On the way to New Orleans six months after Hurricane Katrina, I had the idea to photograph signs of life, to take pictures of the first early spring on the Gulf Coast since the storm. As I drove west along the Alabama and Mississippi shoreline, I found few hints of spring because salt water had damaged much of the plant life in region.
By the time I got to New Orleans I found devastation beyond my comprehension. For a day and a half I drove around the city but did not make a single exposure. Then I decided to try something that for me was new, to make three exposures instead of one, each from a different perspective and angle: a kind of triptych. Because I was shooting film as I have always done, I carried the pictures in my mind, but didn’t see the results for several weeks. Why then did I recreate only one of these triptychs on my website at the time? Perhaps - as is so often the case when I first look at a new group of photographs- I thought the work a failure. I couldn’t even make order from the chaos of my own contact sheets. Or perhaps I was still too overwhelmed by the experience to approach the job.
In December of 2009, the French curator Gilles Mora asked me to show my photographs at the Pavillon Populaire in Montpelier, France in October of 2010 - January 2011. And so I returned to my negatives and contact sheets with a fresh eye, and the triptychs shown here emerged. This page shows three individual photographs I took as I started my springtime journey and saw this battered but still waving southern flag.