New Orleans

In July 2005, one month before catastrophic levee failures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina devastated most of New Orleans, I set out to capture the spirit of the “other” part of town. New Orleans has long enjoyed the image of an easy going city filled with a rich, complex cultural heritage and beautiful old Southern mansions. What I found in those other parts of town was an entirely different cosmos – a tapestry of urban living with its own culture, language and groove.

The most fascinating aspect of this landscape is the contrast between poverty, neglect and the humble efforts to beautify and brighten up the grey canvas of decay. The uninhibited use of often garish colors along with various written statements is often juxtaposed by an equally liberal use of iron burglar bars on doors and windows. Devoid of slick advertisements on billboards, the signs and symbols of these impoverished neighborhoods are literally on the walls and speak as much to the people as they speak of them.

Birgit Erath