Valerie Oliveiro
Shieldsboro | Land of the Waves | Grand Bend | Montgomery Station | Hospitality City

“Waveland, what a pretty name it is; how inviting it sounds – but not prettier nor more inviting that the water-side resort to which it belongs. This is strictly a place of homes. Neither shops nor hotels disturb the domestic tranquility of this beautiful place, bordered on one side by the sea and on the other side by bright and cheerful residences. Here and there a slender wedge of forest slips furtively down to the sea, but these lapses into a primeval condition are most infrequent, and already, Waveland has begun to grow inward.”
(Daily Picayune – July 24, 1892).

The spaces we live in and the landscape we surround ourselves with impact our sense of identity. When stripped bare, what we are left with is a distilled form of human infrastructure.

I first learned about Waveland on a road trip to Grand Isle, Louisiana to survey some of the damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Driving through Mississippi, I heard over Mississippi local radio that Waveland had been the worst hit beach on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

It is a little known fact that Waveland, Mississippi was the actual ground zero for Hurricane Katrina after it had veered from its original target of New Orleans. It’s hard to talk about Waveland’s current situation without stepping into regional or national politics. Before Katrina, many other natural forces came through the Gulf Coast. Natural and human forces tussle and bicker there endlessly…

There is a beautiful tree lined street with a canopy of live oaks that is really well known in Waveland – Nicholson Avenue. A brief glance down Nicholson Avenue and you are immediately entranced with southern charm and beauty. Tourists have to drive down Nicholson Avenue to get to and from the beach.

Waveland is mostly middle class, with some fairly well-to-do families who owned expensive homes right on the beach. In the late 1800’s it was once considered to be an affluent suburb of New Orleans – a mere 2 hour train ride away.

It is the only town on the Gulf Coast that doesn’t seem to have a large number of businesses, parks or schools lining the beachfront. So, these photographs are personal spaces. Zoned for residential use. There have been a good number of people who have returned to rebuild their homes (some of them now stand 20 feet above the ground, on stilts) but others have left their land exactly as you see in these photographs. They are not abandoned.

Insurance rates have doubled, even quadrupled in some cases. There is a loss of a sense of place, a distillation of a community, physical structures that enable experience and memory have been altered.

Whether it is personal preference, projection or simply a matter of law, the landscape is neat, well-presented and cared for. While others try to return to the Waveland that was (simply speaking), these pieces of land are in transition. They wait. They expose the simple human need to organize and create use and purpose even in their waiting. They expose intention and interaction. They await purpose and decision.

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