CARLOS DETRES

Photo Journal

This is where my personal projects are born, as well as behind the scenes perspectives of the photo shoots I've done.

Documenting Yellow Fever in New Orleans...112 years later

I don’t know why I’m so drawn to this topic but I’ve been fascinated by it for some time. I kept returning to the idea of shooting documentary photo project about the scourge of yellow fever and the “lingering”, black mark that it left on the history New Orleans. But what was I to shoot? Pictures? Mass burial sites? Crypts with “yellow fever” inscribed on it? The only “lingering” I’ve noticed is the echo from the voice of a tour guide, briefly touching upon the effect of the pestilence that last happened over a hundred years ago.

My friend, Brian is an archaeologist who shared my interest in the history of yellow fever in New Orleans. He invited me last May to photograph the condition of several former quarantine camps near the Rigolets in southern Louisiana, about an hour or so outside of New Orleans. The land in which these sites sit have eroded due to climate change and storms and  have become overgrown with grass, leaving almost nothing of what was once there. But if you picked through the soil a bit, you’d find some interesting artifacts that would tell you a bit about the history of the people who lived and died while in quarantine.

Brian and I were thrilled with the what was found but it wasn’t enough for me to build a photography project on. I wanted to go deeper into the psychology and I found a way through research I had done on the effects of yellow fever on the body. A book written by a doctor who had treated numerous people with some success described hallucinations accompanying a patient’s high fever often before death. I wondered what visions would they have described? That is what I decided to document.

Several pieces have been completed or amended to fit the theme of my project. Information about the exhibition of two of the pieces can be found HERE. I’ll share more news as the project continues. Also, there’s email signup form at the very bottom of this post. 

Here are some of the artifacts and photos that I’ve been looking at from various times throughout the years of the yellow fever epidemics (1795-1905):

(Click to view description)