Louis Sahuc's Visions of His New Orleans One year after Hurricane Katrina devastated his native city, New Orleans photographer Louis Sahuc is back home and urging others to visit and help revive the area's economy. For his part, he's hoping his wistful, romantic photographs will lure visitors back.
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Louis Sahuc's Visions of His New Orleans

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Louis Sahuc's Visions of His New Orleans

Louis Sahuc's Visions of His New Orleans

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick.

A year ago, New Orleans photographer Louis Sahuc was in his home and studio in the French Quarter, watching Katrina approach. Within days he was forced to flee. Soon after that he spoke with us from New York. I asked him then how he thought the image of the city that so fascinated him would change.

Mr. LOUIS SAHUC (Photographer): It won't be as verdant as it once was but the architecture is still there, and when the people come back the soul will still be there.

CHADWICK: But changed maybe. Can you see that in people?

Mr. SAHUC: No, I'm not going to go there. We're not going to change. We're going to still be - we're going to still be the crazies that we always are.

CHADWICK: Thinking now about the first anniversary of Katrina, we asked Louis Sahuc for another interview, this time back home in New Orleans.

Mr. SAHUC: I was back September 30th. I arrived at noon in my apartment overlooking Jackson Square, and as I opened the windows and stepped out of my balcony, the cathedral bells were ringing high noon. And I opened my gallery up five minutes later.

CHADWICK: Well, how have things gone since then for you?

Mr. SAHUC: We are okay. We're surviving. I mean, it's not boom times but we're getting along. I mean, we're trying to move forward and I think we're succeeding.

CHADWICK: Is there a scene that you used to like to photograph, or a building, or a person, something that is no longer there, or is significantly different?

Mr. SAHUC: The only scene is a photograph I have of St. Louis Cemetery Number One. There was a huge palm tree in it and had - which had many, many fronds. But now, it only - it - all the fronds were blown off. And that is the only scene that I can think off where I've actually gone around and checked.

CHADWICK: I saw an e-mail you sent around to people, I think in the last two weeks, the last month or so, saying, hey, New Orleans is here, we're open for business, asking people to come down to the city.

Mr. SAHUC: Correct. I've been doing that actually for several months now to let them know that in the historical districts - the areas that people have visited for over 100 years - those areas are fine. You know, we just need to have tourists come here. Unfortunately, some of the media has portrayed - consistently portrayed the city as being underwater. I mean, even the French Quarter in some people's mind was flooded and still without basic services. And none of that is true.

I mean, I think that there's been enough attention paid to the devastation, to the negative, you know, of the city. And I would like to deal with the positive of the city.

CHADWICK: The New York Times Sunday magazine this weekend will have big spread on Hurricane Katrina and children who have suffered in various ways from the storm, and the attempt to recover from it. It's pretty tough pictures to look at.

Mr. SAHUC: I bet.

CHADWICK: And I wonder if you don't just kind of wish those pictures would go away.

Mr. SAHUC: Yes and no. I mean that's - everything here now is sort of a yes and no answer, I mean to that kind of question. Because yes, you know, we would like not to have the negative imagery. But no, we need to have it so that the country does not forget about us. I mean, we have many issues that go beyond the immediate impact of Katrina and we need the country behind us to resolve those issues.

CHADWICK: A year ago you said that New Orleans was not going to change; I asked you that in our interview then. Is it going to change? You said no, we're going to stay the same. But being there now, and over most of this last year, do you feel a change?

Mr. SAHUC: Alex, it has changed in the sense that it is smaller. We obviously have more problems. But the basic character of the city, the spirit of the city, the architecture - all the things that people have loved about New Orleans for years and years and years - I mean those things are still here. I still get my red beans and rice on Monday.

CHADWICK: Louie, thank you.

Mr. SAHUC: Thank you, Alex.

CHADWICK: Louis Sahuc speaking to us from New Orleans. And you can see his photos from the city, the old ones and new ones, at our Web site, npr.org.

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