Tuesday, August 31, 2010






Update on Subject Matter for NOLA

Although I love teachers I'm not sure that the idea as a whole can be done by me in such a short period of time. I have been researching an idea Colleen suggested to me in a comment. Where are the babies from Katrina?? Many of them are just turning 5 and where are they. I still can keep a little bit on teachers if it works because many of these "Katrina babies" are entering Kindergarten this fall.

Response to Zeitoun

I first want to start off by saying this is one the best books I've read in a while. I love true stories but this one was very intense. The story is just plain amazing and impossible to put down. For my response I chose to answer the question about Kathy.

“ Discuss Kathy’s situation, and her actions once she learns where Zeitoun is. The aftermath is more difficult, and she still suffers from physical and psychological problems that seem to be the result of post-traumatic stress. What was the most traumatic part of her experience, and why?”

When the story starts off, if goes through a little bit of history of the couple then gets right into a couple days before Katrina made landfall. A lot of people didn’t anticiate the severity of the storm. Kathy kept hearing news reports and how the storm was getting worse. A story that caught her eye was the family who was lost at sea. She worried about them every time she heard the story. Meanwhile, more and more people were packing up and heading out. Kathy wanted to and couldn’t get Zeitoun to commit to leaving. He had stayed before and didn’t see this as any different. So finally Kathy packed up the kids and the dog and headed out to her family. Zeitoun is able to keep contact with her before and right after the storm using his cell phone until it finally dies. While out exploring his properties he discovers a landline that still works and immediately contacts Kathy and does this every day at noon. Until one day he doesn’t call Kathy. Immediately she knows something must be wrong, she is under a lot of pressure from Zeitoun’s brother and family to find him get him back home. Everyday they call her asking where he is. One day someone calls and in a short manner tells Kathy he saw her husband and told her the prison he was in.

Once she finds out where he is Kathy is so excited because she knows for sure he is alive and she can let her kids and Zeitoun’s brother know he is alive and hopefully well. She could do nothing while she had no idea where he was but soon after finding out where he is, it doesn’t really change. She makes calls to a lawyer friend, they find out of a court date, together they make plans to help get Zeitoun out. But Kathy soon finds out they won’t let her do anything. She can’t even find out where the court date is because it is “private information”. Kathy described this as the part where she broke, the moment when the woman said it’s private information I cannot tell you. This was because Kathy could do nothing and could think of nothing else to do. Her husband was locked up, she did not know why and she could not help. That would be a breaking point for many people.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More on Teachers


Finding lots of good things, not many are recent though. I have to keep digging.

American Federation of Teachers


I also found this group - American Federation of Teachers. This is their main website.

United Teachers of New Orleans


I found a group. United Teachers of New Orleans. After just a short time researching today I've found so much information. I had no idea that thousands of teachers were fired after Hurricane Katrina. This organization has many members and keeps track of the law suits that were filed after the firings.

Brainstorming Subject Matter for Photographic Essay

I started out with a list of things that I like and let ideas form from there.
This was my list:

Love stories
Historical things
Environmental Portraits

I’ve always enjoyed interacting with children and my little sister of 9 has kept me young. As she grows I worry about the things she interacts with what is going on in her school and how the people she comes in contact with will help her grow as a person.

I could not settle on an idea for my Photographic Essay, so I set out to read and see what would come from there. I read an article from the October 2008 edition of Oxford American by David Ramsey called “ I Will Forever Remain Faithful – How Lil Wayne helped me survive my first year teaching in New Orleans.” Ramsey used to work on the staff of Oxford American and taught 9th and 10th grade Social Studies in New Orleans. I am not sure if he is still teaching although I am curious to find out. In this article he talks about how he uses Lil Wayne to relate to his students. The article is set up into small numbered paragraphs, like tracks and lyrics. In number 8 Ramsey says,
“ Our students are afraid of rain. A heavy morning shower can cut attendance in half. I once had a student write an essay about her experience in the Superdome. She wrote, without explanation, that she lost her memory when she lost her grandmother in the storm. I was supposed to correct the grammar, so that she would be prepared for state testing in the spring.”

It evolved into something like this:

Children/school aged/ schools

Teachers that come in are “White and out of town”
Learning styles of students
Do Teachers have to alter their teaching styles?
Has Katrina affected the way schools are run now?
What things affect attendance?
Living situations of teachers – salaries pay nothing

I am in love with this idea so hopefully after research I can find many ideas and things to shoot.

I think I have to give an honorable mention to the burlesque idea that Colleen brought up because that would be a good idea too. They have to have day jobs, I hope that someone does this it would be a very interesting subject to shoot.

"The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams

Watching The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams’ Appalachia was a very good experience. After about 5 seconds into the documentary I realized I’ve seen it before and I must have somehow forgotten. But instead of popping the DVD out and going to bed like a lot of other college students I sat about two feet away from my monitor and listened intently all over again.
It’s hard to believe that I could forget about such an amazing body of work but watching the documentary over and seeing the images all over again just sets the artist and the subject matter into a permanent little spot in my brain. In the very beginning is one of my favorite lines from the entire film: “ A photograph that you can remember is just as important as one that you can see.” I love this because if someone has seen an image that they are really drawn to they will remember that, they can picture it in their minds. On the other hand, if someone sees and image that just appalls them, they will remember that too. An image can be remembered as a very positive image or as a very negative image.
Photography for as long as it has been around has had the ability to serve as a misleading medium. Shelby Lee Adams has been accused of stereotyping his subjects into the typical hillbilly category. But in my mind he isn’t stereotyping them at all. I don’t find any of the images to be highly disturbing or appalling. To me they are a strong body of work that represents the people and the area he came from. In the film he mentioned that his subjects are his friends, whom he loves and cares about. There is genuine concern for the well being of the people. They let them into their homes share in meal time and they did this for a number of years. He’s seen deaths and births and almost acts as part of the family when he is there with them.
As a photographer, I believe that it is our responsibility to portray our subjects in an honest manner. But at the same time my honest manner may be something else to another person. Everybody sees things differently and everyone is affected in a different way after viewing things. I think of the woman, I can’t remember her name (she was in the green shirt in the film) but she was very shocked by the image of her sister. In this particular image, a little blonde girl peeks through a screen door, arms crossed and resting her head on her shoulder. In the background a man stands with his hands behind his back next to some empty boxes or bins. The lighting in this is just spectacular and Shelby Lee Adams says so himself, he had to take the picture because everything was set up so nicely. The sister of the little girl in the image is furious with this particular frame. She says in the film her family has been disgrace by Adams and lists a few reasons why. I think the main reason she thinks this is because of the screen and how she describes the look of her sister as being “like she hasn’t eaten in days”. I personally love this image I don’t see a starving child and yes the porch looks run down but who hasn’t seen a screen door that is just destroyed? or a dirty porch floor?
I think Shelby Lee Adams portrayed his subjects in a positive manner. I know the stereotypes of hillbillies include violence and moon shine and much more, he doesn’t show that. If he wanted to misrepresent them and show the hillbilly stereotype he could have set up images of people hurting each other or just drinking moonshine all of the time and doing nothing else. I think every photographer or anyone who would like to call themselves a photographer eventually should watch this documentary.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

“New Orleans was a city surrounded by water”

Last night I watched American Experience: New Orleans. It’s a 2 hour long PBS movie that gives a quick history of the city.
Everybody knows New Orleans is a very old city, and people there will tell you that there are many, many traditions. Such as picnics in cemeteries, to most of us that’s strange. Why would someone want to have a picnic in a cemetery, because it’s an entirely different culture in this city.
New Orleans was established as a city in 1718. In the movie Ari Kelman ( art historian) said “It was the worst place imaginable to put a city…on the other hand it was the best place to put a city.” I think a person gets a better perspective when this next line follows – “ We live in a bowl surrounded by water on a flood plain.” I don’t remember exactly who said it in the movie but it helps give someone an idea if you if they’re like me and from North Dakota, where it is pretty much just flat.
I think it’s safe to say in that sense, being surrounded by water, New Orleans has always had a close relationship with water.
New Orleans was known as the most unsanitary city because they had no sewage system. The drinking water for the city was pulled straight from the river, which was also used as a dumping ground for most of the cities waste. In 1914, the city finally had a drainage system.
A pump called the ‘wood pump’ was invented. It was a strong enough to lift the water and push it over the levees. After this they started to drain certain areas in order to expand the city, this started in 1920.
On April 15, 1927 it started raining and it rained a lot. A bolt of lightning struck the pump stations and they all stopped. The city flooded, there was 4 feet of water in the city. I did not know New Orleans had a previous struggle with flooding prior to Katrina.
The board of self appointed bankers in New Orleans then decided they needed to do something drastic to help the city. What did they decide? They decided to blow up the levees so the water would go over the natural flood plain. They evacuated the areas and promised the people compensation for the flooding of their homes.
In the end it took 39 tons of dynamite and 10 days to destroy the levee. And the levee further away broke – just like predicted. So really there was absolutely no reason to blow up the levee and make so many people homeless. Those people were never compensated and the bankers decided to deduct the cost of feeding those people from any settlement they would bring forward. This was such a big event in New Orleans at the time, the newspapers blew up and cause absolute panic in the city.
Then we jump to August 29th 2005 something even worse happened to New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina hit and disaster ensued. I lived in North Dakota on the exact opposite side of this event, of the United States. Of course we heard about it, but unless you were close to it or actually there I don’t think anybody knew or understood the true story of Katrina. I will admit I didn’t and still don’t know a lot about Katrina and New Orleans but know I’ve been drawn in to the city, just by one video and a magazine.
In the video towards the end a woman said “ Nobody helped New Orleans, so in the end we helped ourselves.” Another described the city as “a city too unruly to rule”. This in the end helped them pull through as a community and to survive.

I just want to add that I’m so happy that things pulled together and I get to have an opportunity like this with great people at a great school.