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Documenting a City’s Destruction

Kenmore gallery features post-Katrina photos of New Orleans


John Rosenthal’s photograph Church of Living God 2 was taken in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward in 2007. The image, along with dozens of others, is on display at the Panopticon Gallery in the Hotel Commonwealth.

Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to the Big Easy, sections of New Orleans remain beyond repair. In 2007, photographer John Rosenthal traveled to the city’s Ninth Ward to see the devastation.

“The Ninth Ward, in its ruin, was believable, but only in the way certain dreams are believable — post–World War III dreams,” Rosenthal writes on his Web site. “Miles and miles of empty houses. No voices, no cars — an eerie silence except for the distant rumble of dump trucks, the occasional crunching of wood.”

Rosenthal’s trip culminated in a series of photographs, on display through September 29 at the Panopticon Gallery in the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square. The exhibition, Then . . . Absence: Images from the Ninth Ward, New Orleans, includes photographs of homes, churches, and other buildings that were destroyed by Katrina. There are also photos of ordinary objects that were left behind by the ward’s former residents, like a mud-covered organ and a shattered statue of the Virgin Mary. An opening reception will be held at the gallery on Thursday, September 18, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Founded in 1971, Panopticon Gallery is one of the oldest galleries in the United States dedicated solely to photography. The gallery, in the Hotel Commonwealth, 502 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, is staffed Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 617-267-8929.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.

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