I was in Mississippi photographing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when Rita hit. For the next few years, I spent extended periods of time in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, photographing devastated neighborhoods and their former residents. As the floodwaters slowly receded, what was revealed – along with the incredible wide-scale destruction – were wounds of class and economic elitism rooted in long-held beliefs of racial supremacy.
The images of ruination in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans following Katrina are ubiquitous; we have all seen the calamity wrought in this once vibrant working class neighborhood. I chose to work at night to compose a different kind of portrait – one that speaks to memory as well as loss. At first glance, these are quiet images that examine details of design, deconstruction and, ultimately, chaos. But as I continued to return, what evolved for me was a decidedly political group of pictures.
These photographs were made throughout 2006 and 2007. During those nights that I worked in these deserted neighborhoods, I remained attuned to the sounds of the streets. The chattering of rats as they scavenged through the debris, the sound of water flowing from broken pipes, and the sharp clang of metal against metal as the winds rushed through homes devoid of doors and windows, combined to orchestrate the soundtrack that accompanied me. Working alone, it was an eerie but strangely peaceful experience. On occasion, I would hear the sound of distant gunshots across the canal in the neighborhoods of the Backwater or Treme.
Terri Garland is an artist who specializes in photographing the social fabric of the American South.
She received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1987 and her MFA in 1990. She teaches photography at San Jose City College.
As a graduate student, Garland began an examination of white Supremacist culture that has spanned over two decades, photographing individuals within the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, American Nazi Party and the Christian Identity Movement.
Since 2005, she has divided her time between Louisiana and Mississippi. Her current project, Louisiana, Purchased, is a visual study of the ways in which we depend upon and demand continuous supplies of fossil fuels, and the resultant damage and ongoing destruction to coastal communities in Louisiana.
Her photographs are included in the collections of The Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, The Art Institute of Chicago, The di Rosa Preserve in Napa, California, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Saint Elizabeth College in Morristown, New Jersey, the Bibliotech Nationale, Paris, France, and Special Collections at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Among her awards are a WESTAF/NEA Fellowship, Silicon Valley Arts Council Grant, a Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship and a grant from the Gulf Coast Fund that was used to teach photography to children during the summer of 2013 in the primarily Native American communities of Isle de Jean Charles and Pointe-au-Chien, LA.