As a NOLA Fellow through CoLab, I facilitated a digital storytelling photography project along Broad Street, a distressed commercial corridor in New Orleans that was further destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. Currently, Broad Street is home to roughly 110 varied businesses, which provide goods and services to the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the corridor. These establishments include bookstores, restaurants, auto repair shops, hair salons, and attorney offices, among others. However, given its physical nature – the presence of blighted property and vehicular traffic, it is not pedestrian-friendly. For these reasons, it is difficult to build a strong sense of community along the corridor. Each day, hundreds of business owners, employees, customers, and other users come to Broad Street, but fail to interact with one another and learn about what else the corridor has to offer.
I distributed 25 disposable cameras to people who are employed along the thruway or have some relevant connection to the street, and asked them to photograph their experience on Broad, as well as other components of their lives that they would want to share with others. I gave quick tips to the participants about photography, but mostly allowed everyone the flexibility to use the camera how they wanted to express themselves. Once the rolls of film were processed, I then interviewed these participants about their photographs and recorded what they had to say, and snapped my own pictures of individuals as they shared their stories with me. The multi-media material provides the diverse members of Broad Street with an opportunity that they normally would not have – to use their own pictures to talk about and reflect upon their livelihoods on Broad. Through this project, the street becomes more than buildings and addresses, it gains a personality and an identity.
This video highlights one of the many participants of the project, David at the Pumping Station, and is the first of many from the Who’s on Broad neighborhood story project.
David tells us his experience on Broad Street, working at the pumping station. A pumping station is a facility that houses machinery for pumping water out of reservoirs, watercourses, and the ground, and the pumps divert the water elsewhere. In New Orleans, there are approximately 25 pumping stations that prevent the City from flooding.
Post by Aditi Mehta