Thursday, August 26, 2010

Southern Spaces on Katrina + 5 Years

Southern Spaces, the splendid on-line journal of "regions, places, and cultures of the American South and their global connection," posts as a regular feature the work of Southern photographers documenting distinctive features of Southern life.

Southern Spaces has a fine new photo essay entitled Katrina + 5: An X-Code Exhibition on the occasion of remembering New Orleans 5 years after Katrina and the Big Easy's catastrophic flooding.

This essay brings together the work of over 25 photographers who have documented the codes painted on the devastated houses of New Orleans in the days and weeks following the flooding. The text accompanying the photos explores the meaning of these markings, not all of which are clear, even after extensive research by Dorothy Moye, who assembled these images.

The marking on the houses reminds us that these houses themselves are marks on the city of New Orleans which speak in their own codes about Southern American life in the face of natural disaster and the challenges posed to citizens, to governments, and to civic groups in responding to emergencies.

Among the many distinctive things about Southern life is the array of recurring natural challenges we live with as a result of Southern weather -- hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, winds, the heat, the humidity, the piercing dampness of cold weather -- not to mention the ongoing crisis provoked by carelessness with technology like the oil spill in the Gulf.

New Orleans seems to get more of than its share of these disasters. Living with suffering is a terrible condition but it also seems, once in a while, to be the soil from which come powerfully creative responses to the most desperate if circumstances. Check out this story on Signs (and Wonders) in New Orleans, and while you are there check out the many fine photographic essays Southern Spaces has already posted.

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