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December 22, 2007

N.O. Demolition




(click for larger sizes)

On Thursday, over intense public opposition, the NO city council approved HUD's plan to demolish 4500 units of public housing and replace them with "mixed income development."

Photographer Mario Tama — who has been documenting one of the existing projects on and off for the past 6 months — forwarded these images to The BAG. The first two photos were taken this summer.  The third, showing an early stage of demolition, was taken last Saturday.

Behind the fury is the belief that, as flawed as the original projects were, it would have been relatively straightforward and inexpensive to repair flood damage, as opposed to tearing the buildings down.  With rents up 45% and homelessness having doubled since Katrina, activists see the money and power trending toward corporate developers and up-market housing, resulting in poor blacks being pushed out of the city.  And, it's hard to dispel that thinking as the city has offered few options to the soon-to-be-displaced residents.

Regarding the photos, I don't think the intention here is to romanticize life in the projects.  The difference between the two earlier shots, and the recent one, however, using youth as "a constant," is to reflect the fabric of life then and now, when what's happening now leaves seems to leave even less to look forward to.

In pictures: New Orleans clashes (BBC Slideshow)

New Orleans' Public Housing Fight Rages (AP News)

The Shock Doctrine in Action in New Orleans (Naomi Klein)

(images: ©Mario Tama/Getty.  2007.  BW Cooper Housing Project.  New Orleans, La.  Used by permission)

About the Photographer

Mario Tama

Mario Tama has covered global events including September 11, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, the funeral of Pope John Paul II and Hurricane Katrina - before, during and after the storm. His work on Baghdad’s orphans was exhibited at Visa Pour L’Image in France and his photographs from Hurricane Katrina were featured in National Geographic, Newsweek and newspapers worldwide. In 2008 he was nominated for an Emmy for his documentary work on Coney Island and won Cliff Edom's New America Award for his work in New Orleans. He has received numerous other honors from institutions including the White House News Photographers Association, UNICEF Photo of the Year, Pictures of the Year International, Care International Award for Humanitarian Reportage, China International Press Photo Contest, and Days Japan International Photojournalism Awards. He studied photography at Rochester Institute of Technology and freelanced in Washington, DC for the Washington Post and Agence France-Presse before joining Getty Images. Mario is based in New York City. See more of Mario's work for BagNews here.

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