Q&A : Sandy Carson / Paradise Has Relocated

Sandy Carson has put together a book documenting the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in Galveston, TX. The project was roughly 2 years in the making, and the resulting photographs are as eye-opening/shocking/wild as you can imagine. You can preview and buy the book HERE.

In addition, there will also be an art show at Okay Mountain on October 23rd, in Austin, TX. Hit that up if you can.

This project sounded interesting to me, so I threw Sandy some questions about it. Click below to check that out.

Sandy, How the hell are you?
I’m good thanks, scanning film and scrambling to get my show all printed for my opening in 2 weeks.

Tell us a little about what inspired you to take on this project?
I initially had a photo assignment for the Austin Chronicle to do a piece on hurricane victims who were shipped to Austin’s Convention center during the Hurricane. Listening to their stories and talking with the natives, I decided to venture down there to try and understand and document the aftermath. However, when I got down there I realized that one or two visits would not do such a magnitude justice, so before I knew it, I was traveling back and forth making photographs. I was also inspired beforehand by Galveston’s history as once a Port Of Entry to The United States and as a Texas beach town.

Some people who know you strictly through BMX might find this book a bit random, but you are essentially a photojournalist at heart I believe (correct me if I’m wrong), so something like this is probably up your alley, correct?
That’s a fair assumption on the journalism. I guess it could be seen as a random book, but I’ve always been interested in and shot documentary photography, even when covering BMX editorial, it was always more about the documentary side more so than the riding, actually. So projects like this are just a progression and my focus for work now, which takes up most of my time.

This project took you about 2 years. What did that time period entail?
It involved quite a bit of research on Galveston itself, scouting and feeling it out. I made most of my photographs in the first year of the clean up, returned a few times to see how the rebuild is coming along then did a lecture at Ball High School film class that made the movie www.ikedocumentary.com. The last 6 months have been publishing the book of the project and preparing for the show.

“Paradise Has Relocated” is a clever title; It’s funny and tragic at the same time. Is that title something that just popped into your head?
No, I wish! It was spray painted on a dilapidated storefront on the Bolivar Island. I had been looking for a title that summed my project up and wanted to use one of the many distress calls painted on houses and businesses. These painted announcements are from those that lost everything, were evacuated, or from people that decided to stay during the Hurricane.

Looking through the book preview, some of the images are pretty heavy and puts the damage into perspective. How were you feeling as you came across these scenarios?
I was really overwhelmed and blown away being exposed to the scenes up close. How could you not? People’s personal belongings blown, or floated away to different parts of the Island. I actually google mapped the upturned house on the book’s cover to find out it was pretty far from it’s original plot. I eventually became numb to the scenes but yet looked forward to trying to document it.

How were the local folk you came across in Galveston?
There was quite a mix bag of feelings with the people I met who had returned or were re-building and getting on with life. Quite a lot of frustration and anger at Fema and Insurance companies for not helping out so quick, like what happened with Katrina. A lot of people were in some good spirits surprisingly. But luckily there is a lot of faith down there to keep spirits up. It’s a magical place for a lot of people and really all they have, so there’s no other option to start over. The people of Galveston are a hard bunch. This is the 2nd time they’ve had to build their city from a Hurricane.

What equipment was used for these photos?
I shot with a Hasselblad 501cm/70mm lens and Nikon F100 SLR/35mm lens with natural light.

Did you have a certain direction you wanted to go with the photos?
I obviously chose to capture the destruction and devestation in the photographs first and foremost as you saw in the book. I wanted the direction to be an anonymous mundane documentation, free of hardly any human occupation to make it a little ghostly. Hopefully I offered a little wit and hope, without disrespect to Galveston.

Is there any words to accompany the book?
Yes, a fellow Scot and author friend of mine Daniel Kalder wrote the fore word which I am very grateful.
Cheers Dan!

Thanks Sandy, anything you want to add before we wrap this??
Thanks for the little linterview, I better get back to scanning. Hope to see you at the show. Cheers!

  • Carson is awesome! Cannae wait to see this in person.

    Nice work bawbag!

  • that must be das paul puke canon commentin there. REET PB!

  • ian weed

    definitely going to check out the show when i’m in austin in a few weeks. are the books available for sale at the gallery?

  • yeah i’ll have a bunch for sale. Thanks.A % of proceeds go to IKE relief.
    thanks.