Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Emotional Side

When I decided to do my Essay on animal shelters, I was a little skeptical. There’s something about animals without homes that is very hard for me to cope with. I’ve been around animals all of my life. I grew up with Clydesdale horses, my pony, cows, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, you name it. When I was a child I even wanted to be an elephant foot doctor. This was until I realized that there was no such thing. I also grew up with parents that rescued every animal in sight. Both of my parents are animal lovers, but my dad is especially. He’s even gone as far as to take the neighbor barn cats and have them all fixed. As you can see, I grew up having nothing but love and understanding for all animals. I even have trouble with deer hunting (although I realize it needs to be done, I don’t want to be the one to do it), To see any animal sad, in pain, or dead is extremely hard for me. I guess where I’m going with this is to one simple story. Today we were photographing and there were two dogs sharing a kennel. I knew immediately when I saw them that they weren’t at all happy. John Thornton went on to explain that they belonged to an old women who couldn’t take care of herself. She ended up in a nursing home where she couldn’t have her dogs, and gave them to John. As a dog owner, I realize the attachment of a dog owner and their dog. You love and treat them as a part of your family and they love and treat you the same. So for these dogs to have all the love in the world, and then go to a shelter with 288 other dogs, is depressing for them.
That’s just one story. I’m not saying that they were the only dogs I felt sorry for. All of these dogs have their own story, whether their owners were killed in Katrina, or they weren‘t potty trained so their owner took them to a shelter. They have a story and they deserve a home regardless of their background.

Day Three

Today I photographed at Raven Woods Animal Sanctuary located in Roseland Louisiana. It was a long drive, but Colleen was gracious and drove me out there anyways. The shelter is a no kill, non profit shelter with 290 dogs. It was insane. All of the dogs are current in vaccinations. John Thornton runs the entire shelter by himself. Leila Baldridge, who lives about an hour and a half from John, also tries to help out when she can, but otherwise it's a one man show.

John started helping animals in 1994, with just a couple of dogs that he wanted to help. Eventually by 2003, those couple of dogs turned into about forty dogs. In attempt to find these dogs homes, his wife made him start a sanctuary. When people learned about the sanctuary they started to bring dogs to John, instead of adopting the animals. Ultimately, John would love for these animals to find homes, but he just keeps adding space as neccesary. Although, today he mentioned that he was done adding on kennels. He even has 14 dogs in his house, one pit bull in the bathroom, and a bunch of dogs on the porch.

John was a very nice and easy man to talk to. He has an obvious love and passion for these dogs that I respect. I think what he's doing is wonderful but a little overwhelming. He does a great job keeping up his shelter and caring for these dogs. They are safe and clean, but maybe not so happy. These dogs really need to find homes.

On Sunday, when we went to Animal Rescue New Orleans, it was such a different environment. They probably had all of 20 dogs, and 6 volunteers. In fact the volunteers almost appeared bored as they fumbled through newspapers. I found it to be interesting that they had too much help, and John can't get any.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Morning of Day Two

This is Fema the dog. I met him this morning during our sunrise shoot. He was just hanging out in the neighborhood (lower 9th ward). We were photographing the Make it Right Foundation homes, when I saw him wondering around.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

First day in New Orleans

Our first full day in New Orleans has been amazing! Some of us started shooting at sunrise and the lighting was beautiful. We went on a bus tour as well and saw a lot of New Orleans. Our bus tour guide was very informative. It was hard to take in all of the information. It was also hard to believe all of the damage that still remains from Katrina, and the new damage from Hurricane Gustav. People who have been here before have told me that there's still major damage left from Hurricane Katrina, but now it's clear to me how bad it really is. It's hard to understand unless you really see it for yourself, and now I have.
Later this afternoon I shot at Animal Rescue New Orleans. It was my first shoot with an animal shelter in New Orleans and was a positive experience. ARNO is a small, no kill shelter. My favorite part was when I got to photograph Jill Fox and her soon to be dog, Salvador. Salvador was found under a home in New Orleans. Jill mentioned that he had to of had an owner because he's so good with people and he knows how to sit. Jill's a volunteer at ARNO. When Salvador recovers from his heartworm he gets to live with Jill's father, until she's finished getting her master's degree, and then Salvador will live with Jill permanently.
My day of shooting ended with sunset, and just like the sunrise, it was awesome.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pawprints of Katrina

I also wanted to mention that I started to read "Pawprints of Katrina". It's a 236 page book all about the rescue of animals after Katrina. Hopefully it will help me to have more insight on my subjects.


I've been contacting different animal shelters and organizations like crazy for the past two weeks. I've called and emailed the LSCPA, The Parish of Jefferson Animal Shelter, Southern Animal Foundation , and Animal Rescue New Orleans. As of last Friday, I hadn't heard back from anyone, and the people I had talked to were too overwhelmed from Gustav, to have someone photograph. Today I called Animal Rescue New Orleans for the second time and I actually got through to someone. Her name was Charlotte and she is more than happy to let me photograph at their shelter! It was a good start to my Monday and hopefully my luck continues as I call more people.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Photo Essays

Rob Finch is one of my favorite photo journalists.  He has a lot of great photo essays.  If you just go to robfinchphoto.com, you can check out all of his work  One of my favorites stories is Finch's "Living to the End."  A story about a women who choses when she wants to die.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

When the Levees Broke

This movie was vital to watch. When the Levees Broke reiterated a lot of coverage that I have already seen, but with more passion. It was more realistic and informative because the storm was covered through the points of views of people who actually experienced Katrina.
I never really thought hard enough about the total effect of Katrina, afterwards. I realize that people lost their homes and belongings. More importantly people lost their friends, family, and pets. If I were to sit there and watch one of my family members die, I don’t know what I would do. There are people whose health has gone downhill: people who can’t sleep at night because they can’t get the image of their mothers, fathers, daughters, or sons, dying out of their heads: people who can’t function properly without depression pills: people who were separated from their families and never got a chance to say goodbye. These are things that continuously run through my mind, especially after watching this video and hearing about some of the losses.
There was one woman, who was a lawyer, in the third act that explained how she and her husband had been educated well and were doing good before Katrina. They went from leading this good life to having nothing at all. Nothing mattered, not even their education. Another man explained that people think they know what they’ll do in a time of tragedy, but when tragedy strikes, there‘s no way to be prepared. I found this interesting because people work so hard to live. Like the rest of use, A lot of these people have spend their whole lives trying to earn enough money to make a living and in the end it doesn’t really matter, which leads me to my next point.
I have read and heard a lot about Katrina, but one thing that I was oblivious to, was how badly insurance companies cooperated with the hurricane victims. I couldn’t believe it. Especially the one eighty-year old man who had been with his insurance company for fifty years and paid his bills, and he didn’t even get back what half of his house was worth. I realize this is reality, but it stinks. After eighty years, he essentially has to start from scratch.
Towards the end of the film they show people celebrating Mardi Gras. It was hard for me to understand at first why they would even bother, but after what I’ve stated above, I can’t imagine anything else more necessary.