After finishing up the final shoot in this series, I got a call from the Creative Director over at Neighborworks America letting me know that StoryCorps had edited one more interview for the project. I was tasked with scheduling an extra shoot in the several days I had left before leaving town for Maui. This wouldn’t normally be an issue; except this particular subject was a mother of two who puts in ten hour days six days a week as a pharmacist. I teamed up with Tuan, Mary’s husband, to nail down a shoot with both of them in their New Orleans East neighborhood.
When we met a few days later, I was really excited to be able to shoot Mary and Tuan in the beautiful parkway and temple that had been created in their neighborhood post-Katrina. Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans. I felt large drops of rain falling on my head as we shook hands and we decided we should move the shoot indoors. We got back into our respective cars just in time for the heavens to open up and dump a huge rainstorm on us! The sky went black and the wind whipped the trees so fiercely they looked as though they would break. I followed Mary and Tuan to their office and we all had to wade through a flooding driveway to get inside. Mary starred out the window at the nasty weather and lamented that it was all her fault “It always rains on my day off!” she said. But I wasn’t going to let a little rain (okay, it was a LOT of rain!) stop the show. We shot her and Tuan’s portraits indoors and I returned the next day to photograph the neighborhood.
I really enjoyed working with Mary and Tuan. Tuan cracked jokes the whole time and their energy felt like a tight-knit partnership. I was pretty bummed we didn’t get to tour their neighborhood together but I got to know them a bit while waiting for the rain to stop at their office. They had both done a lot of work following Katrina to have their neighborhood rebuilt and still continued to create community outreach programs. Instead of city planners turning their neighborhood into a landfill as had been proposed, Mary and Tuan helped get people back into their homes, businesses open their doors, and create a community even better and stronger than before.
Hear Mary’s story as interviewed by her husband Tuan in this Neighborworks America, StoryCorps, and LRW Photography video.
By the way, if you want to get the best Banh Mi (otherwise known as Vietnamese Poboy) in all of New Orleans, visit Banh Mi Sao Mai on Chef Menteur Hwy. Mary recommended I stop there for lunch after our shoot and it did not disappoint!