Born 1970, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In late September 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Zoe Strauss traveled to Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi, where she spent most of her time with a group of doctors and nurses, distributing ice, water, and over-the-counter medicine to those affected by the disaster. While there, Strauss took dozens of photographs with her digital camera that are as arresting for their formal qualities as for the devastated land and lives they record. Some images verge on abstraction— a tangle of twisted window blinds in one shot occupies the whole field of the picture— but most bluntly document the damage wrought on humans and buildings. Volunteers pass bottles of water in a bucket brigade; piles of ruined belongings surround a leveled home; and the golden arches of a McDonald's sign are bent almost beyond recognition. Strauss has a keen sense of urban semiotics: a graffitied warning on a shuttered warehouse declares "Looters will be shot!" while the high-contrast gridded facade of an anodyne apartment building bears the poignant handwritten message "Mom Were [sic] OK."


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Mom Were OK, detail from I-95 series, Gulfport, Mississippi, September 2005. Digital chromogenic print, dimensions variable. Collection of the artist