PHOTOGRAPHY: A Chicago Shooter's Post-Katrina Nightmare

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From Eleven Days in October
From Eleven Days in October
As Chicago-based Bob Randall notes in the intro to this recent promotional mailer, he's a portrait photographer who shoots "the standard range of models, lifestyle situations, CEOs and the like." But he'd studied journalism in college and he craved something more, so he went to New Orleans last October, compelled by "an incredible urge to document firsthand what nature had done there, and to capture it in the process of being cleaned up and rebuilt. I wanted to show rejuvenation and hope, not desolation and despair — we have that in abundance in our lives. I expected to have my choice of hundreds of people to photograph for this project." But he was in for a rude awakening, documented in what is far from the standard photographer's promo booklet, "Rue d'Orleans: Eleven Days in October, 2005." At first, besides the lethal sense of anarchic danger that was ever-present in what was virtually a ghost town, "the biggest shock to my system was the sickly sweet odor of death that absolutely choked the air," he recalls. But he was in for a bigger shock — he suffered chemical exposure despite his use of "a full light-duty hazmat suit that OSHA had given me to wear in the more polluted areas. The photograph of the car nose down in a culvert [see the PDF] was near where I became contaminated. I walked down the side of the culvert and noticed I had kicked up a bit of white dust. In seconds, I tasted something horrible on my tongue and began to see black spots in front of my eyes. I took four or five pictures and fell to my knees from dizziness. I crawled up the slope and my OSHA guide came to my rescue. By the time I got back to our vehicle, my hands were twice their normal size and my breathing was accelerated. There wasn't an emergency healthcare facility anywhere. It was time to go home." Some spreads from the mailer, which was designed and co-written by Eric Revels, an art director at Naperville, Ill., agency Rhea & Kaiser, are seen here, leading with the back cover photo. See for more.
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