Pinhole Photographs/ Polaroid T55
I started photographing in Barataria- Terrebonne National Estuary in South Louisiana in the summer of 1999. Since the beginning of my project, the area suffered a number of major hurricanes including Katrina and Rita, and recent large oil spill catastrophe. The pinhole photographs in this series range from May 2006 until May of 2010, just as the first oil from the Deepwater Horizon platform was reaching the estuary’s barrier islands.
Louisiana is experiencing the highest rate of coastal erosion in America, losing about one hundred yards of land every thirty minutes. That is a size of a football field every half-hour.
The barrier islands of Southeast Louisiana are some of the youngest and most unstable landforms on earth. They average 5000 years in age, and are rapidly changing shape and disappearing due to the man-altered flow of the Mississippi delta. Timbalier Island, for example, averaged 20m/year towards Northwest, during the last century (U.S. geological survey). During the early 1800’s most of the barrier islands served as the summer resorts to Louisiana’s upper crust. In 1856 a devastating hurricane hit Isle Dernieres causing great loss of life and property, nearly splitting the island in half. Since then more than a dozen major storms, including Katrina changed the geography of the coast. Today, all except Grand Isle are sand bars with a little more than skeletal remnants of industry. These Islands represent the “First Line of Defense” against such hurricanes.
In addition to environmental and political landscape, this series addresses the cultural concerns of local population. Cajuns of Louisiana comprise one of the oldest, most unique, and historically significant ethnic cultures in the United States. It is also a culture that is under a dire threat of disappearing simply because the land they occupy is physically disappearing. This project combines the cultural documentary with environmental concerns by presenting the Louisiana wetlands issues in context of our global cultural-environmental situation. This subject is a proverbial “canary in the mine” for the issues that affect the entire planet. Cajuns are the first true large example of the environmental refugees in the United States. In Cajun country cultural problems are tightly interwoven with environmental ones. The global environmental concerns that place Louisiana in center of world’s attention make this project very timely.
Our, often adversarial relationship with the world outside ultimately reveals our inability to adapt to the natural process. We stop the flooding of rivers by building levees, yet that destroys the wetlands that protect us from storm surges. These photographs set out to illustrate the results of such failed relations.