One of the most unforgettable events I’ve ever photographed was the destruction Superstorm Sandy (SS) reaked on our beloved Jersey Shore.
I made some of my favorite images from Sandy into prints, greeting cards and other photographic products. Some love these images but for many of Sandy’s victims they are a painful reminder of very bad times.
I understand both reactions. I was keenly aware of the pain Sandy created. Despair and turmoil were in the air and it didn’t end. We had a feroucious snow storm right after Sandy.
I was sneaking around with my camera trying not to offend anyone “digging out.” The first day out with my camera I felt the judgement. People worked wheel barrels and shovels moving sand from inside their homes to outside. It seemed an endless task. People were hurting and in shock. Some were insulted seeing me with my camera and I understood. Nonetheless, I had to journal this storm’s aftermath. I was driven.
Two friends of ours lost their basement and first floor. When they were over my house recently they told me how upset they were by this year’s calendar each resident receives. It was filled with pictures from Sandy. The calendar featured the ever growing garbage piles at Pier Village, the 3 story high mountain of broken trees, a second hill of furniture and household items ravaged by salt water and the final mound of splintered wood and boardwalk. These three ever growing piles of destroyed lives grew daily by the truckload. I had to capture the power of that rank landscape..
At the time I didnt understand my need to chronicle Sandy. I never had this desire before and I felt guilty. I read locals posts on Facebook the day Sea Bright opened up to cars. Residents were asking gawkers with cameras just stay the “expletive” out of Sea Bright. I understood and felt the pain. I snuck in to Sea bright at dawn hoping to not be noticed. I shot tons of images but when i went to upload to my computer I couldn’t find the card! I have none of those pictures. Karma?
Looking back I understand why I had to shoot these images. It’s a horrible time to remember but… Sandy will help us avoid complacency. Here in Monmouth County we live in beach/resort living luxury with electricity, sewar, water and heat. Theres nothing wrong with it but when something so powerful takes it all away we realize though it’s almost impossible there is still much to be thankful for.
In my neighborhood a transformer fell down after being struck by a tree, I was outside when it happened because my daughter was too scared to stay in our house up on the hill the wind was shaking us for many hours at 118 MPH. I walked her to my neighbors who lives in the lowlands with her 3 kids and on my return I saw the blue lighting of the transformer crackling before its death just 100 yards away from me. That transformer was our neighborhoods hub of power. After 10 days or so of generator living, power around us was being restored. Daily the account of who had power was noted but our block remained dark. The tree that smashed and pulled the pole down was on a neighbor’s property and residents grumbled blaming that particular family for not cutting down their 100 year old Oak prior to Sandy. Many felt anger at our neighbor and blamed them that we still had no power.
Listening to friends blame the neighbors with the offending oak I imagined a vigilante group with pitch forks and pointed sticks ablaze descending on this house. It was our darkest hours on more than one level.
Once things started to return to normal people got to the business of cutting down all the trees in their yards. We had many 100 year old trees in this part of Long Branch.
Now our street is naked and open to constant sunlight beating down.
Photographing Super Storm Sandy woke me up, shook me out of complacency. Reminding me that I look through my lens to see what I miss in the blur that is my life. Photography is my tool to take a closer look.
here’s a link to a post I wrote while in the thick of it. Dec 28 2012
Thanks for looking till next time.