Hurricane Graffiti: Katrina strikes the Gulf Coast
After Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast August 29, 2005, the empty landscape told a story easily overlooked. The code of relief and rescue workers indicated who was rescued, who wasn't. The writings on walls, sides of houses, and makeshift signs communicated anger at FEMA (The Federal Emergency Management Agency) and President George Bush, loss, sadness, humor, as well as messages to friends and family of what once was there, but no longer.
It was a strange experience to arrive in New Orleans one week after the storm, see the complete devastation and wander the streets of a city abandoned except for relief workers, the media and a few holdout residents. I could never imagine a sight like that in the U.S.; an empty city and desolate coastline. Tragedy on that scale was always 'elsewhere', not here at home. A colleague expressed frustration over what to photograph because there were no people. How to show what wasn't there and the scope of the destruction became the dilemma. After a few days, I started to recognize that though the people of the devastated Gulf Coast may have been forced to flee their homes they had in small ways, visible everywhere, left their mark. Their voices were present through the most populist form of expression...graffiti.
I was fascinated by the messages. The graffiti I found communicated the story of Hurricane Katrina and what followed.