Natan Dvir: Sandy: Before and After
New York photographer Natan Dvir is familiar with covering conflict zones and communities that have suffered hardships, but Hurricane Sandy was a different situation. Close to home, it was difficult to see his own city battered and devastated. He photographed the challenged areas last year, and was recently commissioned to rephotograph those areas for Weather.com. Natan said in an interview with Weather.com that going back to Staten Island and the surrounding areas was an eerie experience.
“Re-photographing the images I took a year ago brought back the experience I went through last year,” Dvir explained. “The atmosphere was so depressing. Most of the residents in Midland Beach left either having their houses declared as not safe or [having been] traumatized.”
I am sharing an interview created for Weather.com and more information, including work from several other photojournalists : Natalie Keyssar, Amy Medina and Liz Roll can be found on the Weather.com site.
Natan is an Israeli photographer who focuses on the human aspects of political, social and cultural issues. He received his MBA from Tel Aviv University and his MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts (NY), after which he became a faculty member at the International Center for Photography (ICP). Based in New York City he photographs around the world represented by Polaris Images photo agency and Anastasia Photo gallery.
Natan has had many solo and group exhibitions in the United States, Europe, South America and Israel including the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), Portland Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art (Cleveland), Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Blenton Museum of Art (Austin), Southeast Museum of Photography (Daytona), Blue Sky Gallery (Portland, OR), Anastasia Photo Gallery (New York), Schneider Gallery (Chicago), Houston Center for Photography, Center for Photography in Woodstock, Museo de Antioquia (Medellin), Festival de la Luz (Buenos Aires), War Photo Museum (Dubrovnik), the Central European House of Photography (Bratislava), Christie’s (London), Kultur Bahnhof Eller (Düsseldorf), Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and Museum on the Seam (Jerusalem).
Natan’s work has been published by leading international magazines including The New York Times, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Stern, Focus, The Times, Daily Mail, Paris Match, Le Monde, and Le Figaro among others. His work has received recognition wining prizes around the world including the Picture of the Year (POYi), PDN Photo Annual, American Photography, International Photography Award (IPA), New York Photography Festival Award, Critical Mass top 50, Black & White Spider Award, and the Picture of the Year Award in the Israeli press.
What was your experience during Hurricane Sandy, seeing these places days after the storm?
I’ve covered during the course of my career many conflict zones and communities suffering hardships, but photographing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was different. It was hard to imagine that such a storm can hit New York and leave behind so much devastation. Having my personal habitat effected was challenging both physically and psychologically. Photographing the aftermath was one way for me to handle the situation and make sense of the events during those weeks. It was heartbreaking to see how much people have lost and heartwarming to see how fellow New Yorkers have offered their help on such a large scale.
What was your experience going back recently for this assignment?
Going back was very eerie at first. Re-photographing the images I took a year ago brought back the experience I went through last year. This was even more intense given the fact I tried to return at similar weather conditions and time of the day the original pictures were taken. The first place I went to was Staten Island on an overcast day. The atmosphere was so depressing. Most of the residents in Midland Beach left either having their houses declared as not safe or being traumatized. Only 9 families stayed in the few-blocks area I focused on. Breezy Point in Queens was one of the last areas I photographed. I was happy to see that the efforts of the members of this community have finally led to rebuilding their homes. I was sorry to hear the residents complain that it took almost a year to start rebuilding since the banks didn’t release the money from FIMA.
Did anyone share any personal stories while you were taking their photos?
Last year I photographed Andrezej Rokoszak and his wife Leokdia in the flooded street outside their home in Midland Beach, Staten Island. When I met Andrezej and Leokida this month I was sorry to hear how they had to see most of their neighbors and friends move out. Andrezej was involved in an evaluator accident three months ago that almost cost him his life. He had to go through open brain surgery and is still trying to recover.
Is there anything more you’d like to say regarding your experience taking these photographs?
When I photographed the pictures last year I was acting mostly on an emotional instinct, while the second time was much more deductive and methodical. I’m not sure in which situation I was more sensitive noticing things. I guess one might notice different things.
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