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August 27, 2007

Bette Kauffman photo exhibit captures New Orleans

If a picture can be worth a thousand words, just how many emotions can it evoke in the viewer? Bette Kauffman, associate professor of communication at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, has captured the look and feel of a post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans in her photo exhibit, “Waterline,” which opened Sunday, Aug. 26 in that city.

The exhibit opened with music and a reception Aug. 26 from 5 – 7 p.m. in the Joe W. Brown Memorial Chapel of Grace Episcopal Church (3700 Canal St., New Orleans). The public was invited. The exhibit will continue through Sunday, Sept. 30.

Kauffman’s 8 x 12 photographs were selected from approximately 575 exposures made during five trips to New Orleans April 1 through June 10, 2006. The photographs are mounted on white foam core and installed edge to edge so that the waterline on each one aligns; this helps to “recreate to the extent possible the ubiquitous, equalizing and emotional power and effect of the actual flood line," Kauffman explained.

The event is interactive to the extent that attendees may record responses to the photos on the foam above and below the images. Kauffman is gathering Katrina stories from both survivors and those who have never actually lived in the city, but who had their lives affected by that natural disaster.

“The purpose of this installation is to raise awareness and understanding of the devastation of a wonderful and irreplaceable city, New Orleans,” Kauffman said. “I am persuaded that many—most people—who have not been there and walked through neighborhoods of ruined homes simply do not get what happened. I fear that collectively, we lack the political will to ensure that New Orleans—all of it, not just the French Quarter but all of it—rises again.”

For more information, contact Grace Episcopal Church at (504) 482-5242 or Kauffman at (318) 372-8117.

About the photographer:

Kauffman received her bachelor’s degree in journalism (’80) from the University of Iowa and her master’s degree (’82) and Ph.D. (’92) in communications from the University of Pennsylvania. Her professional experience includes still photography, videography, journalism, and public relations.

Her honors thesis used photography to study cross-cultural uses of public space, her master’s thesis examined children’s ability to interpret and analyze news and advertising photographs, and her doctoral dissertation was an ethnographic study of women artists.

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