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Stunning photo essay

Posted by Richard on September 9, 2005

UPDATE: Sadly, Alvaro’s photo essay is no longer available at the link below. See the comment posted by his sister. I’ve contacted her and asked to be notified if it becomes available again. Stay tuned. IT’S BACK! I’ve updated the link below. Or go to Alvaro’s Gallery, where the Katrina photo essay is joined by other collections of Alvaro’s photographs.

A remarkable young man named Alvaro R. Morales Villa has created a photo essay entitled "Five Days with Katrina." It’s simply stunning. Alvaro worked in a French Quarter hotel. In words and pictures, he captured his experiences in New Orleans, starting at dawn on Sunday morning, August 28th — 24 hours before the storm hit — and ending on Thursday, Sept. 1, when he and a friend drove out of New Orleans in a pickup truck they "borrowed."  

The essay contains 197 photos, and Alvaro has a marvelous eye for photography. Many are stunningly beautiful, yet also disturbing. If you go to look, allow enough time to go through them all (at least 30-45 minutes). Don’t just skip around; there’s a story being told, and you really should read and see the whole story.

I was especially struck by something I vaguely knew, but Alvaro’s images made it real: the city was damaged, but mostly all right Monday afternoon and evening after the storm had passed. In fact, his pictures showed a beautiful blue sky, mostly dry streets, and happy survivors:

It was truly a beautiful day by weather standards. It was in the low 70’s, plenty of sunshine, and a cool breeze. Everywhere you went, you saw people cooking out or just "hanging around" outside their homes.
Some bars even opened up "to-go" stands so they could make a little money selling the beer they had before it went bad because of the lack of refrigeration due to the power loss.

It wasn’t until Tuesday that the water began to rise and the mood of the city changed. It wasn’t until Wednesday that the water reached the edges of the French Quarter. Alvaro took some striking comparison photos, showing the same locations on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday that he’d pictured Monday after the storm passed, when they were completely dry.

Also on Wednesday (48 hours after the storm passed through), Alvaro took pictures of a large convoy of military vehicles (National Guard or Army) coming into town, a long line of vehicles towing boats, and another long line of black trucks with light bars on top (state police, maybe?). And pictures of the news media; Alvaro didn’t think much of the media coverage:

I don’t know her name, but she works for MSNBC. My apologies for my wordage, but this wench didn’t know what the hell was going on. She made up 75% of what she was saying and exaggerated about 95% of everything that she did know. The message: do you want to be a reporter? All you need to do is have a pretty face and buy a Thesaurus!

I was struck by something else that contradicts what I thought I knew: Alvaro’s words and images testify to a strong police presence in the French Quarter throughout, maintaining what he described as "a VERY strict order."

I can’t recommend Alvaro’s photo essay highly enough. Great big thanks to Left Brain Female for recommending it.

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8 Responses to “Stunning photo essay”

  1. leftbrainfemale said

    Thanks for highlighting Alvaro’s slideshow! I thought it was wonderful as well – your words did it far more justice than mine. I’d love to see him get lots of credit for it!

  2. Anonymous said

    Well, I hope he’s not counting on my bazillions of readers. But you’re right, this photo essay deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. It’s both beautiful and enlightening. I hope that some of the people who see the link here or at Left Brain Female will pass it on and encourage others to go there as well.

  3. Silvia Morales said

    I am Alvaro’s sister, I just wanted to say thanks for all the good reviews Alvaro has received from you. Just wanted to make sure everyone knows that he has not made a penny out of his pictures, everytime someone bought his 197 page album, Kodak keeps made the profit. That’s why he decided to remove the album from their site. Thanks again, Silvia Morales

  4. Anonymous said

    Silvia: Thanks for the update. I’m really sorry the album isn’t available right now. Please let me know if/when Alvaro finds an alternative way to make it available — I’d be happy to publicize its new location.

  5. Silvia Morales said

    The album will uploaded at the Kodak site again as of tomorrow. -Silvia

  6. Martin said

    Silvia: please post the new URL

    (or is that obvious??)

    I agree of course with all the preceding comments on how illucidating the set of photos is.

  7. Anonymous said

    I’ve updated the links in this post, as well as putting up a new post announcing Alvaro’s Gallery.

  8. Nick B said

    Thanks, I’d lost track of it. I greatly appreciate you helping keep this available and accessible.

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