The student blog for Drake University first year seminar entitled Visual Politics

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Superdome Aerial Shot

Ben Wildner

This image of the devastated Louisiana Superdome from late August 2005 has become one of the defining images of the early 21st century. The Superdome became the symbol of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, and became a shelter of last resort for those unable to escape the city. Football became the national pastime during the second half of the 20th century, and subconsciously represents lazy Sunday afternoons, cookouts, and overall security. The Superdome (Home of the NFL's New Orleans Saints) came to symbolize the shattering of the feeling of security for millions of Americans.

The images of Superdome accompanied by the wide variety of shots of civilians stranded on rooftops after New Orleans flooded were able to motivate gigantic movements; both to support the rebuilding of the gulf coast and the temporary support of the people there, and to criticize FEMA and the George W. Bush administration. This was possible because the image of the Superdome was omnipresent in the fall of 2005, even after Katrina had blown out. When someone sees this picture he/she immediately thinks of Katrina and all its effects. Inversely, the mention of Katrina often brings the Superdome to mind. Following the same line of thought, politically aware Americans understand that the debacle that was the Hurricane Katrina caused a significant part of the shift in political momentum to the left as the democrats won both in 2006 and 2008. During those elections the Democrats were able to point to the failings in Lousiana as proof that the Republicans were incompetent and the people: remembering the horrors in the Superdome needed little convincing.

The image's ability to evoke empathy from it's audience was quickly acknowledged by the varying media companies and it was reproduced on almost every television station, in every newspaper, and on thousands of websites. The prolific use didn't just make the Superdome an icon, it was recognized by the media companies for its power and distributed because it would attract customers.

The wrecked Superdome will be remembered as a symbol of change in New Orleans and America. The shots of it, and the rest of New Orleans, led to an overhaul of the way the American public and government responds to disasters.  It will serve as a reminder of the results of complacence for decades to come.

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