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Oil and water
Photos by Michael M. Koehler


Michael M. Koehler first met Ricky Robin in January 2009. Koehler, a photographer, was in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana, volunteering with an organization helping in the ongoing efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Robin is a seventh-generation shrimper.

Or perhaps, was a shrimper. 

Now Robin works for BP. So, too, do many of his fellow shrimpers. After the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, when the depths began spewing somewhere between 12,000 and 100,000 barrels of life-choking oil into the Gulf of Mexico every single day, that’s pretty much the only work available anymore. (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indefinitely suspended fishing in the affected areas in mid-May.)

Koehler spent a few days last summer photographing Robin and other shrimpers as they toiled in the Gulf. “What really made me want to go photograph them shrimping was their stories — their connection to the land and family was so rich,” he says.

All that has, of course, changed.

Koehler recently traveled back to Louisiana, this time to chronicle the aftermath of one of the largest — and still growing — ecological disasters in American history. Selected photos from his trip are showcased here. 

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