I look to houses and buildings for signs of our progress — or lack of it. People are more important than buildings, of course, but people move around. Many people never returned to the city. Besides which, people can hide their pain. The buildings are easier to read.
Five years after Katrina, we still have houses like this all over.
Note the front door is just standing wide open. This was taken in the 3000 block of Banks Street.
But here’s another photo that tells a different story.
Three years ago I took a photo of the building on this lot being demolished.
Now it seem a new building will stand where the old one fell. This is heartening. In fact there are five more buildings going up within a short walk from this one.
So which photograph represents the state of New Orleans today? I think they both do. This remains a city of contrasts. It can be a challenge to keep both these images in mind. We seem to have a natural tendency to reduce and simplify. We want to view things as black or white, positive or negative, with little nuance and few shades of gray. It’s difficult to integrate stark contradictions into a coherent whole.
But that’s exactly what we have to do if we want an accurate picture of where we live.