Dig Baton Rouge

Through the Lens: Photographers reflect on shooting Louisiana flood

“After reading about the flooding in Louisiana, I booked a flight to Baton Rouge,
where I spent time with families and individuals who had been affected by the flood.
One woman was separated from her children when she went out to get extra food
thinking they might get rained in. Less than two hours later, the water was chest-high
and she couldn’t get home. Luckily, her Mother was close enough to get the children
and take them to a shelter.

“One of the hardest hit areas was Denham Springs. I drove down streets lined
with ruined furnishings and personal items of people’s homes. It was surreal. Neighbors
comforted and helped each other. At the end of a long block of wreckage was an
American flag flying from the back of a pick up truck. I met a kid named Sammy Jr.
Despite losing his drum kit in the flood, there he was drumming away on the concrete.
An older gentleman told me, “thirty years of memories, down the drain.” He had been to
work early that morning and made it clear that he had to, “keep moving forward.”
Residents spent days helping each other prepare to rebuild. Some homes remained
untouched with water marks leaving a haunting reminder that the street was underwater
just a few days ago. Despite all the devastation, I witnessed resilience and pride, but
what was most inspiring was Sammy Jr.— hopeful and brave.” —Nicholas Small

“Documenting the after math of Louisiana’s most recent storm was not something I set out to do, but rather something that came to be. I was fortunate enough not to take on any water damage at my house in Zachary, and felt it was necessary to do what little I could to help the displaced people and animals living at Lamar Dixon Expo Center.

“The first day I went over with my friend Kevin. We donated some of our belongings to those in need. I filled up a backpack full of stuffed animals from my childhood and made my way around the shelter handing them out to all of the children. It was magical to see their faces light up, as if in that moment, all the chaos and uncertainty clouding their lives simply vanished. They all scurried off to play with their newfound toys and thanked me profusely for the gifts. I observed the Red Cross was doing a great job providing for the physical needs of the children, but my goal was to help meet their emotional needs. I believe play is vital to a child’s well being, and right now, they could use such a constructive activity more than ever.

“Upon finishing at the shelter I made my way to the stables to check on the animals. It was here I found the greatest need of assistance. The next day I returned with the Louisiana State Animal Response Team. Several doctors, technicians, and veterinary students, and myself made our way to the stables to provide assistance. With consent, we medically treated those horses in need of veterinary care, made our rounds filling water buckets, added patient charts to the stalls, and hung box fans to help prevent animals from overheating in the stalls. It’s tragic such a monumental disaster bore down upon Louisiana, but it’s so heart warming to see all of us come together and rise to the challenge of helping our fellow man, and creature!” —Lauren Merikay Hoffman

“On Friday, August 12th, 2016, as the rains continued to steadily fall, I don’t think any of us realized that we were about to experience one of the most widespread and devastating natural disasters in Louisiana history. That dreary Friday morning, I drove to Denham Springs to visit a friend for the day, but never expected to get stranded there for a week. Every time we would look out the window, we would think, ‘Surely, it’s not going to get any worse.’ But we were wrong. Thankfully, I happened to bring my camera equipment along with me. As a photographer, it’s always challenging to walk the line between genuine empathy and clicking the shutter to freeze the moment in time. There were many times where I wanted to capture a shot to tell a story, but had to put the camera down because I needed to give a hug or helping hand instead. My hope is that the photos I was able to capture not only shine light on the stories of loss and despair, but also the stories of hope, unity, and a community rising from the ashes.” —Emile Frey

Featured photo by Emile Frey.


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