Signs of the Times

February 12, 2010

Industrial Canal Patience and Passion Sign

(C) Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

 Signs are used to convey thoughts and attitudes when no one is available to speak them.  A sociological theory, symbolic interactionism, suggests that people are able to work together in a society because they agree on the meaning of a symbol.  Language is a prime example.

I made two trips to New Orleans, one in January 2008 and the other in December 2008, and was struck by the reality that a picture does indeed speak a thousand words.  (Photos from the second trip will follow in a separate post.)  The images contained here are from the 9th Ward in New Orleans. 

Please keep in mind that these photos were made two-and-a-half years after Hurricane Katrina. 

FEMA Code Lower 9th Ward

(C) Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

 Codes can be used to send large amounts of information with a few symbols.  In the aftermath of the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) used a particular code to relay the status of the houses.  “9/16” indicates that this house was inspected on September 16.  It is worth noting that Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29.  “NE”  means that no hazards were found.  The blank area in the six o’clock position means that no bodies were found in this house.  “1/8” designates the team completing the search.  This house appeared to still be vacant in January 2008. 

Upper 9 Dirty Jobs advertisement

(C) Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

 The wreckage created by Katrina and the high humidity and temperatures of summers in the Gulf Coast meant that the mud (not to mention other forms of toxic sludge), mold, and mildew that permeated houses needed to be cleaned.  As an aside, look at the street signs at the top of the photo.  Two-and-a-half years later, hand painted, wooden street signs were still in use.  

Lower 9 Tourist Sign

(C) Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

 On both trips, the majority of residents I met were unfailingly cordial and more than willing to share their stories.  However, it must be very difficult to have tour buses and caravans of cars parading through one’s neighborhood to merely view the catastrophe without trying to assist.

Take care.


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