not going to share that, but suffice it to say that some people may have some humiliating photos that need not be shared.
The French Quarter had some truly beautiful architecture. It's a very lush area. We also ate dinner on Bourbon Street. I had catfish as I am trying to eat more fish. Let's just say that I'm starting out with everything fried. And it was ok.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I have a lot of catching up to do! It's been a very busy few days.
We got to the airport at 4:15 am-that was absolutely delightful. Everyone made it more or less on time and the flight was pretty smooth. We transfered in Dallas to catch a flight to New Orleans. In Dallas, we met a woman from Fema who was on her way to NOLA as well. She gave us some tips and filled us in about some of the things that are going on down here. She did tell us to immediately go to Wal-Mart upon arrival and buy bleach to clean the hotel bathrooms with. We got a little freaked out by that, but I don't think that any of us have actually done that or are planning to.
Colleen met us at the airport-and by some miracle, no one lost their luggage! Hurrah!
We got to the hotel on Magazine St-it's very nice-on settled in. That afternoon we went on a tour of the flood affected regions. It was really broad and lasted about two hours. It was informational, but it lacked something. By the end, we were exhausted. We arrived back at the hotel and rested for a bit and had some free time. We were to meet at the Flying Burrito at 7:30. Around 6 or 6:30, Steph, Amanda, Jorie, and I decided to walk the 1.5 miles to the restaurant. We dawdled a bit and saw some really interesting and beautiful architecture. It was really nice out and after being on the plane for so long, it was good to get out in the fresh air and walk. When we got there, the restaurant was closed for renovations. It was a whole big thing to find a new restaurant and get everyone in for various reasons. Half of us went to the Bulldog and the others went to a Mexican restaurant a few doors down. We waited for the bus for like 45 min. By the time we got back to the hotel, everyone was exhausted and we went to bed.
We were out of the hotel at 9 and headed with Rich and Colleen to the Holy Cross neighborhood. It was one of the areas that was affected by Katrina. We walked around shooting the contrast between houses that had been restored already, some that were on their way to restoration, and others that were abandoned by the owners (permanently or otherwise). We ran into a woman named Betty who was so friendly and told us about what had happened to some of her neighbors and what she was going through. She's still working on getting her house back to what it was pre-Katrina. She was so excited about the new cupboards that she had gotten that she invited us into her house to see them. We talked to her for about 30 min. It was a really nice introduction to the city and the 'local culture'.
After that we headed to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
But that will have to wait until tomorrow, along with some images as my laptop is about to die.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
There are two movies that we were required to watch before leaving on the trip-American Experience: New Orleans and When the Levees Broke.
I first watched American Experience. This film presented the history of the city and its people and focused much of its attention on the culture of the city. There were some things that I'm sure that are missing, but it covered a lot of material in two hours. There were a lot of things that were new and interesting to me-like the history of Mardi Gras and the development of the music scene.
I followed this up with When the Levees Broke. There's not much that I can really say about this that probably hasn't already been said. I was horrified, disgusted, and ashamed. What happened and how it was handled on all government levels was shameful and ridiculous. I was reading about the film online and people were debating whether or not the film was objective enough or that there were things missing. I don't think that that kind of debate is really necessary nor is it going to diminish the truth that is included in the film. It's a testament to the strength of the people of New Orleans that they came back and are rebuilding the city.
As for what I'm hoping for in New Orleans, I'm really not sure. There are certainly things I want to experience and see. I think I just want to see the spirit of the people and the city.