Simon Dorfman moved to New Orleans in the Summer of 2000. He fled to Austin after the hurricanes and only returned in the summer of 2006, finding that many of his web and graphic clients had relocated and there was little work for him.
He started People of New Orleans in June 2006 with a better appreciation of his city, recognizing that he’d never visited entire neighborhoods that are now irrecoverable and that there are many people he will now never have the opportunity to meet. But by telling the stories of New Orleans one person at a time, he gets to become more acquainted with his city as it is now (and lets us in on his cultural educationl).
To appreciate the site, you have to understand Simon’s one-take, no-editing philosophy, which has been both extolled and berated by viewers of the site. He does so to give viewers an unaltered sense of the stories the hurricane victims tell, from their evacuation tales to the struggles they’ve faced getting their lives back together.
Each interview focuses on one or two people – mostly white residents, to the dismay of some viewers – as they share stories, unprompted by Simon for the most part. He also avoids attaching microphones to his subject, allowing the city’s background noise to permeate and sometimes dominate the interviews with atmosphere. He limits the interviews to 10 minutes in length.
The interviews help reveal parts of the story that the “big media” has been unwilling to show. One of the more endearing stories comes from Fran Ledger, who reports not just on the use of the toll-free 211 number that replaced the defunct 911 during the emergency situation, but also on a positive that came about during the tragedy: her falling in love.
For a lighter look at it all, take the kid’s point of view, from interviews with the pre-teen Steve, filmed in Champaign, IL, and with Zeke, a real charismatic kid who has some unpleasant words for his former schoolteacher.