NEW ORLEANS — On the streets of New Orleans, from Scullery Row to the scuzziest beer hall, Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick are searching for the past — and the present.
"Those are our heroes," says Calhoun as he photographs a homeless man. "They [are] the everyday people. We [are] the people photographers."
For 27 years, this husband and wife team has chronicled New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward — from J.R.'s juke joint to a mother and child in church.
"You see love and life, and this baby is, she's almost Godly-like," remarks Calhoun when looking at the church photo.
Katrina emptied that church and it wiped out J.R.'s.
As for a Saturday night fish fry Calhoun photographed before the hurricane "It shows the feeling of what was going on at that moment, of people being together and being happy," he says.
And what's he see there now?
"Now it's just this empty space," says Calhoun.
Calhoun and McCormick's home — and most of a lifetime's work — were also destroyed.
"Sometime I get lucky and find more negatives, you know," Calhoun says.
Undaunted, they shutter on.
"[I] just want to show the buses are running, people are getting on 'em," says McCormick as she moves through the streets.
They also shoot undocumented workers seeking jobs; uniform maids, toiling quietly; and also the city's bedrock, 83-year-old Herbert Gettridge, who knows that with so little left, their photographs are all the more powerful.
"Most certainly sure it is," says Gettridge. "It is good to have those pictures around; people can look at the pictures and see exactly what went on and what happen[ed]."
Calhoun and McCormick's studio, they say, is now the street, where they glimpse the soul of the city.
"Everyday life, it's important," says McCormick, "and it's something we like to do; we find beauty in it."
"Just for one moment, for people to allow you into their life for a moment, that to me is an honor," says Calhoun.
They are affirming their faith in a crippled city; bringing the past and the present into focus. And honoring, both.
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