Maria / Melkweg Expo

A story about the young creative generation rebuilding Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria.

September 20, 2017. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico hard, leaving the island without electricity, infrastructure and running water. The storm was initially reported to have caused few casualties, but the devastating aftermath proved incredibly tough for its residents. For months, daily life consisted of hour-long queues to acquire basic resources such as water, gas and food. The unfortunate economic outlook and lack of support from the United States convinced large numbers of young people to leave the island, looking for a better future elsewhere. Puerto Rico’s population is now the oldest in Latin America. For this project, I wanted to meet and photograph the young creative generation who decided to stay and help rebuild Puerto Rico.

In the weeks before going to Puerto Rico, I got in contact with my peers – boys who could have been my friends, girls I could have fallen in love with. The Puerto Ricans I spoke to were more than willing to share their experiences of this chaotic year. To best represent their story, those portrayed decided on the shooting location, their styling and wrote their personal stories – the quotes included are their own unedited, handwritten accounts.

Upon my arrival, I saw more broken electricity poles than upright palm trees. Roofs that once were made of wood, now covered by sheets of blue canvas. Maria forced this young generation of Puerto Ricans to grow up quickly and re-evaluate their priorities. It made me realize the transience of happiness and stability; anything can change overnight.

This project has been made possible by the financial contribution of FotoLabKiekie, Melkweg Expo, Eizo and Amsterdam Fund for the Arts.