Wednesday, August 27, 2008

10 Stories

Beginning to think about stories for New Orleans, I have so far settled upon two Subjects, The church, and reconstruction.

Church
1. The influence Catholicism has had on the traditions and culture of New Orleans.
2. How has the Church been an essential aid to the redevelopment of the city.
3. What is the current state of the Church and its congregations. What are parishes facing in terms of finances and decreases in parish sizes.
4. The Church's views of the changing of culture and celebration in New Orleans.


Reconstruction
5. Habitat for Humanities role in rebuilding of houses.
6. The pride and accomplishment of families who have rebuilt and once again are living in there home parishes.
7. Businesses who have rebuilt and are trying to jump start their companies again.
8. Changes in architecture after Katrina.
9. The availability of resources for people in the process of rebuilding.
10. The changes in the lifestlyes of residents as a result of Katrina.

The True Meaning of Pictures

The True Meaning of Photos was a very intriguing documentary that caused my viewpoints and opinions of the film shift as it moved forward. Not being familiar with Shelby Lee Adams’ work, the slideshow in the beginning captured my attention immediately. The portraits were stunning. As the movie progressed, I don’t think I ever changed my mind that these pictures were indeed stunning, but I think that my view of the photographer’s intentions, meaning, and results changed multiple times.

As many people in the film mentioned, Adams’ portraits of Appalachia contain a very gothic feel that sends stereotypes of small southern town flooding back to me. This is partly to my unfamiliarity with the subject and also my limited exposure to these people through unreliable sources. This however was one of my first main thought shifts. Perhaps Adams was only making what he thought were honest, beautiful portraits. And giving them to the families and having them love and accept them is a wonderful thing.

However, I think that when showing these portraits to the general public, it is important to consider who that audience is and what preconceived notions they possess. I think that sometimes truth can be expressed simply through actions rather than through teaching, but I am not certain that Adams’ portraits possess a quality that allows for the skipping of the teaching step.

Also, there was something that I found very interesting in Adams’ work. He spoke of himself as a documentary photographer. Yet, all of his pictures are posed. This does not disqualify him as a documentary photographer and I actually view myself as taking a similar approach to documentary. But what struck me about this was the way he explained it. Adams’ says that he has thousands of photographs that he takes for the family and gives to them.

He then goes on to say that after he takes these photographs, he asks the family if he can take some pictures for himself. Not just if he can take some portraits of a certain person, but also if he can set up specific situations. This aspect makes me wonder how close he is to fine art rather than documentary work.

I think another thing that I wondered about and haven’t come to a conclusion about is what is going on in the mind of Adams. By the limited interviews I listened to during the film, it seems that he does care about his subjects and does want to create beautiful photographs of them. But he also talks about the fact that he does not like boundaries or rules. He likes to be free to do whatever he likes with his photography.

I think this is somewhat troublesome to me in a way that I have not yet fully processed. I think that having strong values and guidelines on the creation of photographs is important. It should go beyond just seeing something interesting like a torn screen door and just automatically deciding that since it draws your attention it should automatically be used. Or the subject wanted the picture, so it should automatically be shown to the public with no real context in which to place it.

There were so many things that I thought about during this film. It has given me a lot to think about in my own photography as I do appreciate Adams’ work in certain aspects and find it similar to what I would like to develop into.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Catholic Experience

After viewing the New Orleans section of the PBS series “American Experience”, I was pleasantly surprised to hear about a city drenched in a very rich history. One particular chapter that I found interesting was on the history of Mardi Gras. I found this chapter most interesting because of its deep roots in church history.

Throughout the film, Catholicism is seen running throughout the development of the city and it seems that it has played a huge part in the cities celebrations as well as its difficulties. I found myself wondering throughout all the talk of diversity and segregation, music and the arts, poverty and crime, what was the church’s view on these issues, and how did they approach them accordingly?

Another aspect of the previous chapter that relates to the church is the progression New Orleans went through being primarily French inhabited, to the melding in of the Americans and their protestant background. How was Christianity affected by the synthesis that was occurring and how did the New Orleans natives develop from it?

Another aspect of the church that I was interested in was the current celebration of Mardi Gras. How is it similar or different from how it was originally celebrated? Does it hold the same significance as it did for Catholics when it began? Also, I wonder how the church views the celebrations of Mardi Gras take place each year in the city.

My interest in church history has definitely been peaked by watching this film, and I realized that I knew next to nothing about the city that I will be going to photograph this fall. After watching this chapter, I would like to do some more in depth research into Catholic history in New Orleans. How is the church dealing with the devastation of Katrina? Are churches closing down through lack of funding or loss of parish members?

Also, how is the church seeking to meet the needs of its members who have experienced great loss? Do they have the funding and resources necessary to meet their needs and if they do, what are those needs and are they doing their best to address them?

I think I will definitely consider this for one of my subjects on the trip. I am also very curious as to how the members of the New Orleans communities view the churches in light of Katrina and the current situations of destruction, poverty, and homelessness that they find themselves facing. What do they feel their greatest needs are? Do they feel they are getting the cooperation from the churches that they need to rebuild their lives?

Also, what is the current state of segregation in New Orleans after the hurricane? Has Katrina broken down barriers between class and race or have they only been strengthened by loss? I am interested in how the churches deal with this issue, if it is something that is still very apparent in the communities.