Pretty

February 16, 2018

BW photograph of trees silhouetted at twilight.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved,

After having made two trips in New Orleans in post-Katrina 2008, I had decided that making pretty photographs was a waste of my time.  There are two very subjective aspects in that sentence:  the first, “pretty”, is open to interpretation.  My initial photographic interest was the natural world-grand scenics and the intimate microcosm of mountains, flowers, and critters.  Having been to the Lower 9th Ward and other areas that were still wrecked three years after the storm had made an impression-“pretty” images were of much less interest.  The second, “…waste of my time.” is not saying “a waste of time period“; it was fine for others to make such photographs.   I wanted to make socially relevant photographs to illustrate a number of concerns that I felt were important-they could be largely grouped under the heading of the human impact on the natural world.  Hence my emphasis on trash, for example.

A decade later, I have found myself to be increasing frustrated and disillusioned, and, yes, angry, at the state of the world; particularly U.S. politics and the role it plays in local, national, and global events.  We have had yet another mass shooting in a school.  That makes something like 30 such events since the start of 2018, let alone what came before.  Previous posts have detailed my concerns over the political response to climate change.  Trash continues to proliferate.  And so on.  While Steven Pinker does have a point, as does this article, the examples cited here dull the shine of such information, especially when they have a direct impact on a given individual.

BW photograph of trees silhouetted at twilight with clouds in the background.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved,

All of which leads me back to “pretty”.  That is still very much a subjective term.  The photographs included here fit that definition for me.  I very much like B&W photographs that have a full range of tones from deep blacks to bright whites.   It is also helpful to remember the emotions experienced at the time the shutter was pressed.  Watching the clouds move across the sky and the manner by which the light changed in response to that movement induced a sense of calm and wonder.  For a few moments, the info in the paragraph above became irrelevant.

That does not mean those issues can be ignored or obfuscated.  Doing so is, after all, what allows them to worsen.  I will most certainly continue to make photographs to illustrate that which is of concern to me.  At the same time,  I am returning to my roots (which seems to be an appropriate phrase for the intent here, literally and figuratively) as it is quite useful to one’s well-being to find some beauty and peace when possible.

Take care.

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Evidence

January 7, 2018

BW photograph of an icy Morgan Run and some rocks.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is a follow-up to the previous post.

The bomb cyclone that tore up the East Coast over the past couple of days has moved on, but it is still frigid (single digit if not below zero ambient temps with wind chill factors that makes the air much colder) in many areas.   However difficult this has been, and this is not at all to minimize the loss of life and inhospitable conditions (which was the reason for the homeless statistics previously posted) created by the combination of extreme cold, snow, wind, and flooding, it is still a relatively isolated (chronologically speaking), short-term event.

In Alaska, the problem is a bit different.

In addition, all along the perimeter of the United States, residents are dealing with a much more longer-term issue: habitat loss due to sea and flood-level rise as a result of climate change.  Given the current administration’s on-going commitment to the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, this is a very real problem of the now, not the future.

BW photograph of a lone tree against a large rock with layered snow.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Given that mitigation is clearly not an option until there is a willful political change in thinking and action (the mid-term elections later this year?), adaptation becomes a “solution”.  However, as the above report (linked under “habitat loss”) indicates, the funding for such large-scale efforts is sorely lacking, particularly for the more fiscally challenged portions of the country.  Even in relatively affluent areas, the drop in real-estate values makes for an economic dis-incentive.

Economics aside, the need for re-location also creates a titanic change in the culture for coastal residents, particularly for those whose livelihood has been linked to the land and water for generations.

BW photograph of a snowy trail leading into the woods at Morgan Run.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There are no easy ways to deal with climate change.  Having said that, this is a problem that will only escalate as time moves on and efforts at mitigation are ignored or “rolled-back”.

Take care.

 

 

 

 

NOLA in LaLa Land

April 30, 2017

BW photograph of the Little Jewell of New Orleans menu board.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Food is one of the grandest expressions of a given culture.  Understanding that as a backdrop, it goes without saying that one of the distinctive aspects of New Orleans is the type of food and the manner by which it is prepared in the Crescent City.  One example of that is the po’ boy sandwich…

BW photograph of a beignet at Little Jewell of New Orleans in Los Angeles.

Copyright 2017 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

another would be beignets.  Both are classics.

A bit north and way to the west of New Orleans is Los Angeles, CA-one of the more culturally-diverse cities in the U.S.  As with many other large cities, much of that diversity is exemplified  in the multitude of restaurants and types of food available.  Even with that, though, it was surprising to encounter The Little Jewel  of New Orleans, which provides a definitive New Orleans menu and vibe to LA’s Chinatown neighborhood.  The photographs above were made there and not in any number of eateries in New Orleans proper.  Definitely a treat.

Take care.

 

Storm Surge

August 28, 2015

BW photograph of a Fells Point marina in the early morning

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Barring any additional need, this will be the last post regarding the anniversary of Katrina.  That being said, Tropical Storm Erika is churning in the Caribbean and has killed at least 4 people in Dominica.  While her impact on the U.S. has yet to be determined, and the current prediction does not have Erika becoming a hurricane, Florida has already declared a state of emergency in advance of the storm.  Such declarations and emergency preparedness are a legacy of Katrina.

The peaceful tranquility of the sunrise over the water depicted above is from one of the marinas in Baltimore, Md-specifically, Fells Point.  This is a nice place to sit, drink a cup of coffee, and watch the morning unfold.  It is also here as a reminder that if such a storm surge as occurred with Katrina came up the Chesapeake, this area, and the rest of Baltimore’s upscale Inner Harbour, would be under water.  Hurricanes have caused flooding and damage in the city before, and such an event becomes even more likely as the oceans continue to rise as a result of climate change.  The increasing sea levels and warming water temperatures that lead to stronger storms factor into yet another of Katrina’s legacies.  As Louisiana drained and developed the coastal wetlands, the natural means by which to absorb storm surge was eliminated.  The Baltimore City area has no such wetlands to begin with and the built environ literally meets the water, as described in this article from 1997.

It certainly is, however, a nice place to greet a calm, relatively cool, summer day.

Take care.

Recovery

August 26, 2015

Restored house in the Muscian's Village

Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

While reading the responses to articles about the anniversary of Katrina and New Orleans, there were several from residents of the city who were stating that they found the attention to be too much of a reminder of what happened 10 years ago.  That is a point well taken.

Back in my chemical dependency counselor days, we used to talk about “environmental cues,” which is a term referring to being in the same or similar places or doing similar activities that served as powerful reminders of drug use.  For example, for someone with a history of smoking cocaine, using a lighter to ignite a cigarette could be an environmental cue.  The result could be an “evoked craving”-the powerful urge to use the drug.  A similar process occurs with some combat veterans who experience Post Traumatic Stress.  Fireworks on the 4th of July, for example, can be difficult due to the concussive sound and bright explosions, both of which may serve to exacerbate the experience of war.  All of this has its roots in the manner by which the brain stores memories.  One fundamental way to cope with this is to avoid the situations containing the problematic stimulus.

In popular culture, the term that appears to be used for the same concept is “trigger warnings”.  That is, when about to discuss information that may be disturbing to some, an announcement is made about the nature of the content so that individuals can be prepared or make the decision to step out from the presentation.  The concern is that the content will “trigger” the recall and subjective re-experiencing of a painful event.  I listen to National Public Radio a lot and, with some degree of frequency, listeners are advised that difficult material is about to be discussed.  The warning, in turn, gives the audience the opportunity to change the station or lower the volume if so needed.

Lower 9 Tourist Sign

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

And so it also goes with Katrina and New Orleans.  This 10-year anniversary certainly must be a difficult time for many as the videos, photographs, and stories are presented.  There is a concept in photography called “disaster porn” or “ruin porn”. This refers to the stimulation that comes from viewing destruction and human suffering.  For example, in the aftermath of Katrina, there were bus companies that organized tours of the city so folks could ride in air-conditioned comfort while viewing the aftermath.  There is a scene in the first season of HBO’s Treme where a bus stops by a group mourning the death of friend and there are camera flashes firing through the windows as people are taking pictures of the grieving.  The issue here is one of disrespect and exploitation as driving through, taking a picture, and then leaving does no service to the community.

Gutted interior of house in Lower 9 Ward three years after Katrina.

Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

On the other hand, without photographs and testimony, the power of the experience would have been lost.  The difference between exploitation and understanding is time-taking the time to learn about the history; taking the time to talk with the people who were directly affected; and taking the time to help with the recovery.  As many have said, Katrina, the hurricane, was a natural disaster.  Katrina, the flood, was a man-made catastrophe.  Therein lies a significant difference, and understanding those circumstances, especially as they were experienced by those in New Orleans East or the Lower 9, is incredibly important.  The images in these last few posts have been used as part of the content in Sociology and Psychology classes as it is necessary to understand the historical and cultural circumstances that allowed Katrina to be what she was.  I have no idea how many people who experienced the storm read these posts and most certainly my intention is not to exacerbate any traumatic memories.  I do get very concerned that we sometimes have very short memories and we sometimes were not informed enough to have a memory to forget.

The culture that created Katrina, the catastrophe, still exists.

Fortunately, the culture that has allowed parts of the city to rebound also exists.  Perhaps not so coincidentally, The Diane Rehm Show broadcast this discussion about the nature of resilience a few days ago.  It is worth a listen as the science of recovery from trauma is explained as are the steps one can take to cope with traumatic experiences.  One of those steps is to become active in the building of community.  The photograph at the top of this post is from the Musician’s Village, which was an effort created by Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr. and New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity.  Please do use the link to read more about this important project.  Thousands of volunteers from across the country went to New Orleans to assist in whatever way possible.  I consider myself fortunate to have had that opportunity.

Take care.

 

 

Katrina X

August 23, 2015

FEMA Code Lower 9th Ward

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

I have been working my way through Gary Rivlin’s Katrina: After the Flood, and on page 127 he refers to the markings left on houses after they were searched for damage and/or bodies as the “Katrina X”.  The photograph above was taken in the Lower 9th Ward.

The number in the 12 o’clock position is the date the house was searched.  The letters in the 3 o’clock position reference any hazards within the structure-my understanding is that “NE” stands for “none evident”.  The space in the 6 o’clock position identifies the number of bodies found-in this case, the space is empty so one could presume that there were no bodies found in this home.  Finally, the letters/numbers in the 9 o’clock position reflect the team completing the search.

The date the house was searched is important:  9/16.  Hurricane Katrina hit on 8/29, so it was over two weeks before this particular house was searched.  Given that it took weeks for the flood waters to be pumped out to allow the searches and that, according to Rivlin, “More than 100,000 homes in the city had been damaged, and most every business had been shuttered” (pg. 158), that date takes on added significance.

What I often forget, and really should not forget, is that Hurricane Rita followed Hurricane Katrina. Rivlin reports that the flooding in the Lower 9th was “as bad on September 24, the day after Rita, as it was on August 30, the day after Katrina” (pg. 127).

A few weeks ago, NPR had this report describing the current status of the Lower 9th Ward.  Please do give it a read and/or listen.

Take care.

More than NOLA

August 19, 2015

 

Stairs surrounded by overgrown grasses

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

The photograph above was made in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans well after Hurricane Katrina had flooded the area.  Three years later, some had re-built-the houses in the background are part of Brad Pitt’s Make It Right effort-some had not.  The effects of Katrina on New Orleans both dominated the coverage at the time, and still appear to dominate the reportage of that storm.  However, another part of the legacy of Katrina is that she was big enough to have created wide-spread destruction throughout Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi as well as Louisiana.

To that end, please listen to and/or read this story about Bayou la Batre, which was broadcast on NPR this morning.  It is critical to remember and understand that the Gulf Coast was not only hammered by Katrina in 2005, but that the BP oil spill affected many of the same areas five years later.  The NPR report details how the effects of both continue to resonate.

Take care.

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