Sunday, August 23, 2009

Better Artist Statement

            Every 3.8 to 4.3 miles of wetlands reduce storm surges by an average of 1 foot, for the state of Louisiana this fact is a very important one when you consider that its coastline is one of the most hurricane prone regions in the United States. The wetlands provide a natural barrier that absorbs surging water during storms. That barrier can be the difference between land that survives a storm, and land that is destroyed by it.  Even though wetlands may not be able to protect against major hurricanes such as Katrina it can slow the water flowing into populated areas.  The importance of these wetlands is obvious when you consider that they help protect a coast line that’s infrastructure is valued at over 96 billion dollars, most of which goes towards the nations need of energy, navigation and fisheries.  Louisiana has 5 of the one the busiest ports in the U.S.  and is and important part of the U.S economy.  The energy facilities located in Louisiana control and move more the 26% of the nations natural gas and crude oil.  Southern Louisiana ports carry over 21 % of shipping by boats and 57% of grain exports, if the wetlands didn’t exist the canals that these ships use would be unprotected and easily destroyed by storm surges, and hurricanes. The protection of these canals by the wetlands ensures the flow of goods to and from the U.S. markets, and directly affects thousands of jobs and services throughout the entire country. It seems that something as important and the wetlands should be protected; however during the 20th century coastal Louisiana has lost over 1.2 million acres of wetlands.

            This dramatic loss and land is caused by a number of problems that are a combination between human interference and natural changes in the ecosystem.  Its almost impossible to determine how much each of these factors contributes to the loss of the land, because human interference can be a slow build up or an accumulation after years, and other effects like storm damages can happen over night destroying hundreds of acres of land.  An example of man’s interference is that when the Mississippi built the wetlands, its yearly floods pushed water and sediments across southern Louisiana that created its own ecosystem, but in the last century the rivers flooding has been contained by man made levee’s and the water and sediment that continued to build the wetlands is pushed into the Gulf of Mexico, and the wetlands no longer are getting a renewal of the nutrients that allow them to be sustainable, and the wetlands are converting to open water.  An example of storm damages would be the obvious choice of hurricane Katrina. Estimates from the U.S Geological Survey suggest that 75,520 acres of marshland along Louisiana’s coast were shredded or sunk. Exposing the areas to more effects to any following storms.

            As a result of this drastic rate of loss if it isn’t reduced this critical energy infrastructure may be damaged or destroyed the loss of wetlands leaves pipelines, offshore oil supports, and any other facilities built for inland use will be exposed to open water and storm surges that could potentially destroy them.  Another problem is that this land that we are so rapidly losing is breeding ground for fish and shell fish, when the land turns into open water, you lose the fish population causing the commercially important fisheries stock to plummet.

            The CWPPRA or the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act that congress passed in 1990 have been the main protection and defense of the wetlands. It has been Louisiana’s main tool for responding and trying to fix the wetland loss, the program tries to make awareness by emphasizing practical benefits to the human population, and still supporting the economic uses of the wetlands. Some of their restoration techniques include: Vegetation planting, river diversions, hydrologic restoration, marsh creation, shoreline protection, sediment trapping, and stabilization of barrier islands.

            My project is based on this overwhelming knowledge that we are losing these lands that have such and huge effect on the entire nation not just the state of Louisiana. My goal of this project was to show that these lands are beautiful, and serene, but they have a huge importance, and that the rapid loss of them will be very damaging if nothing is done to stop their deterioration. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

            When I started this project I wanted to show the impact and recovery of the ecosystems, and wildlife following Katrina, and the importance of wildlife refuges and the land that they protect. I was able to travel to four different wildlife refuges and one other location that was recommended to me by Ted Jackson of the Time Picayune.  By traveling to these locations able to round out my project because the refuges were located all around New Orleans.

            The first refuge I traveled to was Barataria Preserve. This location was my first glimpse of the wetlands, in the south, and I was impressed with its beauty. It was almost hard to take in. There were photo opportunities everywhere. The refuge allowed me to see the beauty of the wetlands, and I think it was a good location to start with.

            The second refuge I traveled to was Bayou Sauvage. At first to me I was disappointed and unimpressed with what I saw. I expected the refuge to have more wildlife, more trees, and more plants; it was after all a refuge. But there was nothing besides some grasses, and bare trees. It wasn’t until I was able to talk to Byron Fortier, that the absence of everything I thought I should be seeing was explained.  Almost all of the trees, and other wildlife was destroyed during hurricane Katrina, what was once a lush forest, was now almost desolate, and what wasn’t, destroyed during Katrina had been logged and cut down before Bayou Sauvage had become a refuge.  Byron explained to me, that the recovery efforts from the logging where also destroyed during Katrina, so now the park services where not only trying to recover from human interference but natures as well.

            After Bayou Sauvage, Becky and I traveled to Bayou Teche, where we met Donovan Garcia. Donovan grew up on the Bayou and has spent the last 35 years canoeing, boating, and hiking through the wetlands. He gave me an in site into the workings of Wetlands, and the importance of protecting what is fast becoming obsolete. We got into a motorboat and spent the next 5 hours, in the canals of Bayou Teche.  Where mans interference was evident everywhere. Most of the very canals we were traveling on where created by oil companies, to lay pipes in at the bottom of the canals. Everywhere you turn there are no dredging or anchoring signs, to protect the pipes still on the bottom. Donovan was able to show us areas on banks that were broken down dug up where logging companies made little coves to drag the tress out of the forest.  He showed us areas where because of man made earthen levees trapped salt water surges during Hurricanes in, killing hundreds of trees that cant survive in salt water.  Donovan was even able to show us a small oil refinery in the bayou, and pipes left sticking out into the water from oil companies that don’t use them anymore.  Bayou Teche was a great contribution to my essay, I don’t think my project would have been complete without the information I gathered and the photographs I got.

            Big Branch Marsh was the next stop. I was surprised to see the density of forest at this location. But once you got deeper into the refuge you came upon a sight similar to Bayou Sauvage, where the only trees are dead remnants of what they once where, and most surprising of all was through the dead trees you were able to see what appeared to be a very large house. I found it odd that it appears these people built their house with the wetlands as a backyard. I was able to get some photographs that were helpful to my project but I think I this location was the least important of my trip.

            The last place I visited was Delacroix. If there were anything I was missing in my project I found it here.  The Highway on the way to Delacroix provided me with photographs of Cyprus forests being torn down, and new houses being built. Off the highway and onto the small road that took us to Delacroix had a lot of photo opportunities. I must have made Colleen stop the car 40 times, whether from pollution by man or hurricane the bayou along the road, was full with pollution, house siding, car parts, coolers, speedboats, and toilets are just some of the things along that bayou.  Once in Delacroix, I was able to get a photograph that made me sad, it’s of a bunch of dead oak tress that I’m sure were at least a hundred years old. That is the sight that you are greeted with upon entering Delacroix what I’m sure was once a lush grove of ancient oaks, and now are all dead.

            I think my project was successful in showing the devastation of hurricane and man, and the importance of protection what there is left, because it is important. The wetlands protect the city of New Orleans, which is an important city of trade in the U.S. most of the nations goods pass through New Orleans on its way up the Mississippi. Its not only the people of New Orleans or Louisiana that needs to worry about preserving the wetlands but anyone that relies on the shipping and trade industries which is all of us in one way or another.

Friday, June 26, 2009

DAy 5:Evening Shoot/Exploring

St. Louis Cathedral

Day 5

Today I was able to get out into the Bayou. Becky and I headed to Franklin LA about 2 hours from New Orleans at 6 a.m. Becky is my hero we need to get her that cape she keeps talking about! Once we got there we met up with Donavan Garcia. He is a volunteer with the Bayou Teche refuge, and takes people out into the Bayou. He was willing to take me out there with no thought of profit or gain from him and I find that very admirable. He was so knowledgeable about the swamps, and wetlands and all the things that are going wrong with them. We spent fours out on the Bayou, exploring the beauty of the swamps and I had some amazing experience today including having a 15 foot alligator jump out of a tree at us (I'm not making this up) and I think that this helped me alot with my project. So thanks Becky for hauling me all the way out there and Donovan for taking me out into the Bayou!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bayou Sauvage Day 4

They look kind of washed out sorry!

Times Picayune Ride Along

I started out Wed. morning hesitant of about our trip to the Times Picayune, but it turned out to be an terrific experience. I was able to go on a ride along with Ted Jackson who is an inspiring and talented photographer for the Times. We were allowed into the LSU medical building that is finally beginning to recover from Katrina. The building had about 20 feet of water in it. To me that kind of water that high is unfathomable. But my favorite part of the day was being able to listen to Ted tell his stories of the things he experienced during the storm.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Barataria Preserve: Bayou Couquille

Day 2

Today was a long and interesting day. I started my day by getting up at 5 in the a.m. to get ready for my sunrise shoot. Amanda and I decided to break away from the group today and go to the river walk and on the Mississippi, and shoot the sunrise. We got on the Ferry and crossed the river, to shoot from both, sides and then walked the French Quarter. The Quarter is beautiful in the morning when everything is quiet, and the sun is just rising, it makes a city that is usually bustling with activity appear to be peaceful and silent. I think this was a very good way to experience my first real glimpse of the city.

After our sunrise shoot I met Ryan and Colleen for our tour of New Orleans. The tour took us through out most of the city. Showing aspects of culture, tourism, effect of Katrina and everyday life of the people of New Orleans. The most interesting place to me was, the lower 9th ward, and being able to see the watermarks and places that were once under water, and even seeing the levees that where breached. Once the tour was finished I was able to do some exploring of the city, before returning to the Hotel to get ready for my evening shoot.

For my evening shoot Becky and Colleen took me to Barataria Preserve, or more specifically Bayou Coquille & Kenta Canal Trails. It was a new experience for me. I was able to see for the first time a wild alligator. It was a baby and only seemed to be about 4 feet long. Becky and I followed the Kenta Canal Trails, almost to the end. The hardwooded forest seemed almost exotic and too me gave off a mystic feel. I loved, walking the trails and seeing all the different wildlife. I was also able to see more gators, one along the trail and three or four more once we got to the Kenta Canal. I think this was a successful trip and I look forward to going out again. This experience today allowed me to experience the beauty of these Bayou's first hand and succeeded in convincing me that these bits of paradise need to be protected and preserved.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 1

FINALY HERE! After weeks of planning and build up I'm finally in the Big Easy. I can't tell you how excited I am, to see and experience this city. Its been an interesting day filled mostly with travel (it was my first time in a plane!)but I was able to get a glimpse of the city this evening and I get I will be taking a tour of the city tomorrow morning. 
From what I have seen of the city it is every bit as amazing as i thought it would be, I am very excited to experience as much of New Orleans as I can in the ten days I'm here!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Project

It's the night before I leave for New Orleans and I just thought I would establish exactly what my essay is going to be. What I  want to accomplish with this project, is to show the impact and recovery of the ecosystems, and wildlife following Katrina. I also want to show the importance of these refuges, and the animals and wildlife that they protect.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I made some calls today and got some really good contacts! I have to make some more calls tomorrow but the outlook is good that I might be able to have a volunteer that works at the refuge take me out to Mandalay which is a refuge that can only be reached by boat. I think that this if it happens will be a good addition to my project!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Change in Essay Topic

I have been doing a lot of research trying to figure out what I'm going to do for my project. I have decided to change my topic to photographing wildlife and nature in New Orleans, I have found 4  different wildlife refuges in and around New Orleans that are accessible to the public, they are  Bayou Sauvage, Bayou Teche, Big Branch Marsh, Bogue Chitto, Wildlife Refuge's. 

I am also going to call some of the other wildlife refuge's visitor offices that are listed on the site, but are only accessible by boat and I want to see if anyone would be able to take me to one. The Bayou Sauvage Refuge gives free canoe and hiking tours also so I will be calling to set one of those up as well. The site also lists Katrina damages at each of these refuges, and maps of where to find endangered species.
This is the site
I'm really looking forward to this trip now, I was getting really discouraged!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Where I'm at

I have email, four different facilities and called  two and still have not had any response.  I am continuing my research and trying to find more contacts but I am running out of Ideas.

When The Levees Broke

            When The Levees Broke gives us an intimate and heartbreaking look into the destruction of what I consider one of the most amazing cities in the U.S. especially after watching this video. The video shows and tells the personal stories of who survived in the wake of hurricane Katrina. This film shows the trials and tribulations that this city and its inhabitants have endured, but more importantly it shows the strength, the courage, and the spirit that these people have shown in the face of the death, devastation, and disease. But more importantly it shown the spirit, strength and courage that the people of New Orleans have to look at all the destruction and still stand back up and rebuild. The video shows New Orleans will to survive, and keep their culture and city alive.

            When the Levees broke is an emotional four hour-film that crosses a variety of different backgrounds, to show the mutually devastation the people of New Orleans faced.  Despite the fact that I like I’m sure most everybody viewed the coverage on the news, the video shows a much more raw version of the devastation of New Orleans. Like the images of people standing on roof tops with signs pleading for help, the personal stories we hear throughout the video of the people that were lost in the flooding, and the most devastating of all at the end of the first chapter the coverage of corpses lying in the street some covered but most not left to rot because there were was no where to put them. The horrific volume of devastation, death, suffering and misery shocked me I knew that it was horrible but I had no idea what the New Orleans went through and I still really don’t.

            But what makes this movie spectacular to me is the hope, that despite the devastation and the fact that here we are four years later and still there are parts of New Orleans that look like it was only four days ago, the people of New Orleans show. The hope that their city will be rebuilt to its once glory. That to me makes me think that New Orleans is the greatest city in America

The True Meaning of Picture: Shelby Lee Adams

"I'm pushing you, the viewer, and challenging you. That's why I'm in there with the camera six inches away from Selena's face. I think you need to he confronted with that. By getting in there with the camera, by creating some distortions, I'm hoping to make everyone think. What is our job here as a human being? Stop making judgments and experience life. I'm experiencing this environment. I'm trying to share with you, in an intimate way, that experience." Shelby Lee Adams

       Jenniffer Baichwal’s The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams’ Appalachia is an exploration into the controversial and to me beautiful work of the American photographer Shelby Lee Adams, especially his photographs taken in Appalachia Kentucky, and the people who live there. True Meaning takes us on what essentially is a tour of many different landscapes led by Adams, using his photographs and the audio and video recordings taken while he photographed his series as a starting point. During the movie you learn that Adams has been filming the people in the hollows of Kentucky, who are all mostly living in abject poverty, for over thirty years.

       Most of us probably look at Adams photographs and all we see are hillbillies, I like the distinction Adams makes in the documentary about the people he photographs being his friends not hillbillies he even refers to them as his people. I think that the interpretation varies on the person viewing the photographs, but I think that Adams photographs of the Appalachian people are his way of trying to get people to look past the judgments we all have, and see who the people he is photographing really are.  Adams has also been criticized for lighting and arranging the people in his photograph. I don’t there is anything wrong with lighting a photograph to get the mood and feel the photographer is trying to accomplish. I think Adams is able to incorporate lighting and staging and still manages to show the subject in an unbiased and truthful manner.

My goal that I want to reach through my essay is to show the conditions in which these kids are living in and show the facilities and people who are trying to help them. I want to show these kids in their own environment’s and I want to show the facilities that allow these kids a chance and a different way to live. This is different from how I usually work, I usually pose people and create the environments around them. But I want these photographs to be real and tell a true story. I’m stepping out of my box for this one so we will see how it goes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The American Experience

I really enjoyed the American Experience New Orleans. I found the history and the background really interesting and helpful in trying to find a topic for my essay, because it allowed me to see the essence and heart of the city. I love that the city has so many different background and cultures and learning how they came to all be in one city was very interesting. 
I liked how the video showed you the history and then talked about the present and flipped back and forth between the two with every new topic they talked of really allowed me to compare and contrast the changes from the old New Orleans to the new.
My favorite part was when they showed how screwed up one of the restaurant were and how the people, who worked and owned it were just going to rebuild. It really showed how much the people that live there really love their city. I also found it very interesting how much New Orleans is still influenced by the french culture even today. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Essay Ideas

Here are some of my ideas, for my Photo Essay:
Graveyards- this is the one that fascinates me, and I am most interested in.
Haunted New Orleans - very interested in this one as well.
Plantation Houses
Cajun Cooking
9th Ward
Voodo/Fortune Tellers
Landmarks/Historic places
Street Performers
Night Life
Street Performers