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Storm-Tossed Memories

November 22, 2012

Hurricane Sandy turned cherished snapshots into an open-air exhibition of people’s lives. The photographs below were collected on Staten Island.

“If you take a walk along the altered coast these days, you will find snapshots and photographs everywhere, scattered like leaves shaken from family trees. Here, a wedding pose. There, a baptism scene. Just beyond, the moment that a shirtless man on a chaise longue laughed into the sun.

Freeze-frame pieces of private lives, they were once displayed on a bookshelf, or pinned to a corkboard or kept safe and secret in a box under the bed. Then Sandy, the storm whose casual name belied its fury, swept these moments up and left them in the sand and muck of places like Great Kills Park, where a part of Staten Island now uneasily meets the sea.

Some of the rain-damaged photos look like the sweetest kindergarten art project, with grit and leaves adhered to damp squares and rectangles. Some look psychedelic, with the human and the inanimate swirling into one. Each photograph has become a new kind of memento: an image of one moment redefined by another.

If this open-air photo exhibition has a theme, perhaps it is that nature’s dominion makes precious all things — not the photograph, but the living moment it all too inadequately has captured.

The time we went to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone. The time we gazed into the fresh-seeing eyes of a newborn. The time we traveled to a place so foreign that we simply had to photograph the sign: Welcome to Montana.

All these bits of time have been scratched, blurred, transformed. That red convertible we were so proud of looks as though it is about to be struck by a meteor. And every moment — the prom, the dance recital, the snowman’s construction — is painted now with bright yellows and rich reds and burnt oranges, the colors of our storm-tossed autumn.”

— DAN BARRY

Text and Images via The New York Times

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