The photo journal of Mario Tama.
Arrived in New Orleans 36 hours before Katrina.
Hurricane gathering strength in Gulf of Mexico.
With a bag of films and cameras.
Photo agency said someone had to go.
Airport out of rental cars , Saturday afternoon.
Just a mint green Toyota with a half-full tank
and the good wishes of the departing crew.
Slept in the car most of the time.
Better than most folk did over the next few days.
As the relentless force of Nature hit
and nearly washed the city away.
The photos remind people every day
that New Orleans continues to hang by a thread.
Despite governmental ineptitude
daily life went inexorably on,
once the living had buried the dead.
New Orleans is still trying to rebuild
and needs all the help it can get.
Claiborne bridge , lower ninth ward( Aug 31, 2005).
The bridge is deserted.
Entry and exit ramps flooded.
Just the traffic lights blinking in useless isolation.
Two shattered men paddle over in a small boat
begging for food and water,
48 hours into a personalised apocalypse
of natural devastation.
Claiborne bridge , lower ninth ward( Mar 14,2008).
Cars pour in and out of lower ninth ,
up and over the bridge , at dusk .
Streamers of head and tail lights,
as traffic rumbles through the citys' dust.
And underneath the bridge ,
homeless refugees cling to tenuous existence
in a country that conveniently forgot
the politicians didn't have it sussed.
Saint Patrick cemetery , Plaquemine parish( Sept 11 , 2005).
Nearly two weeks before the roads were passable,
and still in some parts nearly not.
The cemetery is under water ,
just crosses poking up ,
and half-drowned statuary ,
pleading to the wide blue sky.
Just like the broken people
that the government forgot.
Saint Patrick cemetery , Plaquemine parish( Mar 20 , 2008).
Glad to come back and see the graves intact.
After the floodwater receded.
This is such a beautiful , peaceful place .
But the politicians are still in denial.
Even after all the burying .
They still refuse acceptance of the facts.
Columbus Street , seventh ward( Sept 6 , 2005).
A lost and lonely cowboy
took shelter in a derelict family home.
The house , like many , went up in flames.
The cowboy in the photo escaped
with his salvaged hat and a whisky bottle.
Walked off through these streets of devastation.
No one ever saw him alive again.
Columbus Street , seventh ward( Mar 18 , 2008).
The burnt out house is not rebuilt.
Not worth picking up the pieces.
The cowboy is just a fleeting memory.
Like the broken promises
made by condescending senators
to the shattered hopes
of desperate people.
And the flags fly high on the riverwalk
attracting tourists on sunny days.
And smug politicians quote I told you so's
and forget about the enduring pain.
And the President makes sure
he's seen smiling on t.v.
blow this way again.
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