Photographing Slow Disaster: Zoe Strauss's Grand Isle Beach

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Grand Isle Beach by photographer Zoe Strauss is a brown and gray beach scene, cut sharply by an orange gash. The ambiguous orange stripe and the distant horizon between sea and sky trisect this photograph into a series of tidy strips: the solid land on which the viewer stands, perhaps on the side of safety, or possibly amid disaster; a chaotic middle stripe, with the orange plastic barrier, sand being lapped by waves, and bubbling water that may be dangerous, or is perhaps being shielded from harm; and then sky. Strauss made this image along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana in the summer of 2010. On that same trip, she photographed flames in the water, oil speckling the beach, and people celebrating the region?s extractive resources at the 75th annual Shrimp & Petroleum Festival in Morgan City. Strauss had been called to her worksites by news of spectacular catastrophe, and her photographs, one by one, capture moments in which dramatic, immediate disaster is in high relief. These stories of violent crisis unfolding in real time dominated national news coverage and social media in the days and weeks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-729
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental History
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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