Image Analysis – JS

Image Analysis

The image briefly summarizes the change in the landscape of my environmental injustice site North Claiborne Avenue from a site once having lined-up Oak Trees to its replacement with an elevated expressway- Interstate-10. The I-10 expressway was constructed through the Faubourg Treme neighborhood in New Orleans, an African American neighborhood which was sentimentally important for them because it was amongst the first areas in the United States where freed slaves had settled down.  The image on the left is from 1968 and the other is from 2014. The consolidated image makes the argument of the highway construction in New Orleans being unfair to the minority community stronger which makes for a case of environmental injustice, depicted through the replacement of lined-up Oak trees and residential complexes with an elevated expressway and parking lots and yards for cars and trucks, respectively.

As aforementioned, the two images come from two different timelines, the one on the left comes from 1968 whose photographer was Joseph C. Davi and the one on the right is taken from Google Earth in 2014. Not much is known about the photographer Joseph C. Davi, but he has taken multiple images specifically of Claiborne Avenue. There is a strong possibility of Davi being on an assignment to take photographs of the site before its destruction. 

The consolidated image has a deeper meaning than just simply a replacement of trees with a highway. The construction of the highway in New Orleans was unjust to the minority African American community; here, the focal points of the two images, the contrast in colors of the images, spatial relationships and sizes of elements convey the meaning effectively. Initially, the highway- Riverfront Expressway was proposed to cut through the Vieux Carre neighborhood, a predominantly white neighborhood of New Orleans, whose earliest white residents used their old money and influence in the government to successfully stop the highway construction.

The consolidated image has multiple focal points. However upon breaking the image up into two, the individual images have their own focal points. The focal point for image on the left is the lined-up Oak trees that stand out for two reasons one, it covers just more than half the length of the image and second, the lined-up trees are located in an urban environment which is not a common occurrence in every city. Here, the site of the lined-up trees was a neutral ground between residential complexes and the commercial complexes where once many African American businesses operated. As a result of the highway, many of these businesses either moved out or went out of business.

In comparison to the image on the right, the replacement of the trees with an elevated expressway that runs almost the entire length of the image depicts the enormous size of the highway and its importance to the government and corporations. The corporations greatly benefitted from the construction of highways because more highways with little to no public transportation meant more people would rely on cars as a mode of transportation which would make more people buy cars. Furthermore, it conveys the idea of the federal government valuing the highways more than the livelihoods of the minority African-American community. 

The next element that draws attention in the image is the replacement of houses by parking lots and yards for cars and trucks. This depicts a loss in the livelihood of the historic neighborhood. The last element that draws attention is the contrast in color of the images and the serenity of the area. The image on the left comes from a timeframe post the invention of color photography, but this image is a black and white image. Perhaps, it was used to evoke a feeling of sorrow for the destruction of the neighborhood. While the image on the right, is a modern day color image, but it’s dominated by the color of the highway- grey which is a dull color that reflects a loss in the livelihood of the neighborhood.  

In the end, upon combining the differences in elements of the images such as lined-up trees, residential complexes, elevated expressway and the parking lots and yards has one meaning. The highway construction in New Orleans was unjust to the minority African American community which the images depict effectively. Furthermore, it is important to note that the lined-up trees is perhaps a reflection of the enlightenment movement in Europe whose ideas were to be rational, logical and to be able to think independently. The significance of this movement is the fact that its ideas influenced the constitution of this country. Consequently, the highway construction is not only the loss of African Americans but also to the entire nation as a whole.

Image URL: http://architecture.tulane.edu/preservation-project/timeline-entry/1435