Hurricane Story: A Haunting Analog Photo-Memoir of Katrina, Partway Between Nightmare and Fairy Tale
By Maria Popova
When Hurricane Katrina swept across New Orleans in August of 2005, killing 1,836 people, damaging and destroying over 76,000 houses, and leaving many homeless, photographer Jennifer Shaw found solace in capturing the turmoil with a plastic Holga camera. Hers is a story both incredible and true — from the dramatic birth of her first child on the very day of Katrina’s first strike, to her struggle with depression and her husband’s rage episodes, to their eventual return to New Orleans in time for their son’s first Mardi Gras. Hurricane Story (public library) is part memoir, part fairy tale, part poetic story of exile and homecoming, told through 46 beautiful, dreamlike images and simple but powerful prose. The Holga’s rudimentary functionality, with its limited control over exposure, focus and lighting, further intensifies the story’s haunting, cinematic feel, drawing you into a seemingly surreal world that sprang from an extraordinary and brave reality.
New York Times columnist and Significant Objects author Rob Walker writes in the foreword:
Any city worth living in strikes a balance between order and chaos. I guess any life worth living strikes that balance too. In late August 2005, Jennifer Shaw’s city, and I can only assume her life, tilted too far in one direction. The remarkable series of forty-six images collected in Hurricane Story tells the tale, and in doing so sets the balance right again.
Published July 27, 2011