New Orleans is a city of fullness – of big hearts, of boisterous jazz, of rollicking festivities. In the midst of all this whole, though, there is a great deal of unexpected empty. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina razed the area, flattening entire neighborhoods and leaving abandoned properties scattered across the city. Many of these abandoned buildings are homes, but not all. Over the two months I spent living in Nola, I stumbled upon crumbling apartment buildings, pre-2005 elementary schools, and even a former hospital. The most beautiful abandoned places I went, though, were the churches.
These images come from a church in Central City; the same block in which this church resides is home to two more churches just like it. There were still remnants of the congregation inside. Next to the pews, I found a gold earring, an old checkbook and a single string of purple Mardi Gras beads. Upstairs, though, it was clear someone had made this church their home; there were blankets and pillows on the floor, empty beer cans tossed under the stairs, and a rusty spoon with a lighter teetering on the organ keys. As I ascended towards the top where the church bell once rung, I found more artifacts of recent use: a pen, a handful of shiny nails, some twine, a ripped polaroid photograph. When I finally stepped on to the small, square roof of the church, the sun was just setting in New Orleans. This particular Monday was the first without a drop of rain in the forecast; the sky was, for once, cloudless, and I could see for miles. Out of this empty church came the only time I would ever see the whole city, from the French Quarter to the Lower Ninth Ward."