St. Charles Avenue Street Car Riders, New Orleans, Louisiana

David Spielman: 2016 Michael P. Smith Photographer of the Year

At the intersection of art and journalism, documentary photography reaffirms the power of images to capture not only a moment in time, but also the collective emotions of a people, forever archiving their spirit and struggle so it can be shared with future generations.Through his lifetime of contributions—in particular his efforts to document the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and its citizens—David has ably demonstrated the power of the still image to exemplify these ideals. Two of his major published works—The Katrinaville Chronicles: Images and Observations from a New Orleans Photographer (2007) and The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City (2015)—create powerful bookends to a time of great challenge and renewal in the Crescent City that sparked a reckoning within the whole country about the meaning of community and the role of government in our everyday lives. Much as Dorothea Lange documented the physical and psychological landscape of the Great Depression, so too has David chronicled a crisis of both local and national proportions that will forever mark this period of American history.

The rawness of his images, combined with his unvarnished commentary, provide a holistic sense of what it looked and felt like to be in New Orleans during this time. In the chaos of response and recovery, it is often possible to overlook the small visual details that David’s work so expertly captures: a staircase leading to a vanished home, an abandoned gymnasium, an empty mailbox. In The Katrina Decade, David has captured the essence of hope and despair in his powerful pictures of Katrina’s devastation. But he has never put his Leica down, because he knows that after ten years the recovery of his beloved city is both amazing and incomplete. The result is this poignant portrait of rebirth and blight, perfect for an artist who’s a master of black and white.

—Walter Isaacson,
President and CEO of the Aspen Institute

 

Gulf Coast Fishing Piers, Pass Christian, Mississippi

Gulf Coast Fishing Piers, Pass Christian, Mississippi

 

 

After the Water Receded, New Orleans, Louisiana

After the Water Receded, New Orleans, Louisiana

 

Southern Yatch Club from the air

Southern Yatch Club from the Air, New Orleans, Louisiana

 

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Books by David Spielman

The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City (The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2015)

When Not Performing: New Orleans Musicians (Pelican, 2012)

The Katrinaville Chronicles: Images and Observations from a New Orleans Photographer (LSU Press, 2007)

Southern Writers (University of South Carolina Press, 1997)

 

Related Entries

Michael P. Smith

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Hurricane Katrina

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