I have photographed New Orleans since 1982, and usually visit the city two or three times a year. This was a magical place for me, full of life, yet also with a close relationship to death.

After Hurricane Katrina, the city I knew so well was in shambles and nothing would be the same. As an artist, I felt compelled to do something, anything. Where do you start when faced with an overwhelming event like Katrina, a city emptied out and ruined?

My first few visits after the flood, I made photographs just to figure it all out. It was almost too much to take in. At some point, the ruined homes, the crushed cars, the landscape of the “Tsunami Zone” as I called the lower 9th ward, did not fully tell how I felt.

In November 2006 I started photographing found objects in the debris field. I made a few rules for myself. No photographs of homeless citizens in distress; I felt this use of pathos was too over the top for me. I also stayed out of homes that were still in some way intact. Instead I looked for symbols of loss, and gravitated to found photo albums, wedding albums, snapshots. These were something everyone had and understood. I brought along a 60 mm macro lens and made photographs on location of the objects I found, taking nothing with me but images.

At this time I also found a library that had filled with water and then burst out a wall scattering books across a field. This become symbolic to me of lost knowledge, traditions lost, history lost. The books over the course of the year slowly began to dissolve into the landscape, a lot like the 9th ward.

— Stan Strembicki