Photo Essay: Paper Tiger TV Visits the Gulf of Mexico

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Adda Birnir and I went down to the Gulf on behalf of Paper Tiger Television to make a short video about how individual community members are dealing with the BP oil spill. With Katrina fresh in their minds, a lot of the locals don’t trust the government or BP to look out for their best interests and believe that it is up to them to organize and make sure that the many environmental, economic, and social consequences of the disaster are being addressed.

This past week Paper Tiger blog paid a tribute to the Deepwater Horizon Disaster by live streaming directly from the BP web site eight digital video clips of the oil leak filmed by underwater cameras. Our finished video will be posted on the blog by late next week. Check it all out PTTV’s website, and click through to view a gallery of images from our trip.

Photo credit: David McDonough

This is a display outside of a tattoo parlor in Larose, LA, which is about 45 minutes north on Route 1 of Grand Isle, the place where oil first made landfall. The paintings and sculptures were created by Bobby and Eric, owner and employee of the parlor, respectively, and were made in order to express their frustration with the situation.

Photo credit: David McDonough

Bobby, Southern Sting Tattoo Parlor artist and owner, stands in front of a painting he is working on of Bobby Jindall to pay homage to the work the Louisiana governor has been doing to clean up the oil spill.

Photo credit: David McDonough

Eric, fellow artist and employee at Southern Sting, stands in front of a painting he is creating of President Obama with a halo of BP colors meant to protest the inadequacy of the governments response to the oil spill crisis.

Photo credit: David McDonough

These types of signs are all over the state routes and highways, especially along Route 1, heading south to Grand Isle.

Photo credit: David McDonough

This was about as close to Grand Isle as we got before local police turned us away; only clean up crew and BP employees are allowed near the shore in certain areas. Here, an oil rig is visible just past the marshy backyard of this house.

Photo credit: David McDonough

There is water everywhere down in this part of the country. Waterways and highways often run parallel for long stretches, and highways are really just long bridges built on top.

Photo credit: David McDonough

When we were finally able to grab a moment and indulge in the local cuisine, we found a deli serving nothing less that this flying six foot sub!

Photo credit: David McDonough

And seriously, anywhere there was a Subway or McDonald’s there was a Gulf Offshore Logistics (GOL) office in the same plaza. The closer we got to the water, the more likely a parking lot was going to be packed with cars. Our assumption was that it had something to do with the relief workers who were out on boats.

Photo credit: David McDonough

A packed gas station

Photo credit: David McDonough

A soon-to-be built gas station — that is assuming the oil industry is still standing when they have the man power back from the cleanup to finish putting the pumps in.

Photo credit: David McDonough

A lonely biker wistfully lights her cigarette, hoping her husband comes back out with cold beer.

Photo credit: David McDonough

These signs were everywhere, too.

Photo credit: David McDonough

A shot of tents BP set up to house relief effort supplies — right next to the boats that are going out and doing the dirty work. Visible in the forefront are Vietnamese fishing boats. We were surprised to hear that Vietnamese fisherman account for one-third of the fisherman in the Gulf. Our contacts in the region felt that the Vietnamese community is being tragically neglected and forgotten during this disaster, both by BP and the government.

Photo credit: David McDonough

Pom-poms and absorbent booms are used to soak up the oil.

Photo credit: David McDonough

These yellow booms are set up as barriers to prevent the oil from infiltrating the marsh near the shore.

Photo credit: David McDonough

We spotted a lot of trucks on the highways transporting the yellow barrier type boom.

Photo credit: David McDonough

The other part of the cleanup effort: dispersant application. These planes fly out over the oil spill and spread it crop-dust style over the water. The Corexit dispersant BP is using is sketchy stuff. We interviewed a woman who lives and works near this airspace. She told us that when the EPA put out an injunction to stop BP from using the Corexit 9557 dispersant, planes started running non-stop for the 72 hours they had left before the injunction went into effect.

Photo credit: David McDonough

Full barrel of Corexit. Just like Crude oil, dispersants are upper respiratory irritants, and though the health effects are not fully understood, there is a lot of speculation that it is worse for the marine life than crude oil alone.

Photo credit: David McDonough

Theresa’s Seafood in Chalmette, LA is owned by a woman they call “Mother Theresa,” a prominent leader in the Vietnamese community in and around New Orleans.

Photo credit: David McDonough

“Mother Theresa”

Photo credit: David McDonough

Bucket of crabs

Photo credit: David McDonough

A cunning escapee

Photo credit: David McDonough

Dead fish in a container. Surprisingly, it didn’t smell that bad.

Photo credit: David McDonough

We were lucky enough to run into some folks willing to drive us out to Dauphin Island to see the beach. Days before we got there oil had washed up, spotting the sand and the beach had been closed. Whether it was the Gulf Stream or the clean up effort (or a combination of the two), there was none to be seen that night and the beach was opened back up to the public. Here a family (bottom right) enjoys the beach at sunset while an oil rig glows in the distance.

Photo credit: David McDonough

A view of the beach; the lights of oil rigs dot the horizon

Photo credit: David McDonough

An Alabama sunset just off the shore of Dauphin Island