Katrina, ten years already

Published in the dossier of July 2016

Ten years already

The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, will probably mark New Orleans forever.

But despite the scale of the tragedy, “Nola” has gradually regained not only its identity as a city charged with history but also its energy, which is the result of its unique cultural diversity.

It needed an eye familiar with local life to report on this reconstruction - both human and urban. And that is what Mario Tama accomplished when, after having covered the disaster, he decided to record New Orleans’ healing process.

During his numerous visits, the New York photojournalist traveled around its neighborhoods and visited its communities to illustrate the individual and collective pathways to resilience. Beyond its artistic and documentary value,
his record is a tribute to the strong – and life-saving – attachment of the people of New Orleans to their environment.

Mario Tama, telling the story of hope

Mario Tama was 20 when he first fell in love with New Orleans. And although since then he has frequently stayed there and explored it, he denies being an expert because he wasn’t born there. This confession reveals the uniqueness and complexity of the city: like no other, New Orleans is able to unite its people around a lifestyle combining living together and the pride of belonging to a community, intermixing and celebrating the past.


Before joining the Getty Images agency in New York in 2001, Mario Tama began his career in the local press in Maryland, then was a freelancer for the Washington Post and AFP.
Since then, his images of September 11, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and of the earthquake in Haiti, have traveled the world. His work on New Orleans post-Katrina was published in a book, Coming Back: New Orleans Resurgent, in 2010.

“The people of New Orleans,” adds Mario, “have cultivated a very vivid memory of their family and cultural history, already battered by previous storms.” These deep roots are, according to him, the key to their resilience. And a more than justified reason for recording, over a period of five years, the immense efforts they have made to rehabilitate their environment and their cultural heritage.

“I had to show the dignity and endurance of these people who were left to themselves, many of whom were unable to escape Katrina,” says the photojournalist. Today, New Orleans has in part recovered from the hurricane. Of course, much remains to be done to support the poorest people, solve the thorny issue of housing and deal with possible future cataclysms. “The levee system has been considerably strengthened, but the preservation of the wetlands – providing natural flood protection – is still modest,” notes Mario Tama.

His images remind us that as long as the flame of its residents’ passion for their city does not waver, New Orleans will resist.


New-Orleans - A resilient city to meet the challenges to the future