Artist's Statement

Meghan Kirkwood

These analog images were taken at four intervals within a four-block area south of W. Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette, Louisiana between 2008 and 2017. Located east of the lower Ninth Ward, Chalmette was the site of the Battle of New Orleans and is now the parish seat of St. Bernard Parish. Today, the city has close to to 17,000 residents, down from over 32,000 before Hurricane Katrina. The storm unleashed a 25-foot surge of water into the city, which flooded houses, business, and a large oil storage facility. In some places, flood waters reached 14-feet high.

A high percentage of housing units in this particular neighborhood were rental apartments, and remained relatively untouched as the rest of the New Orleans clambered to rebuild. Unlike privately-owned, single family homes, rental units were not eligible for aid programs like Road Home and many building owners chose not rebuild apartments for low- and middle-income tenants. In New Orleans, a full 20% of the 82,000 rental units that were damaged or destroyed in Katrina had been affordable for low-income households.

Since 2007 I have returned every two years to photograph this location and chronicle the prolonged aftermath of the 2005 storm. During my first visits to the area I observed a largely empty neighborhood, with damaged and abandoned rental housing, overgrown lawns, and assorted unclaimed possessions. More recently, the city has demolished unsafe buildings, cleaned up debris, and maintained sidewalks.

Together, these photographs draw attention to the incremental changes in the neighborhood since. They do not attempt to tell a comprehensive story of the hurricane or its aftermath in Chalmette, nor do they aim to romanticize the decay of the structures represented. Instead, the photographs offer a view of the prolonged impact of a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina on a single area.

All images in the Prolonged Aftermath series are either 16”x20” or 12”x”12 silver gelatin prints.