What Just Happened explores the week in the life of a person through their photos, offering another way to tell a story.
Chris Granger spent four days in Baton Rouge covering the devastating flood and the first moments of recovery. A New Orleans-based staff photographer for The Times-Picayune/NOLA.com, he was on call the day when possible afternoon showers and some normal street flooding was predicted for the Southern Louisiana city. When he started hearing reports that people were getting stuck on the highways, he knew he should make the hour drive west. But because the massive flooding caught everyone by surprise, there was no press conference or media station set up. “I was looking at my cellphone of a map of Baton Rouge,” says Granger. “I was looking at all the streets that were closed. There was red street after red street after red street. I went, ‘That’s where I need to go.'”
He parked his car and began venturing into the neighborhood, wading into water up to his waist. He soon linked up with some guys in a rescue boat. Reflecting the reality of modern news photography, as he snapped stills he was simultaneously streaming the scene on Facebook Live through phone for The Times-Picayune. At one point when they were pulling someone off of their roof, 5000 people were watching live. The footage has now been viewed over a million times.
In the following days, Granger visited shelters south of Baton Rouge, including special structures to house dogs, horses, pigs, and other pets and livestock. He journeyed to the northern part of the city, the area where the recent Alton Sterling police shooting took place, and found a random ice truck that was the loudest sound since the lack of power had quieted any air conditioning and music. He went into homes, stinking of mildew, where families in gloves and face masks raced to rip out the carpets and sheetrock before the mold could take over. He found a brand new school that been flooded with two to three of water. In Denham Springs, he visited Open Door Baptist Church, which had been filled with between five and six feet of water. In 2012, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York, people from Louisiana went up to help with the recovery. Now he found people from Far Rockaway who had come down to help them.
Due to the nature of his work, on a single day Granger might photograph a chef, a murder scene, and then the president giving a speech. Though having a job to do gets him through the moment, it doesn’t mean what he sees doesn’t affect him later. “There were several times where I’d be in my car and I’d pull over and I didn’t know where to go. I’d have these moments where I was just mentally stuck,” he says of his time in Baton Rouge. “Being overwhelmed, being exhausted, knowing what we went through with Katrina and what these people are going through, it just sort of debilitates you at a certain point. I think it’s just your brain trying to come to terms to what you went through that day.”