Two weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the Gulf Coast, Jennifer Kirschke, a professional photographer in the Visual Resource Center at UCD’s College of Architecture and Planning, visited the area to interview and photograph some of the children whose lives were affected by the disaster.
In the midst of storm-ravaged neighborhoods in Mississippi and Louisiana, Kirschke met children who had spent several nights on freeways, slept next to dead bodies and returned to their homes only to find them in rubble. We are conditioned to think of these children foremost as victims. In a typical reaction, one television reporter interviewing Kirschke about her photographs asked “How can they look so happy?”
Despite their experiences, Kirschke’s children were far from the one-dimensional victims portrayed in so much media coverage. Instead, they demonstrated an admirable Glenn and his brother Efraim resilience and an enormous capacity for problem solving.
For example, the resourceful Glenn of Biloxi, Miss., age 12, rescued his grandmother, wheelchair-bound uncle and younger brother by getting them all onto a mattress and floating them out the window and onto higher ground.
By capturing this resilience and strength, Kirschke’s photographs challenge common but ill-founded assumptions about children in the aftermath of disaster. The findings of this project point to the importance of supporting efforts by children themselves to address the hardships that confront them. Creating opportunities for such involvement should be an integral part of rebuilding the Gulf Coast communities.
Kirschke’s work was funded by a Quick Response grant from the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado. An article on the project was published in Children, Youth and Environments, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 378-391, 2005. <click here>