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One Block

A piece of New Orleans puts itself back together

Photographs and text by Dave Anderson

Published in the November/December 2009 issue of Orion magazine

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HURRICANE KATRINA caused a seismic shift in every aspect of New Orleans and the Gulf region. I wondered whether rebuilding could ever fix what had been broken. Would the neighborhoods recover? Would the city ever get its mojo back? Would that thing, whatever it was, that was so uniquely New Orleans return, dissipate, or transform into something completely different? And what about the thousands of small communities that existed within the city—would they survive, or even flourish? What was lost was clear, but what could be recovered was not at all clear.

Following the storm, I spent eighteen months repeatedly photographing a single block in the Holy Cross section of New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward. I attempted to follow both the obvious physical rebuilding of the homes as well as the evolving psychological state of its residents.

I’ve always been drawn to locales that inspire devotion. This is no accident. I was raised in East Lansing, Michigan, and continue to maintain a fierce loyalty and personal identification to that place despite the fact that I haven’t lived there in over twenty years. When I see changes there, I often feel a sense of loss. What, then, of the people of New Orleans? When one resident said to me, “You just wanna be home,” I thought, “Doesn’t everyone?”

The question is, will they ever be?

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Dave Anderson’s work has appeared in magazines from Time to Esquire and is in various museum collections. His book Rough Beauty won the Santa Fe Center for Photography 2005 Project Competition, and his forthcoming title, One Block, will be published by Aperture in 2010.

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