More than 450,000 people called New Orleans home before Hurricane Katrina hit August 29, 2005. Less than 200,000 remain today. Photographers Norman DeShong and Douglas Adams Jr., have traveled to New Orleans every year since 2006, amassing over 300 images of a city that is still recovering from the most devastating Hurricane in the history of the United States.
PTSDJournal Staff –
Norman DeShong and Douglas Adams Jr., met 40 years ago working at an arcade store on Sussex Avenue in East Orange, New Jersey. Young adults at the time, they enjoyed running the game center for kids and having the authority to say who could and could not play. It was the beginning of a friendship that stands at over 35 years old today. A friendship that produced a bond following Hurricane Katrina, and their mutual interest – photography.
“Norman had been doing photography for years, I always liked doing it,” says Adams, a retired Postal worker. “I finally bought a real camera and showed him some pictures. He started letting me hang with him when he went on shoots and that’s how he taught me the ropes.”
DeShong wouldn’t let Adams work on all of his projects, but when Adams called him up after watching Spike Lee’s HBO documentary “When The Levee’s Broke” and told him they had to go to New Orleans to shoot the city, DeShong jumped at the chance to work on Adams’ project. “I was in New Orleans for a Shriner’s convention and left 10 days before Hurricane Katrina hit,” Adams says. “After seeing that documentary, I told Norm we had to go. I had to see it myself.”
In September 2006 Adams and his wife along with DeShong and his then-girlfriend, flew to New Orleans. “We were so taken aback by what we saw, I told Norm we had to come back and take some photos,” Adams says.
They jumped on a plane two months later and that was the beginning of a yearly trip to New Orleans to shoot photos that continues this weekend as America hones in on New Orleans again to acknowledge the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Currently, DeShong and Adams have over 350 pictures from their yearly trips. Their work is a testament to their determination to show New Orleans’ struggles and success. Estimates that Katrina cost over $100 billion and displaced more than 200,000 residents is not lost on DeShong and Adams. After Tropical Storm Sandy inflicted its damage on the Northeast, DeShong, whose during the day is a construction foreman, offered up a free wedding package for a couple who was impacted by Sandy. “We’ve never done any of this for money,” DeShong says. “This became a passion for us, and a way to show the city through our eyes.”
The two headed down to New Orleans for the 10th Anniversary, where they photographed President Barack Obama at his speech inside the Andrew P. Sanchez Community Center in the Lower Ninth Ward, and also continued their search for locations they have shot in the past. “Things have changed so much, some of the houses we shot when we first started coming down here are not even their anymore,” DeShong says. “Streets have changed, it’s crazy what we have seen since 2006.”
These two houses in the Lower 9th Ward, the area most effected by the Levee breach, show the devastation of Katrina but also tell a story. The X’s indicate these homes were searched. The 9/20 represents the day the house was searched. The letters to the left represent the unit (National Guard, Army, Fired Department) that checked the house and the two 0’s indicate no dead bodies were found.
The T&T liquor and grocery store remained upright after Katrina hit, maintaining its outside facade, and showing the damage not only of the wind and rain of Katrina, but also a year of neglect.
Inside T&T you can see how mold infected baby food and the store shelves. This photo was taken in August 2006.
Katrina’s damaged displaced over 300,000 elementary and high school students. This gym shows wreckage left, water remained on the floor a year after the storm.
Five years after Katrina, families in New Orleans were still asking for support.
Fairview Missionary Baptist Church held its own against Katrina. It may have been damaged and need of repair, but it survived and is still alive today.
This is the organ inside Fairview Missionary Baptist Church a year after Katrina.
The Fairview Missionary Baptist Church organ has been replaced by a portable one. The organ is not present, but the stand is.
President Barack Obama addresses a crowd at the Andrew P. Sanchez Community Center in New Orleans Friday. The President spoke at the center located in the Lower Ninth Ward to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.