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.
Our guide/translator was truly a gift - she is a journalist and attorney with an amazing breadth of knowledge about Puerto Rico and the current situation of people across the island. Her insightful questions during the time that Aniya and I were shooting brought us such a deeper understanding of the region, and of the people's feelings, concerns, frustrations, and source of hope. She was able to inform us on background issues that impacted current conditions and that knowledge helped us to create more informative and empathetic images.
We will post more updates with images here, or you can see them in Instagram and on Facebook. If you're not a Facebook friend, please send us a request!
Aniya and I spent Wednesday and Thursday in the mountains of central Puerto Rico, visiting a school in Jayuya, and the homes of staff and students in Jayuya and Utuado. On Friday, we accompanied a community organizer through one of San Juan's poorest neighborhoods, wedged between a lagoon to the north and the city's "Golden Mile" of corporate offices of international banks prestigious law firms, also nicknamed the Wall Street of the Caribbean.
Each in their own way, these two communities - quite justly - feel forgotten. In the days, weeks, and months following Hurricane Maria, services are simply ... not coming. Their sense of being forgotten is a microcosm of the entire island, whose residents collectively feel forgotten as rebuilding stutters and stalls, services remain difficult or impossible to access, and a nonsense president's latest tweet gets more notice than the rising despair of those whose lives won't return to normal before hurricane season returns again in six months.
We did it - with your help we have met our goal amount and we're both thrilled and relieved to know that the financial requirements for this project are covered.
Thank you for seeing the value in this work, and for believing in Aniya and Katie to capture it.
We leave in just over a week. We can't wait to update you as we begin!
We're in the process of confirming families to work with, thanks to gracious help and introductions and connections made by friends in the mainland to new friends in PR.
Aniya and I both have our flights booked and lodging secured in San Juan for the week, though we plan to be overnight in the towns where were shooting on a few of the nights we're there.
I want to invite you to read/watch this piece by Washington Post reporters Arelis R. Hernández, Whitney Leaming and Zoeann Murphy. It lays bare the hardships inherent in the crippling and extended power outages across the island: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/national/puerto-rico-life-without-power/?utm_term=.3bf5c4d0e6bb