What began as a whim, turned into three long seasons living and working on the Gulf. In the summer of 1979, my roommate Michael Demmy and I traveled "down south" on a seven-day Greyhound bus pass. My brother Brian Woolery and cousins Glenn and Jonathan Combs joined us the following year. The photographs, watercolors, and pencil sketches featured in this volume were created during my second visit to the Gulf coast in 1980. I served for three weeks as a kitchen steward on board Union EI-256, a oil pumping station for Union 76. I took along a $5 Diana plastic camera that could easily be hidden in my backpack. The camera shot 120 film, making soft square black and white pictures that give a dream-like quality to the the people and places captured. The following year, I brought a 35mm SLR to make self-portraits and landscapes in and around New Orleans.
The film negatives from these years sat in storage for more than 30 years, slightly scratched and water stained. Then in April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico killing eleven people. I watched the news reports and collected newspaper articles on the disaster. Like others, I was concerned for the wildlife and ecosystem of the Gulf, mired by millions of gallons of BP-owned crude. There were also the livelihoods of millions of men and women working service jobs like I did along the Gulf coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and Florida. My heart especially went out to the families of those who had died, who seemed lost amid the finger-pointing and urgency to get things back to normal. This book, made from a small collection of photographs was inspired by their loss. Even with that, the pictures bring back good thoughts of a unique time -- one that continues to resonate in unexpected ways.