La Mano de Maria: Photo Documentary

On September 20, Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, at just a hair under Category 5 strength. Towns and cities across the island, home to 3.4 million people, were devastated. The devasation in her wake is a humanitarian crisis with effects that will carry far into the future. 

We are Katie Jett Walls and Aniya Emtage Legnaro, documentary photographers from Washington, DC, and Barbados, respectively. We will visit Puerto Rico in January, 2018, to photograph, over the course of six days, six families living in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

We are not photojournalists, and we are not on assignment from any media organization. We are independent photographers, both of whom focus our work on documenting familes. We are women. We are mothers. Between us, we have twenty years of experience creating photographs that tell powerful stories. We believe all these qualities give us a unique eye into the intimate lives of families.

Our goal is to photograph the daily routines of life in the midst of crisis. The tasks and rituals common to us all: washing our bodies and clothes, preparing meals, purchasing food and necessities, caring for our children, sending them to school, keeping house, watching over the elderly - these all are skewed by living in survival mode. We want to document these realities being lived by families across the island, and give voice to their stories with respect, compassion and honesty. 

With much help from friends in, and closely connected to, Puerto Rico, we've planned our trip to take place January 16-23. We'll begin in San Juan at the start of the Festival of Saint Sebastian, then travel to the island of Vieques, followed by Yabucoa on the main island, and a mountain town to-be-determined based on what roads may be repaired and open at the time. In each town, we will photograph with two families for a full day. 

The funds collected in this campaign will assist us with expenses while in Puerto Rico: lodging, rental car + gas, and payment to guides and translators who will assist us every day that we're there. 

Our plans for the images are still in the works, but we will be pursuing publication and exhibit of the work. A portion of any profits from sales of print or books will go directly to Puerto Rico Relief efforts.

We promise to keep you updated not only throughout our trip, but afterward as we find the best way to put the images out into the world. 

Please donate to support this documentary project today. 

  • Mary Stiles 
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Katie Jett Walls 
Washington D.C., DC
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