Photographing Ike

by Maria Ciepiel

Since making landfall just east of Galveston, Texas on September 13, 2008, Ike has become the third costliest hurricane ever in the United States. Communities along the Bolivar Peninsula, a 27-mile-long barrier island northwest of Galveston, were among the hardest hit, having suffered the 10-15 foot storm surge. Upon returning home, long-term residents of the town of Gilchrist, for example, were shocked to discover that the streets where many had lived for 50 years or more had disappeared. Entire towns had been wiped-out, leaving people fearful that their way of life would never be recovered. Such devastating conditions necessitate finding meaningful ways to make sense of our misfortune. Photography has the potential to do just that. While each of these three Texas-based photographers have vast differences in style and purpose, all have used the camera as a way to examine and hopefully come to terms with the more difficult aspects of our natural world.

Images from Houston photographer Gary Trinklein convey a strong sense of place, human determination and irony. InStardust, an American flag draped across the remnants of what used to be an entryway, serves as a marker in what we can anticipate will be a rebuilding. Flags offer the same kind of symbolism in Everything we had, which depicts a typical middle class home, its front yard full of piles of debris that were once the family's possessions.

Houston-based photographer Jeffrey Deemie admits to being "initially very tentative photographing the aftermath due to the tragedy associated with this storm." Ultimately, his experience in artistic landscape photography offers a unique perspective, one that seems to come from nature itself. Without a human presence, nature appears to have grown silent and reflective as if contemplating all it has endured.By choosing to work in black and white for her images of pre- and post- hurricane clouds, Marilyn Davenport, also from Houston, successfully illustrates nature's mercurial temperament. From shifting winds and rapidly changing light, the wide range of tonal values brings forth a variety of textures and patterns which emphasize the intrinsic yet troubling beauty that can be found in severe weather.