With the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approaching, tributes (and perturbing updates on the recovery process) have started pouring in, and even after a full year of shocking images from the storm, there still isn’t anything that has a more visceral impact than pictures of the destruction. Shortly after the storm, photographer Gilles Peress, whose photos are now being published in Concord Free Press’ collection The Rockaways, explained, “Shooting pictures in Breezy Point and in Far Rockaway was transformational, a deep experience. The devastation is on such a scale, the pain is on such a scale, that I really have a feeling of having entered into another dimension.” Particularly stark words coming from a photographer who’s spent much of his career shooting in Northern Ireland, Palestine, Iran, Rwanda, and Iraq.
Peress’ photos are being published alongside writing from local high schoolers, which the project’s editor Hamilton Fish tells us is notable for its “absence of filter.” He adds, “Their language was unselfconscious, evocative, and expressive. I felt they succeeded in communicating a sense of being in the storm, of being affected by it.” As with all Concord projects, the book will be given away free of charge, with 3,000 copies distributed at local independent bookstores, in museums, and online. This comes with the quixotic, pay-it-forward stipulation that readers donate to a Sandy-related charity and pass along the book to someone else when they’re finished. A few of Peress’ photos are below, but it’s well worth tracking down a copy when the books start circulating on Wednesday, 10/30. It’s not too often that you can get something like this for free, or see photos with this kind of gut-level impact.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.