Just as photographer Mario Tama was packing up to shoot an arts festival in Nevada last year, it became clear Hurricane Katrina was menacing the Gulf Coast. He grabbed his hurricane gear instead and left for New Orleans just ahead of the storm.
Tama spent two weeks documenting the aftermath. What he saw there shocked him.
"I remember getting into a boat some of the locals were using to rescue other people," Tama says. "As we headed into the Lower Ninth Ward, the boat became stuck on something, almost tipping over. And we looked down and it turned out we were stuck on the top of a roof."
A year later, Tama returned to shoot photos for Getty Images. While some neighborhoods were nearly washed away by Katrina, others were essentially untouched. He says the contrast between then and now can be hard to grasp.
"You see people coming back to the city, and it feels incredibly normal. You think to yourself, 'How much of the past is embedded in this picture? It sends your brain into a spiral.'"