Post-Katrina New Orleans: More Than Picking Up the Pieces

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Photographs by Jess Raimondi

November 8 – December 9, 2007

Photography Gallery, Fine Arts Center Galleries

University of Rhode Island

Kingston, RI — Raising many difficult questions of social justice, Jess Raimondi’s documentary project began 6 months after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast. The Scituate, Rhode Island native was then a senior in college (U. Mass., Dartmouth) who first flew to New Orleans in 2005 to partake of a cooperative relief effort working with structures that were profoundly devastated. While she worked physically she also photographically documented the intense challenge of emptying and gutting homes. As she describes, a “profoundly immediate, personal reality of the devastation is what fueled my photography.”

With the city’s first anniversary of Katrina in late August 2006 Raimondi revisited New Orleans hoping to witness progress toward recovery, but encountered ongoing damage and loss. Her next visit in April 2007 became the third chronological segment to the documentation. The survivors of the neighborhood she had worked with earlier were thinking more positively, even if disenfranchised, awaiting the (financial) ability to rebuild their lives. The photographer reflected on these experiences in a major series of self- illustrated articles (April 2 & October 22, 2006; June 3, 2007) for the New Bedford Standard-Times newspaper, whose staff she had joined following an internship. By means of these special articles she aimed to help shift the under-reported, persistently neglected story of New Orleans to the national spotlight.

Raimondi felt closest to the authentic spirit of the city in her last visit, an experience generating a clarified objective for her photographic project: “to explain what it is like to be a triumphant survivor.” Poignantly, it was the musical traditions of New Orleans that stimulated the photographer’s work at this point, and since, as she has recognized.

“The very essence of New Orleans is music and I empower it in my photographic perspective on the city. I attended the 2007 New Orleans Jazz Festival and experienced firsthand the music that has kept the city alive with fiery spirit even before Katrina. Little Freddie King, one of the last remaining great country blues players, invited me to be his personal photographer for the event.”

Little Freddie King (born Fread E. Martin in McComb, Mississippi) is a veteran of Jazzfest, having performed in 37 of 38 of its annual events. His father played guitar with the legendary Muddy Waters, his cousin is Alabama Slim, and King’s first real instrument was purchased through Sears Roebuck. The genuine explosive energy of Little Freddie’s “gut bucket blues” will provide an important audio component within the Rhode Island exhibition become audio-visual installation.

This first-time public presentation by Jess Raimondi is ambitious, uniting as it does north and south, visual and aural, around a documentary photography campaign that is never simple or transparent. Viewers will be moved to ponder anew many tangible and intangible impacts of post-Katrina New Orleans. Through its visually and conceptually involving ambience, “More Than Picking Up the Pieces” invites the Gallery audience to participate authentically in the city’s conflicted emotions.

Photography Gallery hours

T-F, 12 noon – 4 pm; Sat. – Sun. 1 – 4 pm

November 14, 4-6 pm

Comments by and reception for the artist

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