On the morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina roared ashore at New Orleans. Other hurricanes had come to Louisiana, but this one was different. This one stayed. For days. The debris, the sludge, the garbage stayed. And when the water finally receded, it left behind a line. A line on homes and businesses, trees, signs and vehicles. A line that marked more than where the water had been. It marked lives forever changed.
The water line was documented by photographer Bette Kauffman, associate professor of communication at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. From 600+ images of the water line, she constructed “WATERLINE: an interactive photo installation” to tell the story of the devastation wreaked on the vibrant city of New Orleans.
WATERLINE has been exhibited multiple times throughout Louisiana, in Florida and Pennsylvania. As the work has been exhibited, marking pens have been made available for visitors to record responses on the foam core above and below the photographs. Many have responded with expressions of passion, anger, hope and faith.
Kauffman was awarded the ULM McKneeley Professorship in the Humanities to advance the project. She is working on a book titled “WATERLINE: landscape with voices” that will make the images and the hundreds of comments written on the panels broadly available.
More about the history and recognition of WATERLINE here.