Monday, June 23, 2008

The numbness of being a photographer

When I went to New Orleans last time, with the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project, I was thrown back by a comment a friend had said. We were driving back from a long hard day of work, and we were talking about the destruction we were seeing. He then remarked sort of off hand that he had seen some sort of a house that was completely destroyed and it made for a sick picture. After he said that, we sort of gave him a hard time, and he said well to be a good photographer, you have to be numb to the pain and just think about getting the story out.

At the time, I dismissed it and thought it was rude... But lately, while reading the book The Great Deluge, I've been thinking about it a lot. All of those photographers who went there to tell the true story had to have been numb. It is impossible to take the pictures I've seen without feeling sorrow or grief. I've begun to wonder if I can be tough enough to document these horrible things I may come across... but I think I've worked it out.

I read a story about Tony Zumbado. He is a so called "hurricane hunter" and traveled to New Orleans before the storm to document it's fury. Days after Katrina hit, he ventured into a Hospital to see if there were any survivors or dead. At first, this camera man walked through and saw bodies and videotaped them thinking of the story versus his feelings. Then he came to the church in the hospital, and there were bodies everywhere like someone had been giving them their last rites and the stench was overpowering and he lost it. I totally understand why, but it seemed out of his character.

I've come to the conclusion that as a photographer, I must have a thicker shell than the average joe. I must be able to document things for the good of the public, and not think so emotionally. With that said, of course there it will get to a point where the hard shell cracks... After all, I am only human...


Monday, June 16, 2008


So last night, well I guess this morning, at 1:00am, I bought my plane ticket to NOLA! It's a Jet Blue flight which is always nice, I also have to rack up my points so I can get a free flight! I'm really excited now!

Today I was fishing around the Rebuilding Together web site and found a link to all of their photos on flicker... Of course I went through them and can I just say, damn I'm excited!

All my paperwork is in too, so now all i have to do is wait and not freak out until August 11 comes around!

This is going to be one big trip!


Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Great Deluge

So my new read is The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley. It is a great read, although it's size is definately scary. The book is great, it shares stories of hope and of heros as well as trying to figure out who's to blame for the misfortunes of Katrina.

I'm totally engaged by this book, it is so immensly filled with information, it traps me. Unfortunately, I do not get to read as much as I'd like and my reading seems to be pushed to late at night before I go to sleep. Well last night, as I was reading, all of a sudden, a lot of information about St. Bernard's Parish came up. They started talking about St. Rita's Nursing Home, which was a nursing home in St. Bernard's Parish which did not evacuate and as a result, 34 people died. As I was reading it, everytime I saw the words "St. Rita's Nursing Home," it was like I was hearing John say it, instead of me reading it. John is a man I met the first time I was in New Orleans in St. Bernard's Parish. He was an amazing local resident who hung around CAMP HOPE, the volunteer center, and told all volunteers how great they were for going down to the Gulf Coast to rebuild. I know this sounds strange but that's what kept happening.

With that said, yeah I want to go back as soon as possible!


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke Continued

Ok so I've had sufficient time to think about this, and here is my reaction to Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke...

At first glance, it is a close up look at what happened during the storm and reactions from people who survived it. It is a "dirty" film in that things are not censored and nor are the people's remarks. It is raw and full of emotion delivered in a shock and awe manner.

I liked this documentary because of all these reasons. I also like it because of the same reason I appreciated Kanye West for the brief moment in time when he said what everyone else was afraid to say, "George Bush hates black people." Now this may have not been the most intelligent way to say this, I'm sure it's not even close, however, it did at least get people talking. I feel like this movie said some things that needed to be said. It also documented this horrible event for the future, which is important.

That being said, I do not go away from this documentary using any of the information gained as fact. Because it is a Spike Lee documentary, you really do not know what is fact and what is "Spike Lee" fact. He is known for throwing the race card everywhere and it was very clear in this film. I think the blame is not necessarily put in the best places, and certain parties interviewed in this film escape blame they should not escape.

My overall feeling is that although it is one sided, the film is a must see for all Americans, especially anyone who plans to visit the Gulf Coast, or anyone that plans to work there. It is definitely a good "rally the troops" movie and if you are going down with a group of volunteers i suggest you all watch it together.

I watched it with the group I went to New Orleans to and I think it was a good thing for us all to watch. It is, I believe, my responsibility to warn you along with this review that at points the film it is extremely graphic in nature with cursing, photographs of dead bodies, and horrifying first accounts of the events following Katrina.

With all of that said, I still believe you should watch it!


Monday, June 9, 2008

Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke

So tonight I finished watching Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke and all I can say is wow.

I started watching the film when I returned the first time from New Orleans, Louisiana with my Habitat for Humanity campus chapter in New Paltz. We all had gone to New Orleans together, and watching it together was apart of the whole experience. We never got to see Act 4, which is what I just completed.

I feel the need to sleep on the information that I have just ingested, and will type more clearly on the subject tomorrow.

I'm now going to go continue reading The Great Deluge by Douglas G Brinkley, which I'm sure I will discuss in the near future.

Yes New Orleans has taken over my life and has been in control since September, but I wouldn't have it any other way.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Scary But Exciting Beginning

I guess I should begin with a little background information....

My name is Amanda and I live in New York. I currently attend SUNY New Paltz and am a Photography major with a minor in Anthropology.

With that said, I have never blogged before. I thought it would be easy... I think a mile a minute but when I sat down to write hour ago!... I realized it would be a lot harder for me than origionally thought. But anyway, no more sidenotes...

The reason for this blog is to document my life in New Orleans, Louisiana over the course of the next 11 months. I will be working with an organization called Rebuilding Together New Orleans through Americorps. Although I am not there yet, I am constantly thinking of when I will be and how amazing this adventure will be.

I have worked with non-profit organizations in the past. All of my experiences have been good, despite the usual red tape, and I enjoy the work tremendously! I have mostly worked with Habitat for Humanity in Yonkers (NY), Guatemala, Newburgh (NY), Morehead City (NC), Hungary, and most recently New Orleans (LA). I started my High School's Habitat for Humanity chapter and my love for the organization grew from there. In college, I started as a general member, and then slowly became the co-president of the club. I participated in numerous builds in Newburgh, New York, as well as Collegiate Challenge trips to Morehead City, North Carolina, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

My crazy idea for the New Orleans experience was born sometime in September of last year. I was already settled in college life, and some of my classmates were beginning to think about studying abroad. As I looked for a photography study abroad program, I began to realize there weren't many to choose from, at least not any that jumped out at me. I was also thinking about New Orleans a lot firstly because it was the two year anniversary in August, but also because it was the scheduled destination of our Collegiate Challenge trip for the following March. I was doing a ton of research on the topic, and realized, the city was being rebuilt primarily by volunteers. Next, I began to do research on programs, about a semmester in length, that I could participate in in the city of New Orleans. I found the Rebuilding Together website and although they were a year long program, and although they weren't even taking applications for the following year yet, and although I knew my parents wouldn't be so excited about it, I knew that was what I wanted to do!

The rest is a blur of history. Our spring break trip was amazing and I met some really amazing Habitat people. It was followed my trip with the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project trip to New Orleans in May in which I worked on a blitz build and constructed a whole house in a week! I cut out of school early, and was able to survive taking finals early and moving out of my room much due to the help of my roomates and friends for keeping me sane!

There was one catch to this whole trip, this whole amazing adventure... I had to maintain my status as a fully matriculated college student. This meant I had to take 12 credits worth of classes while working full time... Not to mention, all of the courses had to be offered by my school! Through a long and grueling process, including being said no to about 1 million times, I was finally said yes to a few times, 6 to be exact, so I have four courses lined up for next semmester, and two for the following semmester.

Two of these courses for the following semmester will be independant studies. Thus is the reason for blogging. As apart of my grade, I have to keep some form of a journal and since I can't mail journals back and forth to my professors, I will be keeping this blog. In it, I will discuss all things New Orleans!

Now I realize that I am not in New Orleans yet, although the temperature makes it feel like I am, but I feel like if I start blogging now, I will get in the habit of blogging and it will be easy to continue to do it when I actually get to New Orleans. There is also a lot more "behind the scenes" type of stories that I wish to share in this blog as well about my entire experience. I feel like these items will be easier to share before the adventure begins and it will allow me to make the days go by faster leading up to the actual move in day, which as of now is August 11! (65 more days!)

So hurray for my first of many blogs!