Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ed Richards ~ The Landscape of Hurricane Katrina

Every vision of Katrina is different. Coming to Katrina with local knowledge and personal connections, as well as a technical knowledge of hurricanes and their impact on the land, my images have their own perspective. While little appreciated by the national media, all of the areas inundated by Katrina have been flooded before by hurricanes, and some, such as the Mississippi Gulf Coast, have been utterly destroyed in the past. Knowing this has happened before, and will inevitably happen again, I see these images as part of the long term saga of the Gulf Coast, rather than images of a unique tragedy as this has been seen by most other photographers. I continue to photograph the region as it rebuilds. While I hope I will not photograph it destroyed again, I am documenting fragile areas spared by Katrina, including GPS locations, in case, as with Katrina, there is nothing left after the next storm.

I live in Baton Rouge, 70 miles up river from New Orleans, and I know the southern Gulf Coast from many perspectives. In my day job, as a law professor at LSU , I study the governmental policies and natural forces that underlay disasters such as Katrina. While I am concerned with the welfare of the people displaced by the storm, my interest as a photographer is the impact of major storms on the land and the built environment.

I shoot 4x5 black and white film, which I scan and print digitally. I shoot in the classic landscape tradition, seeking out graphically powerful images, usually defined by their position against the sky. The high resolution of the large final prints gives a strong sense of place through allowing the viewer to see details in the debris, and other cues which transform the strong graphic images into real life scenes. This detail is lost on the WWW, requiring the underlying graphic structure to
convey the power of image.


Anonymous Jim Jirka said...

Some very powerful and wonderful images. In looking at these presented here, it is amazing to me that in the wake of devastation to the man made structures, that the trees look barely affected. This is with a quick glance and I am looking forward to delve deeper into the images.

12/07/2006 08:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These feel rather dispationate to me, a set of very high quality shots taken for the record.

Viewing these I feel somewhat removed from the situation, to me the use of black and white in this case abstracts the scenes to some extent.

I hope I get a chance to see these in print, I would be interest to see if the prints have a different effect on me.

12/07/2006 11:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Kent Wiley said...


This is an impressive body of work, which of course I couldn't help but compare to Robert Polidori's photos which I saw in NYC the day after TGiving. I was interested to see you photographed places that have been annihilated by previous hurricanes, such as Grand Isle, which I've visited, and thought about the vulnerability of. What is the policy of rebuilding in areas that inevitably will be devastated again in the future?

12/07/2006 11:55:00 PM  
Blogger Edward Richards said...


Generally trees did better than manmade stuff, but the toll on trees was high as well. Palm trees were clearly meant for hurricanes, I was amazed how few were killed.


The WWW is the wrong media for this sort of image, but it is what we have. The images need to be big and you need to see a group of them to get a feeling of the desolation.


Polidori and I see a very different story, which is partially reflected in the choice of black and white versus color. He does beautiful work, but as someone with more local knowledge, his pictures could be destruction anywhere.

As for rebuilding in places that are at risk, it is a long and complex story. Grand Isle is primarly vacation homes and off shore oil support, so it makes sense to rebuild. OTOH, rebuilding homes for regular people on the Gulf Coast is driven by the love of place, the belief that storms like Katrina are once in a life-time events, and feckless politicians who do not want to limit development. It is further complicated by the social justice issues - should New Orleans and the Gulf Coast be only for the rich, who can afford the loss? Of course, putting the poor back in harm's way does not look like such a terrific idea when things wash away again.

12/08/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same anonymous as above here. I am viewing them on a much better quality monitor than had previously and they are now much more engaging to me.

12/08/2006 07:24:00 PM  

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