Professors often take sabbaticals. Corporate professionals might attend retreats. As a professional photographer, I travel to New Orleans. Yes, the Big Easy has the all of the expected offerings one would want. The best jazz in the world, culinary masterpieces, fruity drinks, dancing and well, beads. Lots of beads!
In the last three years I have witnessed all of the above. However, when I reflect on the beautiful city of New Orleans, a deeper understanding is what I experience. The goal of my trip has not been to recharge my visual battery, but for the restoration of the couraguos people that call the Cresent City home . In the beginning our goal was simple, give the people of the ninth ward the gift of family portraits, a priceless possession lost by almost all who experienced Hurricane Katrina. After three days of capturing these powerful images, hearing their personal stories of triump and tragedy my life was forever changed. Now almost four years later, it has become a journey of building into and growing relationships. One such relationship is with Café Reconcile’s incredible staff and students.
Café Reconcile's mission is to provide practical instruction in the culinary industry combined with educational and life skills, to youth from at risk communities. The program length is twelve weeks followed by an internship in one of the many partnering hospitality establishments. Students learn to become self sufficient and productive, building into themselves and their community.
From the moment I stepped into Café Reconcile (which is a fully functional restaurant serving a packed house daily) in Central City; I was hooked. There is something about the atmosphere in the Café. A buzz. A yearning. A sense of pride. A sense of hope. An atmosphere of redemption.
This is where the magic occurred for me and my team. We photographed students beginning to learn. We photographed students beginning to grow. We photographed internship graduates in their new work environments. Each student that stepped in front of the camera projected an overwhelming sense of pride and passion for his or her accomplishments. It spoke to our hearts. Changed our hearts. Changed us.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve along side such a dynamic photo team, to be able to bless others, assist in the rebuilding of a beautiful city, and support the wonderful mission of Café Reconcile.
Please visit http://reconcileneworleans.