From the front hall of his historic apartment in the French Quarter, Louis Sahuc can see portions of a memorial service taking place across the street in St. Louis Cathedral. Car sirens sound, signaling the end of the service. He watches President Bush's caravan dash to the next event.
It's August 29th , the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's touchdown in New Orleans. There may be a parade of mourners today, but that should be it.
"We need to move on," says the photographer and gallery owner. "We can't keep living in this," he says.
That's just what he's trying to do with his photographs; a collection of historical images of the quarter, featured in his one-room gallery on Chartres Street , not far from his apartment in Jackson Square .
His beloved neighborhood was the subject of a new book released this spring, Orleans Embrace with the Secret Gardens of the Vieux Carre’, the result of a collaboration with Sahuc, and writer TJ Fisher based on the work by Roy Guste.
"This unique collaboration is more than visual proof of the very special nature of this historical neighborhood," says Sahuc. Proceeds from the sale of the book will help the areas's on-going preservation efforts.
Although Sahuc sometimes can't escape reminders of Katrina, he's become a one-man tourism bureau, using poignant images of the city's historic buildings and some pre-Katrina shots to lure potential tourists. Every month he repeats the email campaign, flooding his mailing list recipients with gallery-quality regional photos online accompanied by romantic copy.
The recipients are encouraged to forward the images, like a chain mail campaign.
The photos are a slice of everyday life in the quarter. Today, Sahuc will be lunching with friends at Galatoire's, a classic 100-year old restaurant that he's photographed many times.
From artists and writers to lawyers in seersucker suits romancing their wives there, it attracts a real New Orleans crowd, he says. The soul of the city still flourishes.
Sahuc, who became a working photographer at 30, credits his skill to "on-the-job" training in the commercial sector and to the encouragement of friends in the graphic arts. He opened his own gallery 11 years ago, first sharing space and then going solo.
Still, tourism is vital to the French Quarter getting back to business. But there are several hindrances.
For one, Americans still mistakenly believe all of New Orleans is still impacted by Katrina, he says.
"The French Quarter is up and running and has been since shortly after the storm," Sahuc says. "All the images being shown by the media are about the destruction. Yes, we have these areas, but the historical parts of New Orleans , which people have visited for years, are fine and received very little damage."
"We don't want charity, only opportunity. [I see this as] only a way to bring back tourism."