Grand Isle was formed when the Mississippi River flowed through what is now known as Bayou Lafourche colliding with the Gulf of Mexico. All of the sediments from the mid-west U.S. were deposited into the Barataria and Timbalier deltas.
Over the course of time, the deltas sank and became bays. Then wave and tidal action pushed the excess sand from these bays and formed the barrier islands of Grand Isle, Grand Terre Island, E. Timbalier Island, and Timbalier Island. The constant tidal action and erosion and the effects of hurricanes actually cause the island to move from west to east at a rate of approximately 16 feet per year.
Grand Isle has been repeatedly pummelled by hurricanes through its history. On average, Grand Isle has been affected by tropical storms or hurricanes every 2.68 years since 1877, with direct hurricane hits on average every 7.88 years.
According to several noted archaeologists, Grand Isle is approximately 12,000 years old. Its first human inhabitants were native indians. The Indians were attracted by the abundant supply of food and warm sub-tropical climate, including usually mild winters.
Prior to European settlement, Grand Isle was frequented by the Chitimacha, one of the Houma Indian tribes.
In public records, land use on Grand Isle wasn’t mentioned until the 1780’s during the 40 year period the Louisiana Territory was under Spanish control. From 1781 to 1787 four royal land grants were given to families eager to develop Grand Isle. The Spanish encouraged colonization, so land grants split the island among four men: Jacques Rigaud, Joseph Caillet, Francisco Anfrey and Charles Dufrene.
The infamous Jean Lafitte arrived in 1805 (Check Date). Jean Lafitte was thought by many to have a father of French decent and a mother of Mexican heritage From his point of view he was a “privateer” not a pirate, and the government recognized the difference – mostly. For example, the goods he managed to accumulate were taxed and regulated by the government. A colorful legend was that he used Grand Terre, the island just east of Grand Isle as his base of operations. According to the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, Lafitte used Grand Isle and the neighboring island Grand Terre for “his commune…which included a café, bordello, gambling den, warehouses, and a barracoon (for detaining slaves).”
Agriculture was one of the early main-stay’s of the island’s economy. Crops such as sugar cane, cotton and cucumbers were grown here. The island was also well known for the production of shrimp, oysters, and a wide variety of fish, and turtles.
Grand Isle has Louisiana’s only state-owned and operated beach on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Each year over 300,000 visitors come to Grand Isle State Park for beach combing, surf fishing, sun bathing, and primitive camping. There are over forty-six species of game fish that can be caught within one hour’s boat ride of Grand Isle from yellow and blue fin tuna to tarpon to speckle trout, white trout, redfish, flounder, croaker, amberjack, bluefish, cobia (lemon fish), red snapper, wahoo, king and Spanish mackerel, sheep head, flounder, pompano, black drum, shark and many other species.
During the spring and fall, the island plays host to thousands of migrating birds. Occasionally, during a spring storm, it is possible to see a phenomenon known as a fall out where migrating birds become so exhausted by fighting bad weather or winds as they fly across the gulf that they land on the first bush they see. When this occurs, the island is covered with thousands of resting birds. It is possible to see as many as fifty tanagers, thirty buntings, and a few other species all in one small tree. If you examine this image closely, the tree closest to the center next to the camp is covered by numerous birds of different species.
Hurricane Katrina struck Grand Isle on August 29, 2005. A tidal surge of six to ten feet crossed the island from the bay side, sweeping away or drastically affecting residences, camps (particularly the lower parts of camps), and businesses. Not only were buildings damaged but boats washed in to the middle of the island and the debris field created by the tidal surge was enormous. Some parts of Grand Isle wound up on the shores of Texas. Nothing in this image still exists. It was all destroyed by Katrina.
Signed limited edition (20 Sepia) archival print on photo rag. Editions include minimum one inch white border.
11" x 60"
Shipping cost: $10.00
I call my works “Crossings”. They represent the images left in our mind’s eye that form after we visit or travel through a place.
Our inner.... giant....mental..... canvas.
How it all began:
My mother always told me I was an observer. She said I would sit still for hours, just watching the world go by. I got my first camera at age 12 but I did not realize the power of photography until I got a chance to participate in a photographic research project on killer whales. There, I began learning the power that photographs held.
I ended up in California. I met a master photographer and printer named Robert Cavalli. I begged him for a job for over a year. Finally, he hired me and taught me everything I know about the possibilities of developing and printing all kinds of black and white film. He was an amazing teacher and I could not have paid for a better education in any school. He was a painter with light and his passion for the medium transferred to me.
Developing my own personal style began when I had to ride a train each day for over 120 miles. It was a unique view of the world. The landscape moving while I sat still, suspended in a metal box. Images scrolled by, some just a flash, some slowly disappearing from view. It became a challenge to capture these visions.
When I reached the end of my trip, my mind always created a single giant mental canvas on which the journey was etched. All that I had experienced was reflected on my mind's eye including what I had seen and feelings about the journey. I realized that this happens when we travel through or visit a place and I began to wonder how I could convey this in an image. I began to collaborate with Robert and it was from our collaborations and years of practice that I was able to develop the image style I use today.
Rebecca McNeill Meyers is a New Orleans artist living and working in the Northshore.
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