Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
August 18, 2016

Some Thoughts on the Louisiana Flood Pictures

photo: Max Becherer / AP. caption. In this Sunday, August 14, 2016 photo, a girl takes her pony for a walk on a dry road near flooded homes in Walker, Louisiana.

It’s hard not to look at the photos of the historic flooding in Louisiana outside the frame of the political season. Among other issues, the nasty presidential campaign has ratcheted up the tension surrounding entitlement/s, compassion, racial strife, infrastructure climate change. Above all, it raises questions fundamental questions about who we are as country. These comments are mostly coming through that lens….

The girl isn’t escaping the flooding, she’s just taking her pony for a walk. As part of the disaster photo slideshows, though, it speaks to survival. And grace under fire. Besides the old-time premise of taking to horseback, the “can-do” element I imagine many Americans respond to is that hand on the hip.

CREDIT: Max Becherer/AP. caption: In this aerial photo a boat motors between flooded homes after heavy rains inundating the region Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, in Hammond, La. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says more than 1,000 people in south Louisiana have been rescued from homes, vehicles and even clinging to trees as a slow-moving storm hammers the state with flooding.

Well, the irony of the backyard pool is inescapable. The contract with Mother Nature is ridiculously out of sync. But also, where are we with the notion that “no man is an island”?

photo: Max Becherer / AP. caption: Danny and Alys Messenger canoe away from their flooded home after reviewing the damage in Prairieville, Louisiana, on August 16, 2016.

Like the horse in the first photo, I read this as a twist on an old nostalgic notion of America, the intrepid spirit and setting out for the frontier. (That’s without the house.) Of course, we’re in completely different territory today. Instead, protecting gains (or privilege) and the fate of the planet seems most at stake here.

photo: Louisiana Governor's Office. caption: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, calling the floods “historic.” He and his family were even forced to leave the Governor’s Mansion (pictured) when chest-high water filled the basement. He later toured flood-ravaged areas by helicopter and warned Louisiana residents it would be too risky to venture out even once the rains begin to subside.

Given the geography of poverty, Katrina largely did in the poor. Piggybacking on the last photo, if there is any justice this time around, it’s that this disaster was far more democratic. Certainly, prospects for action aren’t diminished when the floods send the State’s first family fleeing from the Governor’s mansion.

(Photo by Max Becherer/AP). caption. Louisiana Army National Guard members loading residents into trucks as they ran rescue operations on Sunday in Walker, Louisiana.

I’d like to think about this photo as strictly about rescue, about innocence and wonder, and about government in action and the most altruistic use of our military. With Baton Rouge still reeling from the Alton Sterling killing and the ensuing retaliatory murder of police officers, however, it’s hard to see the photo as color blind.

photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty. The Gold-N-Guns pawn shop is seen in floodwaters in Gonzales, Louisiana, on August 16, 2016.

Finally, is this a reflection on the Trump opportunity? The last outpost when things go under?

(photo 1: Max Becherer / AP. Caption: In this Sunday, August 14, 2016 photo, a girl takes her pony for a walk on a dry road near flooded homes in Walker, Louisiana. Photo 2: Max Becherer/AP. caption: In this aerial photo a boat motors between flooded homes after heavy rains inundating the region Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, in Hammond, La. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says more than 1,000 people in south Louisiana have been rescued from homes, vehicles and even clinging to trees as a slow-moving storm hammers the state with flooding. Photo 3: Max Becherer / AP. caption: Danny and Alys Messenger canoe away from their flooded home after reviewing the damage in Prairieville, Louisiana, on August 16, 2016. photo 4: Louisiana Governor’s Office. caption: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, calling the floods “historic.” He and his family were even forced to leave the Governor’s Mansion (pictured) when chest-high water filled the basement. He later toured flood-ravaged areas by helicopter and warned Louisiana residents it would be too risky to venture out even once the rains begin to subside. Photo 5 : Max Becherer/AP. caption: Louisiana Army National Guard members loading residents into trucks as they ran rescue operations on Sunday in Walker, Louisiana. photo 6: Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty. caption: The Gold-N-Guns pawn shop is seen in floodwaters in Gonzales, Louisiana, on August 16, 2016.)

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