Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
August 24, 2016

A Transfixing Picture from the Flood Zone

Joe Raedle/Getty Images. Elsie Lazarus in her flooded living room in St. Amant on Thursday. Almost 87,000 people in Louisiana have applied for federal aid as a result of the flooding.

Most of us know the feeling of being in our own home. On the couch or in that favorite chair. In that usual spot in our favorite position. Like a hand in a glove.

Her name is Elsie Lazarus, and Getty’s Joe Raedle photographed her in her flooded living room in St. Amant after Louisiana’s historic deluge. Erase the water, her distraught expression, of course, put the garbage can back on the floor, and it’s an extraordinary, meaning extraordinarily domestic pose. As is, it looks simultaneously — one foot under and one foot above — like her life is over and like nothing ever happened.

It’s hard to witness other people’s tragedy. Part of it is that we don’t want to disrespect our fellow citizens by identifying them as victims. As much or more, though, disaster photos are unambiguous. Typically, people in them are not just stricken and in shock, but they’re dislocated. In this rare and extreme case, it’s truly half-way. Disaster not withstanding, it’s an extraordinarily common, domestic picture. And that’s what’s excruciating.

I guess the miracle of Lazarus comes into play, too, as the other photos show her past this domestic paralysis. To reassure you that Elsie wasn’t completely frozen by grief (an occurrence of nature that also ebbs and flows), there are more shots of her and her family doing clean-up here and here.  In the moment, though, the fleur-de-lis lamp also anchoring her in place, this Louisiana flood photo is a meaningful one about the power of home.

(photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images. caption: Elsie Lazarus in her flooded living room in St. Amant on Thursday. Almost 87,000 people in Louisiana have applied for federal aid as a result of the flooding.)

 

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