Category: disasters

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.