Why I shoot disasters

Phoenix, OR, January 11, 2021 — Damage from the September fires can still be seen here. Photo by Liz Roll

Disasters – such an odd thing to have such an interest in. Sounds macabre, but it’s anything but. My work for FEMA can be very intense – such as Hurricane Katrina or the days following Hurricane Sandy. But I know I am helping people, by showing the American people — and the powers that be in Washington — what has occurred here. How people are coping, or not coping. The extent of the damage. The tears and the triumphs. To photograph these events, it takes a certain balance between empathy and stoicism. Without enough empathy, I cannot feel their pain and get photos that reflect the proper emotion. Too much empathy, and I cannot function and do my job. It has taken me many years to get the right balance.

Right now, I am in Oregon shooting video of September’s fire aftermath. The people are all gone, there is not the emotion tug at my heartstrings. But I can only imagine what these folks went through, the damage is so extensive. Whole lives, burned up. It is still a tough job, but one that I love.

Phoenix, OR, January 11, 2021 — Hazmat teams From Oregon DOT conduct asbestos surveys prior to debris removal from the Almeda Fire of September 2020.

Announcing My New Web Site

I am so excited to share with you my new website. I used my Covid downtime to recreate the site to better showcase my skills as a portrait and people photographer, and give viewers like you a better sense of who I am. Since you are buying my creative eye, I think this will give you a good idea of how and what I  shoot.

These are two favorites. I love to shoot what I see in everyday life, some would call that “street photography”. The first photo is of a woman in a Havana salon getting her hair done under an old fashioned dryer. The second shot was in Central Park, New York, and I just happened to be crossing a bridge when I saw him. He looks very sad and lonely to me.

These two photos are from my disaster work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The top photo depicts a woman who was rescued after she spent nine days in her attic following Hurricane Katrina. The bottom photograph is from Hurricane Sandy. I typically go on about one or two disasters per year. More on this in a future post!

Please visit the rest of my site, start wherever you like!



Abandoned Cuba

I visited Cuba for the second time in January. One of my objectives was to shoot abandoned buildings, as this is a favorite subject of mine. See some of the results here.


Remembering #Katrina10


Ten years ago, I remember watching the TV in my hotel in Florida as New Orleans was being swamped by Hurricane Katrina. Two days later I would drive through Mississippi, spend the night in my car loaded with three days of supplies, and finally arrive at Louis Armstrong International Airport. What I would find there will stay with me forever – triage areas, dozens of doctors and nurses caring for the injured, people being evacuated.

It was an incredible time of stress and sorrow and sometimes, joy, as I watched a woman get carried out of the floodwaters after being trapped in her attic for nine days. I had the opportunity to revisit New Orleans in July, and while I was glad to see the recovery that has happened, I also know there is a long way to go. I am hopeful that the next time a Katrina comes their way, we will all be better prepared.

Photos from 2005 here


Interview with Al Roker

I really enjoyed being interview with Al Roker and Stephanie Abrams! It will air Friday 8/28 on The Weather Channel at 6:40 AM on the Wake Up with Al show.