|All Photos © Colleen Mullins.|
After Katrina, the urban forest of New Orleans lay decimated. But it is not that damage on which my photographs gaze, but on the damage at the hands of man, that has followed. This particular canopy degradation, added to the 70% loss from the ravage of the storm, is setting the stage for an already palpable loss that even with massive replanting efforts, is leaving a scar on the area that will not heal for generations.
The site of the most over-imaged disaster in modern history has become an interesting case study of our strange relationship with nature as urban dwellers. We seem to have a cultural belief that if it is an Eden we planted, we have eminent domain over the territory it occupies. While the deformities can sometimes be comical, the impact of this loss will challenge city residents returning home for years to come. Absent street signs, and often the houses themselves, these trees have frequently been the only signifiers to tell me that I’ve returned to a site to photograph. Imagine if the tree was not a marker for a photograph, but a marker for home.
Nearly 1/4 of forestland in the United States exists in urban settings today. By 2058 there will be another 8.1% increase (roughly the size of Montana) in areas classified as “urban” that were formerly classified as “rural”. I have become fascinated by both reality and nostalgic iconography of the wild and the cultivated Edens we invent, preserve, or otherwise occupy. -Colleen Mullins
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