In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the eastern seaboard. Causing major damage from high winds and severe flooding, Sandy left her disastrous mark on the east coast. We all remember where we were when the storm hit, and how we lived the days following without power, gas, or supplies. We remember moments of fear, shock, and loss. We remember that neighbor or friend who went the extra mile to help us when we needed it. We all have a story.
But what is that story for those who were out photographing this history-making storm as it tore through the northeast? I asked that question of the contributors to the book #SANDY – a compilation of iPhone photographs by an array of talented photographers. Each personal and unique, these photographers shared their experiences with me, which I now will share with you.
“I was home alone with my kids when Sandy struck. My wife was stuck in San Francisco, a world a way. When the call came to cover the storm, I had to have my mother show up at my apartment, hunker down with the kids and store up on water and canned goods. Luckily we were just at the edge of Brooklyn neighborhoods hit by the storm, and my kids really never knew what happened. Except that I wouldn’t let them or my dogs near the clothes I wore as I waded through the polluted surge water the storm swamped Brooklyn with.” –Ben Lowy
“…The next morning, the extent of the destruction was beginning to become clear and I began to plot my photography plan for the next few days…I waited till the Lincoln tunnel was open some 24hrs later on the Tuesday morning at 8am…Driving through the empty tunnel and out through Jersey was surreal but I still didn’t see much damage from the highway. I had no idea at this point to the kind of destruction I was about to witness in Staten Island.” –Giles Clarke
“I remember one photograph I took of a man wearing an NYPD hat on the Rockaway Beach. He was crying, and he said to me “Please, tell them we need help. Send the Rockaways help.” I posted that photograph immediately to my Instagram page. And instantly people said, “I know that guy.” And it became personal. Other people commented saying “How can I get involved? How can I help?” And it was amazing to see that people wanted to volunteer and they just needed the inspiration to do so. That’s the beauty of the time we’re in right now and that’s the beauty of photography. That these images can create that inspiration, can create that change, right now.” –Wyatt Gallery
I caught one of the last trains out of New York City to Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore – where I was when the hurricane hit. I didn’t have a car at that time so I was kind of relying on the goodness of people’s hearts. I needed to get further south, so I was literally out in the streets stopping people to see if they were going south and if they could give me a lift. I had gotten as far South as I could by car when I was given a bike by a resident who had stayed during the storm. He saw what I was doing and wanted to help. He just said, “Here take my bike.” I rode the bike until I reached a point where the road had washed away. –Andrew Quilty
“After a big fire had devastated a dozen homes in Breezy Point, I went to document the aftermath. As I wandered through the piles and piles of remains, the smell of the burn was still lingering with an intense feeling of despair and loneliness…I noticed a middle-aged woman sitting alone on what was probably once a very lovely stoop. Naturally, I walked up to her and asked her if she was OK and what she was doing. A very soft-spoken Cathie O’Hanlon was patiently waiting amongst total debris for the home insurance adjuster to come certify the extinction of her only home. Cathie had lost it all, yet the weight of her hug told me she was going to be OK.” –Erica Simone
“Documenting and living through Superstorm Sandy was a transformational experience for me on multiple levels. It was exhilarating to cover this breaking news event with an iPhone and posting in real time on Instagram, which was a somewhat groundbreaking exercise in visual journalism thanks to Time Magazine’s gutsy decision. It was humbling to witness the magnitude of destruction and loss in both New Jersey and Staten Island, reminiscent of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 7 years earlier. And on a personal note, having my neighbor and friend lose their home to a toppled tree made this event intimately real. People’s lives were forever altered, our landscape was permanently changed, our vulnerability in the face of nature’s power was exposed and the New York metropolitan area was dealt a humbling slap of climate reality.” –Ed Kashi
“Sandy was reminder that it takes a village to make a difference. I was in Detroit the day before Sandy hit boarding up abandoned houses. I took for granted how big Sandy was going to be, but I ended up booking an earlier flight home. Luckily I did, because the very next day New York and New Jersey were hit. It made me immediately realize the importance of working together and considering others because you never know when you’ll be in the eye of the storm.” –Stanley Lumax
“It gave me hope to see people helping each other in the toughest of circumstances. So many lost their homes and, in a sense, their history. I hope this book will add to that history, help people remember not only what things looked like during that period but the ways in which people came together.” –Michael Christopher Brown
“Owen Baxter has lived in Belle Harbor for most of his life, when Hurricane Sandy came through he refused to evacuate. As the water rose higher and higher he was forced onto the roof. To further complicate matters, a transformer blew down the block and fire quickly spread through all of the buildings trapping him on the furthest roof. At the last moment a rescue boat appeared in the street below and he was able to jump from the roof. Owen Baxter is a lucky man as he escaped with his life and because of the fire he will be able to collect insurance on his destroyed building. I asked him if he planned to stay and rebuild – he laughed and said not a chance.” –Sam Horine
I was in this neighborhood a block away from the beach. They had suffered so much flooding, there were boats just strewn about the street. I came across a Russian family who didn’t speak much English. A man was just pulling stuff out of his damaged house and his wife was sitting in the yard trying to salvage her silverware. It was a really heartbreaking scene. I stopped to ask if they needed any help. He said “I can’t pay you.” I told him I wasn’t looking for money and started helping. I thought I had it bad without power a few days. But you go out there and it really puts things in perspective, and you stop complaining. –Brent A. Bartley
I went out to photograph after the storm. Driving back through Red Hook the whole area was flooded and no one had power. But there was one pizza place running on a generator just making pizzas giving them out. Everyone was congregating and putting out boxes of tools for people to borrow. People would come, take something to use and bring it back. That’s not how it usually works in NY, but it was so amazing to see the community really come together with teamwork. We’re all in this, we have to move through it. –Nicole Sweet
“I remember sitting on route 33 in Westport and not moving for what seemed to be more than an hour. Getting from point A to B, on the roads the day after Sandy was almost impossible. I finally decided to get out of my car, and began walking towards a group of people that were gathering around the top of a hill. They were all looking at the huge fallen tree, which blocked the entire roadway. One of the bystanders asked if I was a photographer. He then invited me to come see what had happened to his house & barn. He had an incredible 100 year old barn which was his studio, where a large tree had gone right through the roof. It was an unbelievable scene of destruction. I photographed him having his morning coffee in his living room, with this gaping hole through the center. It was a surreal visual, humanizing the devastation. The resilience of the people I met throughout this project was astounding.” –Stephen Wilkes
I waded through waist level water, to get to a church where people were taking shelter. I was getting ready to start taking photographs when I caught the eye of a lady who gave me such a sad look, as if to say “No photographs, not today.” I could see how close she was to breaking down, so I walked over and just hugged her and said “You’ll get through this.” She put her head into my chest and just bawled. This was the same community where just earlier I had been accused of being a looter, questioned, and asked for credentials. Any other day she may have treated me in the same judging way, but today she didn’t care what color I was. She had lost so much, and my arms around her were enough. –Ruddy Roye
“Witnessing the devastation that happened in my own city during Hurricane Sandy last year was a real eye opening experience as things really hit home this time. I was at my home in Fort Greene, Brooklyn for the duration of the storm and it wasn’t until I ventured out to Red Hook and into the Lower East Side of Manhattan that I had really seen what the extent of damage had occurred. Over the next few weeks following the storm we made multiple trips out to help with donations and recovery efforts in Rockaway and Staten Island and to document where the damage was way more severe. This type of flooding and destruction had never happened in New York City and is most likely only the beginning of what is to come as the sea levels are continuously rising every year. Global Warming is Real. Change is Necessary.” –Craig Wetherby
“Walking in a field, the sun is setting – one breath, an inhale, an exhale… slowly a step forward over uncertain ground… another step forward, pause, the rhythm of it over again. The evening twilight moves through it’s phosphorescent dance of pinks, ambers, yellows and edge of the earth blues… another breath, another step forward. Eyes look at roofs of homes strewn about like childrens toys…. alone… only the snapping of marsh reeds under feet. A symphony of breaking twigs bark out in uneven voices – pause… quiet now, amongst ruin… the shutter does it’s butterfly motion, as simple as that, the lens stretches as wide as it can to capture the scattered remains of what were once dreams…” –Lyle Owerko
Please visit the Indie Gogo site to learn more about #SANDY, support the campaign, or spread the word! All net proceeds from the campaign will be donated to Occupy Sandy to continue the recovery process for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Tags: #SANDY, Andrew Quilty, Benjamin Lowy, Brent Bartley, Destruction, Ed Kashi/Vll, Erica Simone, Giles Clarke, Hank Willis Thomas, Hurricane Sandy, iPhoneography, Journalism, Lyle Owerko, Michael Christopher Brown, Mobile Photography, New Jersey, Nicole Sweet, Photojournalism, Ruddy Roye, Sam Horine, Stanley Lumax, Staten Island, Stephen Wilkes, Storm, Superstorm Sandy, Time Magazine, Wyatt Gallery