New Orleans, Under the Lens

In New Orleans, the
In New Orleans, the "After the Storms" exhibit at the Louisiana State Museum displays photos of Hurricane Katrina destruction, including the above image by award-winning photojournalist David Burnett. (By David Burnett -- National Geographic Magazine)
Sunday, August 20, 2006

WHAT: "After the Storms" at the Louisiana State Museum's Arsenal building in New Orleans

WHEN: Through Dec. 31


WHY GO: Because as much as we may feel overwhelmed by images of loss and destruction from Hurricane Katrina, this collection of photographs by a pro from National Geographic, side by side with those by teenagers whose own lives were swept up in the storm, shows how fresh the damage remains a year after landfall.

Award-winning photojournalist David Burnett ( http://www.davidburnett.com/ ) chucked his digital cameras and lenses to capture post-Katrina New Orleans with a manual, one-photo-at-a-time Speed Graphic camera with a 180mm lens. The result is his portrayal, eerily evoking the buried city Pompeii, of ruined lives and neighborhoods in the Lower Ninth Ward and French Quarter.

Burnett focused on distinct images of loss against the blur of devastation -- a boy's Sunday best hanging on exposed wall studs among dangling electrical cables; a colorless, rusted-out sedan half-buried in sand, hood up to reveal a useless engine; a melange of dirt-caked glassware on a grubby countertop, a pink ribbon still trailing from the neck of one vase.

Burnett describes his trip to New Orleans earlier this year as "so powerful in a very raw way and sometimes in an embarrassingly voyeuristic way, how nature had laid those families' things out there."

DON'T MISS . . . the photos taken by 15 New Orleans high school students who took part in National Geographic's Photo Camp 2006 workshop. Led by another National Geographic photographer, they went out on assignment in April to document their wrecked communities. The images they came back with include a man in a pristine white hazmat suit, gas mask dangling around his neck as he takes a break at a graffitied house with chewed-up wrought iron; a cracked wall stamped "no loitering" in clear capital letters, on a ruined street with a collapsed house and an abandoned car; and the remains of what looks like a class photo, water-soaked and grit-spattered, with some 25 uniformed kids of all ages.

EXTRAS . . . include Fats Domino's piano, which was rescued from the floodwaters that drove him from his New Orleans home. The ruined piano was retrieved by the Louisiana State Museum for stabilization and to display in a permanent hurricane exhibition scheduled for early 2008.

EATS: Right by the museum, on Jackson Square in the French Quarter, is Muriel's (801 Chartres St., 504-568-1885), specializing in contemporary Creole cuisine; entrees $12 to $15 for lunch, $20 to $25 for dinner. Just off the square is the Gumbo Shop (630 St. Peter St., 504-525-1486), serving traditional Cajun and Creole cuisine for lunch and dinner in a 1920s-era building. Entrees generally $10 to $15. For a quick breakfast, lunch or dessert, try the Royal Blend Coffee & Tea House (621 Royal St., 504-523-2716) a couple of blocks away, or grab coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde across the square (1039 Decatur St., 800-772-2927).

SLEEPS: Hotels throughout the French Quarter are offering deals to bring tourists back to New Orleans. On Jackson Square is the Place d'Armes Hotel (625 St. Ann St., 800-366-2743, http://www.placedarmes.com/ ), where doubles start at $69 a night weekdays and $89 on weekends this month and next. Nearby, the Royal Sonesta Hotel (300 Bourbon St., 800-766-3782, http://www.sonesta.com/neworleans_royal ) has a French Quarter Fling through September starting at $99 a night; rate includes a room with a view, champagne on arrival and local discounts. Luxury will still cost you: The French Quarter Escape at the Soniat House hotel (1133 Chartres St., 800-544-8808, http://www.soniathouse.com/ ), where rooms start at $240, comes with three nights in a premier room, champagne, breakfast each day and dinner one night at a four-star restaurant, for $1,000.

INFO: The Arsenal is reached through another of the Louisiana State Museum's properties, the Cabildo on Jackson Square (701 Chartres St., 800-568-6968, http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/ ).

-- Margaret Roth

© 2006 The Washington Post Company