destruction and decay

I was living in America and on the road traveling when I heard news of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I was actually making my way back to California from Alabama and had left early due to the weather reports. When New Orleans was flooded I did think about turning around and heading out there to photograph the devastation, but apart from the fact I had no press pass, I also felt I had no right to do such things. After all I was an Englishman in a foreign country with no attachment to New Orleans in any way. Now this is no dig at the photographers that went to photograph the aftermath of Katrina, far from it, I believe things like this need to be documented and it was indeed the photographers with press passes who gained access to the worst hit areas.
I mentioned briefly in my Todd Hido post about how far some people go to get an image. I think both Katrina and 911 are good examples of how photographers have rushed to a disaster in order to permanently record it. But why make the images so beautiful.? I have done this myself after the fires in California last February, I even waited for the light to change in order to get the best shot. I think a lot of it has to do with instinct and a method of working, but I also think if its something that's going to be looked at for a long time why not make it that little bit more pleasing to the eye, this is a big temptation in a charged environment such as a disaster zone.
I do think there is a very fine line here with this kind of work and I believe it would be very wrong to profit from an others hardship. For example, if someone lost there home in a flood, its one thing documenting it, but its another thing hanging a big expensive print on a gallery wall and making a tidy profit for oneself. (this seems appropriate)
There has been some magnificent work produced from the most terrible disasters and may be that's a way to except that these things have happened and move on, Its a heated topic I don't feel comfortable dwelling on to be honest, but one only has to look at the work of Chris Jordan or Robert Polidori (see above) to see that there really can be beauty in destruction and decay.

I should mention that my Salton Sea project is of a similar nature to the above content, as is my work on the California bush fires. I am glad to say that permission was granted to do both subjects and even though I consider the Salton work to be more about 'beauty in decay' (not devastation) I would not want to profit from the work if I knew people had suffered in the creation of these scenes.

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