These analog images were taken at three intervals within a small neighborhood in Chalmette, Louisiana between 2008 and 2017. The four-block area north of W. Judge Perez Drive was badly damaged in Hurricane Katrina and has recovered at a slower pace than other, more high-profile areas in greater New Orleans. Located just East of the lower Ninth Ward, the city of Chalmette was the site of the Battle of New Orleans and is now the parish seat of St. Bernard Parish. Today, the city has close to to 17,000 residents, down from over 32,000 before Hurricane Katrina. The storm brought a 25-foot surge of water into the city, which flooded houses, business, and a large oil storage facility. In some places, flood waters reached 14 feet high.
A high percentage of housing units in this particular Chalmette neighborhood were rental apartments, and remained relatively untouched as the rest of the New Orleans clambered to rebuild. Unlike privately-owned, single family homes, rental units were not eligible for aid such as the Road Home program and owners were not otherwise incentivized to rebuild apartments for their low- and middle-income tenants. In New Orleans, a full 20% of the 82,000 rental units that Katrina damaged or destroyed had been affordable for extremely low-income households. As a result, the pace of recovery in Chalmette, and this neighborhood full of apartment rental complexes can be described as gradual, at best.
Since 2007 I have returned regularly to photograph this location and chronicle the prolonged aftermath of the 2005 storm. During my first visits to the area in 2007 and 2009 I observed a largely empty neighborhood, with damaged and abandoned rental housing, overgrown lawns, and assorted unclaimed possessions. More recently, the city has demolished unsafe buildings, cleaned up debris, and maintained streets.
These photographs are intended to draw attention to changes in the community over ten years as well as highlight the biotic presences that animated the space following the storm. These photographs do not attempt to tell a comprehensive story of the storm or its aftermath in Chalmette, nor to romanticize the decay of the structures represented in the photographs. Instead, the photographs highlight the incremental changes that have taken place, and propose a new narrative of “aftermath” that shies from both the romantic and reportage accounts of such areas, which too often confine and direct a viewer’s perception to an unseen sequence of events.