Richard Allen Ashmore | Hurricane Ike: Images from the Debris Field
By training, I am a geologist and paleontologist. I have always had a fascination with the expanse of geologic time and the physical and biological evolution of the landscape. Nearly twenty years ago, I began making technical photographs to illustrate scientific papers and presentations and began studying and making artistic and social documentary photographs in the last several years. With interests in science, art, and culture, I am attracted toward developing projects that reside at their intersection. During the Fall of 2008 while studying the effects of Hurricane Ike along the Texas coast, I noticed how the pulverized fragments of homes and lives lost revealed the cultural identity of the people and communities that had existed here immediately before. But to me, the story revealed by the view of the overall damage and destruction was muted by the stories told by the individual pieces of debris and the collective story they produced as a whole.
Surrounded only by objects resilient enough to withstand nature at its most extreme, I began thinking about what physical traces of our culture might remain for societies in the distant future to unearth and study. What biased conclusions will they draw about us based on the fragmented cultural record that will remain? To explore these questions photographically, I was inspired by my study of Walker Evans’ ability to make seemingly objective photographs of everyday subjects and Richard Misrach’s photographic narrative of post-Katrina New Orleans. Like documenting artifacts at an archaeological site, I photographed hundreds of undisturbed debris objects. By using the same camera, lens, and vantage point, along with adding factual descriptive text to document the discovery of each item, these photographs present a unique view of ourselves and the story we are destined to leave behind