The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City

The Historic New Orleans Collection marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with the release of the book and exhibition The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City, featuring the haunting black-and-white images of New Orleans–based photographer David G. Spielman. His photographs, seventy-seven of which were featured in the exhibition, chronicle the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina and the arrested processes of rebuilding and recovery that persist in many neighborhoods.

The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City,
A new book and exhibition presented by The Historic New Orleans Collection
Exhibition on view August 22, 2015–January 9, 2016
Gallery hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art
400 Chartres Street
Admission is free.

Spielman and his camera have canvassed the city since Katrina’s landfall, marking the passage of time through a slow decay of architecture and a rapid growth of plant life. His confrontation with his subjects is unflinching, and from his photographs emerge stories of neglect, renewal, and perseverance within an altered cityscape.

Also included in the exhibition were materials from the archives of the Unified New Orleans Plan (the official civic recovery plan) and photographs of damaged buildings that were ultimately demolished with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In contrast to Spielman’s images, many of which feature structures that still stand despite their damage, the FEMA photographs asked viewers to think about the number and types of structures that no longer exist.

The exhibition accompanied the publication of The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City, which contains 138 of Spielman’s photographs, along with essays by Spielman, exhibition curator and photography historian John H. Lawrence, and journalist and preservationist Jack Davis.

“The great photographer David Spielman captured the essence of hope and despair in his powerful pictures of Katrina’s devastation. But he never put his Leica down, because he knows that after ten years the recovery of his beloved city is both amazing and incomplete. The result is this poignant portrait of rebirth and blight, perfect for an artist who’s a master of black and white.”
—Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and best-selling author

“As strangely beautiful as the encroaching vines that still enshroud whole rows of houses ten years after Katrina, David Spielman’s astonishing photographs speak with a quiet but forceful eloquence—of devastation and abandonment, of perseverance and renewal.”
—John Berendt , author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Six Flags New Orleans; 2012; ©David G. Spielman

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