Photographer Tells Visual Story of Hurricane Rita

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"Beyond Katrina" contributor remembers the "Forgotten Storm."

Matthew White, a New York native who has lived in and documented the unique beauty of Louisiana since 2000, and is a contributor to "Beyond Katrina: The Voice of Hurricane Disaster & Recovery," goes beyond the eastern Gulf Coast to recount the devastation of Hurricane Rita pictorially. White's haunting photographs and personal memoir now featured on are a powerful witness to the 2005 storm, which hit Louisiana's southwest coastline three weeks after Hurricane. The area has even drawn interest from the White House. Former President George H. W. Bush will visit Cameron Parish this Wednesday, Dec. 20 to present $2 million to South Cameron Memorial Hospital, which is rebuilding from Hurricane Rita.

"While the world focused on the catastrophe that was Hurricane Katrina, many in the national media have ignored what happened a few weeks later but was equally as life-changing for the formers, fisherman and residents of Louisiana's southwest region," explained White. "If the images inspire people to care about these places, then it might increase its chances of being preserved. When readers see the Louisiana coast for the paradise that it is, I believe they'll care about saving it."

Hurricane Rita slammed the Texas-Louisiana border on Sept. 24, 2005, as a category three hurricane. Rita was the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the most intense tropical cyclone ever observed in the Gulf of Mexico. Rita caused $10 billion in damage on the Gulf Coast.

White's two-part series of photos focuses on the aftermath in Cameron and Vermillion Parishes. White hopes these images will create an emotional response; a sense that the viewer is there experiencing it -- the silence, the solitude, along with some kind of respect for all the history of the area.

"Three weeks after I began blogging about Katrina, I, like countless others, kept a close eye on the approaching Rita," explained blogger Margaret Saizan, "Beyond Katrina" creator. "The biggest news that resulted from the storm were the traffic jams as people fled the Houston-Galveston areas and the fact that it wasn't as bad as Katrina."

Though federal officials had learned some lessons from the chaos of Katrina and response to the damaged areas was handled more effectively, seven deaths are attributed directly to the storm. Three Cameron Parish communities -- Holly Beach, Hackberry and Cameron -- were essentially destroyed. The cities of Lake Charles, Moss Bluff, Sulphur, Westlake and Vinton, all in Calcasieu Parish, also suffered heavy damage.

Since Saizan's first posting on Aug. 28, 2005, hundreds of thousands of readers from more than 172 countries have connected with "Beyond Katrina." The blog was recently awarded the Society for New Communications Research Professional Award. The award honors innovative organizations and professionals who are pioneering the use of social media (i.e., blogs, wikis, podcasts, collaborative tools and other forms of participatory communications) in the areas of marketing, public relations and advertising, politics, entertainment, academics, and community and cultural development.

"We've had incredible feedback on the photo essay series we began in early October. We hope to bring that same consciousness to what happened after Katrina," added Saizan. "The name Rita has been retired and will never be used again for an Atlantic hurricane, but we can't let its effects fade from our memories." For Saizan, White is just the latest in a series of talented professionals who help her, as a citizen journalist, recount what happens in real time and real perspective.

White hopes to publish his collection of south Louisiana photos as a testament to a land full of culture, beauty and resilience. Until that memoir is a reality, you can view White's collection at Fine prints are also available by e-mail.

About Matthew White

Matthew White is a native New Yorker who made Louisiana his home and his artistic focus in 2000. For five years he photographed nearly every notable location on the Louisiana coast. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita changed the landscape, but not Mathew's vision and desire to show Louisiana's unique beauty. While hundreds of others have documented the tragedy wrought by the storms, Matthew's body of work captures the beauty that the storms of 2005 could not erase. Rather than clichéd incongruity and depressing devastation, Matthew's photos capture a landscape touched by and triumphing over catastrophe. Matthew shares the same vision as blogger Margaret Saizan, looking "Beyond Katrina," and lending a silent voice to disaster and recovery. Matthew White's fine prints are available through e-mail.

About Margaret Saizan

Margaret Saizan ( is a new media publisher, personal/organizational coach and community activist. The Baton Rouge La., native became a blogger during the largest natural disaster in U.S. history -- Hurricane Katrina. A graduate of Newfield Network, one of the best regarded international coach training schools, Margaret focuses on empowering leadership and facilitating action during transition, crisis and disaster as the pathway to new vision. and Big Vision Media ( aspire to ignite wise action, new vision and positive change through transformational media.


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