The New Orleans I know from my childhood and the one I know of today are two very different places, partially because my ability to understand it has developed as I’ve aged. The other part is the changing demographics of the city.
Before the storm, the lower 9th Ward had the highest concentration of black homeowners; now that neighborhood is filled with empty lots amidst people trying to go on with their lives. There are more mixed-raced neighborhoods now, mostly due to all the white renters that have come into the city, which isn’t in itself a bad thing but certainly lends a hand in the many reasons New Orleanians haven’t been fully able to reclaim their town—if we ever truly had control of it to begin with. Buildings that used to be peoples’ homes have become playgrounds for graffiti artists. The graffiti is important, though. It shows what areas are in neglect and need to get the proper amount of TLC. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the way city officials continually prioritize transplants above the life-long residents. The opening of the new University Medical Center, for instance, will do great things jobs wise, but many of the skilled positions such a facility requires will be filled by residents from out of town who are pursuing medical professions. And we still lack proper educational resources, but we were at a loss for that before the storm.
In spite of all this, the resilience of our residents hasn’t changed. Ten years later we still celebrate—because a hard life is better than no life to live at all.
Many houses remain boarded up and in other forms of disrepair a decade after Katrina. This photo was taken in the 7th Ward.
This longstanding adult film store is visible from the highway while driving into New Orleans east. Some residents account it as being one of the first businesses to re-open in the area after Hurricane Katrina. To the right is a graffiti-covered hotel, which is still abandoned.
The newly renovated Riverwalk Outlet Shopping Mall downtown is another staple of the tourist economy that New Orleans maintains.
Two women walking down Orleans Avenue in the 6th Ward pass a building that was buffed over due to graffiti. In addition to the wreckage, Hurricane Katrina ushered in a spike in graffiti around the city.
Elysian Fields Food Store at the corner of Elysian Fields Avenue and Derbigny Street.
A view of downtown from the Port of New Orleans.
A man walks his dogs in New Orleans’ 8th Ward.
An arts vendor trucks through the French Quarter at sunrise to prepare to sell his wares.
New Orleans at night.
Redevelopment is happening all over the city of. Shown here is a building currently under construction on St. Charles Avenue in the Central Business District
Music remains a staple of the city and is passed on to its residents at a very young age. Here, a school band playing at Jackson Square.
Flowers grow in a vacant lot where a home once stood in the Lower 9th Ward.
Bourbon Street remains a place full of color and characters.
New Orleans residents take their home to heart and represent it in every possible way.
A graffiti-laced wall in the French Quarter.
Acts of love are what keep this city afloat.
Ten years after the storm, a calendar on the wall of an abandoned office building eerily remains on the last month it was used. I captured this photo just days ago.
[Top image: A boat in a vacant lot in the Marigny Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans; it is one of the many reminders of what was used to shuttle those trapped by Katrina to safety. All photos by Patrick Melon]