GOODNIGHT, IRENE – WINNER OF THE FILTERSTORM CATEGORY
“Everyone was worried about the wind; no one told us about the flooding.”
In late August of last year, Hurricane Irene became only the second tropical cyclone in recorded history to make a direct hit on the state of Vermont. Over the course of one day, it dumped eleven (that’s 11!) inches of rain, overwhelming nearly every river and stream in the state. A dozen towns were completely cut off when roads were obliterated by the resulting floods, leaving National Guard helicopters as the only means of movement; large parts of villages were destroyed by torrents of mud and debris; individuals and business alike were left in a state shock.
The days leading up to the storm were fraught with more hurry-up-and-wait than a career in the armed services. We’d gotten a load of log-length wood earlier in the month and found that – once all the hatches were battened – starting to block that up for the winter was far more useful (read: “wonderfully distracting”) than watching yet another tarot reading on the weather channel.
Mobile photography, in a way that no other medium can, gives me the tools to record and present the world as I experience it
After years of stop-and-go, one-saw cutting, we had stumbled on the value of having two chainsaws: at any one time, one person can be cutting wood and the other one tuning and moving blocked-up sections. I wrapped up my turn of sharpen-and-haul duty as the the sun was ducking below the pile of raw material. Declaring an official conclusion to the day, one of the cats hopped majestically atop the chunky fruits of our labor. Like any good iPhone + cat owner, I shot off a few images of this perfectly-lit-from-behind feline model. My mind raced, tallying the Hipstamatic show trophies I would win when, lo! what in the corner of my vision should appear but a saw and dust and 8 tiny reindeer. Okay, the reindeer bit was a lie built from the remainders of a recent holiday, but the point is my bells and whistles went off when I caught that light and movement.
What came out of the lead-up to a mighty and destructive storm was an image of the mundane, the readying for yet another winter. As the torrents of rain fell outside, the image developed into the hope for a calmer, sunnier tomorrow. As the reports of destruction came in on the radio, it worked into a resolve for the monumental job that lay ahead. In the days that followed the storm, the image transformed into a greater light, a beacon of the power of people that any humanist would be proud to hold up.
In the days that followed the storm, the image transformed into a greater light, a beacon of the power of people that any humanist would be proud to hold up.
Mobile photography, in a way that no other medium can, gives me the tools to record and present the world as I experience it. As our collegue Alan Kastner once penned, there is something inherently inspiring about shooting with a simple fixed lens and few physical controls on a device that fits the pocket (and serves a wide variety of other purposes!). For me, the true beauty in this art form is the highly personal and immediate aspect of doing all the editing in the palm of my hand, right there, on the spot, be it in the calm of a park or in the wake of a natural disaster.
You can read more from the STORYLINES series here