Photos of Rockaway Beach: How Structure Helps Us Understand the Storm

Art and architecture photographer Amanda Kirpatrick traveled to Rockaway Beach, Queens after post-tropical storm Sandy to document the destruction done to this iconic community. PolicyMic called up Kirpatrick to find out more. Check out her photo series below.

Theodore Adorno once said, “There can be no art after Auschwitz.” Some believe making art from tragedy is immoral. You’ve captured a wonderful beauty in destruction though. Thoughts?

After the hurricane I looked online and saw all these images of the fires, people with no food, no power. There were so many photos, but I still felt like, “there’s a way of looking at this that I’m not seeing.” There was a lot of media coverage, it wouldn't be relevant for me to try to show the whole picture, I thought it was more interesting if I picked one aspect to show. One thought on the storm.

I really wanted to see, structurally, “what happened?” Looking at structure is perhaps less of a human story but it’s also a way of looking at how overwhelming that particular storm was. If you look closely at what happened to the buildings, you can understand how it powerful that event was. When something can knock down an entire house, you don’t doubt the strength of the storm, the ocean, the wind. Showing that power respects the tragedy.

You said that looking at structure is “less personal,” how so?

I was saying that the images are objective in visual style. The pictures are straight on and show the entire building in context. 

Details like kitchen cabinets still sticking up when the whole roof has fallen down, details of what it looks like when things fall apart, is what I was interested in capturing.

What is your relationship to the Rockaways?

I grew up in Connecticut and my grandparents have a house on the North Fork, I’ve witnessed hurricane damage a few times. I don’t have an personal history with the Rockaways.

Hurricanes were interesting to me when I was younger. A storm begins thousands of miles away and suddenly everybody is prepping and watching coverage together. Everyone comes together and has something to talk about. Five days before the storm everyone is glued to the Weather Channel.

Did you see any narratives in your photos?

I found that it was interesting to see how the boardwalk became ribbon-like. Something previously very solid becomes abstract, torn between two buildings or pushed up against them like paper or fabric.

I was also interested in seeing different kinds of buildings that were destroyed. The different architectural styles along the beach.

Do you have an architecture background?

My mom is a contractor. I grew up on construction sites, hanging out on them after school.

Around kindergarten I wanted to be an architect, until sometime around middle school when I started taking pictures. In 6th grade I got my first camera and it pretty quickly became my primary interest.

So would you say buildings are your first love?

I guess they are.

See Amanda's photos here: