St. Bernard Parish is located only 5 miles east from the heart of New Orleans and shares a boundary with Ninth Ward. In August 29, 2005 St. Bernard parish was one the worst counties hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When the levees collapsed flood waters came pouring into every neighborhood in the parish. In many cases homes and businessess were covered up to the rooftops. One hundred and eighty people in the Parish drowned.
And it only got worse. The floodwaters pouring into the local Murphy Oil USA, Inc facility caused the largest domestic residential oil spill in US history. More than 1 million gallons of oil floated on the water and spread into homes, businesses and schools, leaving them filthy, smelly and contaminated.
And then on September 24, 2005 Hurricane Rita arrived, sending more water spilling over the collapsed levees and flooding St Bernard Parish again.
The result? Destruction on a scale that passed well beyond disaster and into the realm of catastrophic. In St. Bernard Parish, the epicenter of devastation, fully 93% of homes were rated as "severely damaged" or "destroyed".
St. Bernard Parish (county) is the only parish in the history of the US to have been completely inundated by flood waters causing catastrophic devastation.
I went to St. Bernard Parish in March 2012 for a month to work on my final university project. After doing research on Hurricane Katrina / New Orleans and the surrounding areas I found out that no one had done a project on St. Bernard Parish before. The parish had been left in the shadow of greater New Orleans and completely forgotten.
I felt that as a documentary photographer I had to go to St. Bernard Parish and try to tell their story 7 years after Hurricane Katrina. I felt that even though the media stops reporting on a specific story, it doesn't mean that the story is over. This is true, the story of struggle in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana still continues today on the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
I didn't want to photograph the obvious and take pictures that people had already seen, and that's why I decided to photograph the project using a 4x5 large format camera from the 1950's hoping that I would do something different. I wanted to the story to be quite free / open, so everyone can read into the images / story in their own way.
Thanks to St. Bernard Project and The Community Center of St. Bernard for their help.
A Times-Picayne interactive flash graphic showing the timeline and extend of the destruction is available HERE
Fishing community near Shell Beach, LA.
New Orleans. View from Arabi, LA
Larry & Donna Breaux's home. Violet, LA
Volunteers write their names on the benches in St. Bernard Project
534 Angela St. John Graylin's home.
Jackson Barracks is located behind the 100 years old tree. $325 million spend for reconstruction.