On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, precipitating levee breaks that led to massive flooding, destruction of parts of the city and displacement of hundreds of thousands of locals. One week later, a group of New Orleans-based doctors that had evacuated to Austin, Texas during the storm headed back home to contribute to medical relief efforts. I was working as a freelance photographer at the time and they were kind enough to let me tag along to document their return. This journey led me into the heart of the dilapidated city, where health workers helped set up a makeshift clinic in the ballroom of the Omni Hotel, and eventually to ride on military vehicles wading through flooded streets where I photographed paramedics rescuing anyone still left behind. The next year I returned to New Orleans for the storm’s one-year anniversary and with the help of locals found a few of the same scenes I had photographed previously. I continued to return yearly around the anniversary, rediscovering my original path by piecing together landmarks from the images. People shared their stories about their experiences during and after Katrina, and each time I documented the city’s recovery from the storm. I continue to return every year, and will do so for as long as I can, witnessing the shifting physical and social landscape after the storm.
This project, for me, is a very personal one. I imagine any witness to the aftermath of Katrina would be deeply affected by the damage it caused and lives it shattered. It was during the time I spent documenting the storm’s devastation that I became aware not only of the essential role the media played in communicating to the rest of the world what was happening in the city, but also the vital role of relief workers, especially the health workers I was photographing. It was then that I realized I was on the wrong side of the camera, leading me to ultimately leave the field of photojournalism to pursue a career in medicine. Now, over ten years later, I am a Family Medicine Physician at a County Hospital in Martinez, California. With photography still a major passion, I hope to share some of my images and inspire reflection on this unprecedented disaster, the social injustice that it represtented and the resilience of the people of New Orleans.