When the Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina

2010, University of New Orleans Press

With photographs by Rebecca Ross

When the Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina gathers the intimate recollections of 11 Louisiana and Mississippi residents and the unforgettable details of their lives during and after Hurricane Katrina. Their words, transformed by the poet’s hand into witness poems are heartbreaking, but also full or irony and fortitude, and are ultimately inspiring stories of the human condition. Powerful black-and-white portraits of the participants and photographs of their surroundings create a lyrical conversation.

Poet Cynthia Hogue and photographer Rebecca Ross convey the experience of a cross section of evacuees, their journeys from the Gulf Coast to the Arizona desert, and their efforts to make new lives. The combination of images and words ­documented by the photographer’s careful eye, balanced by the narrative pull of crafted language­ weaves together a new kind of retelling of Katrina and its aftermath. This book, an accounting of changed lives told in precise detail, allows us to see how the human spirit falters, confronts and transcends.

About photographer Rebecca Ross:

Rebecca Ross has exhibited her photographs in venues such as the Society for Contemporary Photography, Kansas City; Houston Center for Photography; Eye Gallery, San Francisco; and Canon Photo Gallery, Amsterdam. She is the recipient of an Artist Fellowship and Artist Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Her work has been collected by Museum of Fine Arts-Houston, Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, and Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin, Texas, among others.

What a moving and disturbing book! Hogue and Ross have managed to get to the core of loss, emptiness and survival in a way I can’t remember anyone doing before. Ross’s black and white photographs and Hogue’s distillation of the interviews into “found” poems complement each other brilliantly. Through these people When the Water Came gets to the heart of displacement, to the waste and sadness brought about by Hurricane Katrina. Through straight talk and simple images at a time when compassion seems in pretty short supply.

Ron Smith, Founding Editor, Oolichan Press