It had been 3 years since New Orleans experienced experienced Hurricane Katrina. When Hurricane Gustav reared its ugly head in 2008 it sent the city into an instant panic. Would it be as bad as 2005?
Where complacency ruled in the days before Katrina, the opposite happened with Gustav. There was panic. People were filling trucks and cars with personal belongings and getting out of Dodge as fast as they could.
But, when the population was leaving, there were others coming into the city in droves. Reporters! As the first major event since the great Hurricane, every news agency across the country sent reporters, trucks and camera equipment to New Orleans so they wouldn't miss a single drowning.
At the time I was managing a small boutique hotel in the French Quarter. The rich owners of the hotel were some of the first to leave the city. But before they left, they leased the whole facility of 18 rooms to an NBC affiliate out of Florida.
They didn't want to leave the place totally unmanned and since I had no family to worry about, I volunteered to stay on the property and keep an eye out of on things.
As the news crews flooded into the hotel one of the reporters came to me and asked if I knew anyone who was staying in the city that could act as a guide for the various news crews. They needed to know where to go and what areas of the city were most important to monitor during the storm.
Of course I volunteered myself as long as they had no objection to me snapping a few photos at the same time.
What followed was three days where I barely slept and ran with crews day and night, guiding them to areas that were hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.
Those photos were subsequently lost in a hard drive malfunction years later.
But as technology changes, to my astonishment in 2020 we were able to retrieve and save those images along with 50,000+ other photos from the earlier years of my career as a photographer. This was before I switched to the arts full time, but those photos still represented a substantial part of my growing experience as a creator.
So during this time of isolation during the pandemic crisis, I've taken time to go through some of those old photos including an archive holding all the Gustav photos.
My skills have changed over the years. So I carefully selected the best from my archive and decided to create a new series for them. Since most were never seen in the first place, its an adventure to reproduce them here.
Due to the nature of these images as more of a documentary series, I've decided there had to be some commentary involved with this. So if you click on the image it will take you to a short explanation of the image and an enlarged version of the photo. Because of the extraordinary circumstances currently facing the world, there is an eerie parallel in some of these images to the abandoned streets and military presence around New Orleans and that also deserves a few comments.
One last thing. Why do this now when the world is in such crisis? Why show something else bad?
For all our friends who are in the path of killer hurricanes this is a reminder that we are now just a month from Hurricane season 2020 and for us who are in isolation in our homes from the virus, we have a double threat to consider.
Plan ahead. Consider your options if a storm is coming and stay as safe as you can. Planning now may save your life later.
These are unusual times.