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The Nonlinear Editor: Love in the Ruins
Posted Oct 19, 2005 Print Version     Page 1of 1
  

As Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc across the southland to a shamefully sluggish federal response, the only presidential voice I heard that eschewed excuses and double-talk was that of former president Jimmy Carter. "Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the federal government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our nation's life," Carter said. "The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness."


Those remarks came from a speech given July 15, 1979, and excerpted in a film I saw during the Katrina catastrophe. Most Americans remember Carter's address as the "malaise" speech, in which he spoke with unsettling candor about a country divided by Vietnam, stymied by an energy crisis, and crippled by a widening wealth gap that was deepening racial and social divisions. Carter's attempt to give "honest answers" backfired badly and taught his successors a valuable lesson—no American president has killed himself with candor in the quarter-century since.

Which is probably why that speech on "the erosion of faith in our future" still resonates. "For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years," Carter said. "These changes did not happen overnight. They've come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy."

Wedding and event videography is a fundamentally optimistic practice. As much as a videographer's work fuels nostalgia, it also lays a foundation for a future in which your clients—at least for that day—have unwavering faith. We don't preserve our past because we expect the future to be worse, or expect to look back reproachfully at how good we had it. We don't make wedding videos in the expectation of declining fortunes; we wouldn't use technology to preserve our memories if we didn't expect our standard of living to keep that technology accessible to us in the years to come.

EventDV works hard to keep the business goals of event videographers first and foremost. Two of those goals are to earn enough to do the work you love and to book jobs that let you stretch your talents and do satisfying work. This year we've featured an ongoing series on producing "upscale" wedding videos. Ideally, that's how we make our livings: working primarily with a wealthy clientele that knows the value of exceptional video and can afford to pay for it. Does that make videographers mercenary? No, just artists who also happen to be realists.

The gruesome scenes of Katrina's wake—from the toxic refugee camp of the New Orleans Convention Center to the horrific reports of anarchy and violence in the city's streets—represent an entirely different reality. No one you saw on CNN desperately awaiting evacuation will be appearing in an upscale wedding video anytime soon.

I spoke to one videographer during the crisis about the long struggle ahead for New Orleans-area videographers to restore the city's reputation as a wedding destination. In a sense this is like asking how long it took for vacationers to start coming back to Pompeii. But New Orleans isn't Pompeii—it won't be buried under rubble for 1,500 years. In some way, the city will rebuild, and though its population will surely diminish, New Orleans will be reborn.

In truth, Katrina hasn't decimated New Orleans so much as turned it inside out. To most of the world, New Orleans was a wedding destination, or a party destination, or a jazz destination. But that New Orleans is gone. Fragments of it remain, but for now it's invisible. And the formerly invisible New Orleans—a largely African-American city in which 30% of all residents live below the poverty line—is all the outside world can see now, and it's a devastating reality check.

Maybe the "destination" New Orleans will someday rise again. But that's a tiny fraction of the story at a time when thousands are feared dead and hundreds of thousands have escaped but have nothing to go home to. In a tragedy this vast you almost have to look at in parts just to reckon with it, although reinvigorating tourism isn't the part anyone is looking at now. I don't mean to trivialize it, in the long term, because that "destination" image is your living if you're a New Orleans upscale wedding videographer, and as an artist that also means it's very much your life.

The future of New Orleans doesn't look much like an upscale wedding video now; in fact it doesn't look very good at all. The same goes for the many other gulfside communities in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi that were hit hard by the hurricane. Which reminds me of something else Carter said in that long-ago speech, quoting "a black woman who also happens to be the mayor of a small Mississippi town: ‘The big shots are not the only ones who are important. Remember, you can't sell anything on Wall Street unless someone digs it up somewhere else first.'"

It's staggering to think that her "small Mississippi town" might not even exist anymore; perhaps we even saw our president touring its ruins. If so, it's a shame that a hurricane had to wipe it out just to put it on the map.



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