Shoot what is important to you. Be emotional. Don't shoot what you THINK is important. Shoot what is compelling. Shoot what you are doing, what you see, what you dream about. Be personal, be vulnerable, and when you find something you are drawn to, but dare not look, that is the picture to make.
Above all, when you make a picture, don't 'take'. Give. You can give the descendents of the survivors and the rebuilders something to help understand these times. Your audience is 50 to 100 years in the future, not today.
I may be too late to this thread, but thought I'd add my 2 cents anyway.
Have to echo df cardwell. I made photos of what was important to me here at home and along the Gulf Coast (pre-Hurricane Katrina my husband and children affectionately referred to this area as our playground).
When we returned two days after Katrina made landfall we had no idea what to expect. We had been evacuated along with thousands of others. Our only reference was the images we conjured up in our mind based on the radio reports. We had lost power where we were staying in Mississippi and had yet to see any visual reports. We were among the fortunate. We only lost the food in our refrigerator from the loss of power -- nothing more.
For years, I have documented my home here in Louisiana and the nearby Gulf Coast for myself...no one else. I chose not to photograph the devastation around me. A personal choice.
The frequent trips that we make to New Orleans are enough of a visual reminder of the devastation for me. My son requires frequent medical attention so we are in New Orleans usually on a weekly basis. Tulane University Hospital was under water, so our son's healthcare was moved to the nearby Tulane-Lakeside Hospital and is staffed by the same neurosurgeon he has been seeing among others.
I see the destruction and loss all the time. We live it daily. I cannot and do not wish to photograph what these people -- including my family and friends -- are going through. Just my choice. In fact, within days of the storm, my husband put together a montage of our work pre- Katrina and many of you saw it.
Since New Orleans seems to be known mostly for Mardi Gras, Jazz Funerals and the French Quarter, we wanted to share what we saw. It's so much more than those landmarks and events. Only those who have lived here or really spent alot of time in the Crescent City understand. The people are what make up so much of this great place. What was depicted on television -- played and re-played is not what it's all about. On the contrary. While so much focus was placed on the Super Dome and the evacuees since, the rest of the area pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and took care of business. Despite our whiney governor, people are doing what needs to be done. Really!! New Orleans always had an ugly underbelly that those of us near enough have always known about. It wasn't uncommon for drug-related crime to claim a dozen murders in any given week. Occassionally a tourist or innocent local was the victim. That was more exception than the rule. Television just made it more visible for the rest of the world to see.
New Orleans is not the only area that was devastated by this storm. Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Slidell, Covington, Mandeville and many, un-named neighborhoods and towns were left out of the public's eye.
I chose not to make the images because it's just too close to home and hard to take. It's just sad. I was asked by a local magazine to provide an image that showed hope, rejuvenation...I chose not to submit something from the aftermath. Rather, I submitted what was there and what could be again. They opted to use another artist and that was okay.
Black and White Magazine (US) emailed showing interest in our 'Calm Before the Storm', but Mr. Rasmussan also opted to use 'someone they worked with previously' over my 'before' images (and probably digital as well!). Not enough 'juice' I guess. Who knows. Again, that was okay with me. I hold firmly to our view of the Calm Before the Storm. Eventually, it will be representative of the current view.
To sum it up, Tim, do what you feel comfortable with. I live here...it's on my doorstep everyday, but I chose not to make the image. I do applaud those who can in good taste. I hope it's from their hearts. If so, it definitely shows in their work.
Also...you can read how the locals feel about it here:
Times Picayune Article
Tourists Not a Welcome Sight in Some Areas
I wish I could find the article from the Times-Picayune that was published in December regarding the couple who each day, cleans and hauls debris from their home and waves at the cars from various states photographing the destruction. Do they like it? No...but there's really not much they can do about it. They said they just smile, wave and go about their business. That somewhat said it all to me.
Thanks for letting me ramble :)
I thought after 31 years in the fire service, photojournalism was something I wanted to explore. I could respond and take images of incidents dealing with police, fire, storm related scenes...but I found I couldn't. I've gotten out and helped too many time to stand by, watch and photograph! So, that idea is out the window for me. I mention this only because it brought back memories of last year...when the idea was put aside.
Thanks all for such great advice. I didn't shoot much. I took a couple of photos in Biloxi, only for the hope it gave me. When some idiots years ago put up hugh hotel structures right on the beach in Biloxi, people were outraged. Well, those buildings took the brunt of the force of the Tsunami type waves and saved an important historical neighborhood located right behind them. Interesting cause and effect. I shot a bit in that neighborhood, to remind me that 1.) Not all bad things have no purpose. And 2.) Biloxi will rebuild and be a better place.
That said, I didn't shoot in the lower 9th. I couldn't deal with it. I suspect anyone there shouldn't have to deal with any more than what nature has already loade don their plate.
I had great feelings seeing idealistic volunteers working their butts off for people they didn't know, and for what? The inner satisfaction of knowing they make a difference in making others lives better.
What will happen when we have our 'disaster'? An earthquake out here is not an 'if' proposition, it's a 'when' eventuality. Will I shoot the disater or will I feel like Dorothy and just deal with the day to day and know it is enough for my experience and let the tourists shoot away for posterity?
Lots to think about. Thanks all for your great words.
tim in san jose