New Orleans' Hurricane-Inspired Graffiti

Commemorating the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, photographer Richard Misrach recently released previously unpublished prints of the devastation left in the storm’s wake in concurrent exhibitions in New Orleans and Houston, as well as in a new monograph, Destroy This Memory, published by Aperture. Shooting with a four-megapixel pocket camera between October and December 2005, the photographer focused on the graffiti scrawled messages left by the survivors on their homes, cars, trees, fences, and businesses. From RIP notes and markings for the number of dead people and animals found inside places to condemnations against insurance companies and warnings for potential looters, the powerful pictures capture the response of the people most affected by the disaster.

Some of the messages are humorous, such as “Elvis has left the house” and “Hey, Katrina!! That’s all you got? You big sissy!!! We’ll be back!!!,” while others, including “I am here. I have a gun” and “Don’t try. I am sleeping inside with a big dog, an ugly woman, two shotguns, and a claw hammer” are foreboding. On view at the New Orleans Museum of Art, through October 24, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, through October 31, the exhibitions are part of a five-museum show — including the National Gallery of Art, MoMA, and SFMOMA — that Misrach has conceived for the work, which he donated to the participating institutions. And, with the hope of helping the victims of Katrina, the photographer is contributing his royalties from the project to the Make It Right Foundation, the non-profit organization that Brad Pitt established in 2007 to rebuild New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.

Click through below for a gallery of images.


Untitled (New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, 2005) © Richard Misrach, excerpted from the book Destroy This Memory, published by Aperture