Location: Bowdoin / McKeen Center / Activity / 2009 / 2009 / Michael Kolster

Michael Kolster
Assistant Professor of Art

Posted February 09, 2009

Through his photographs and his teaching Mike Kolster raises probing questions about the visual arts and their relation to the common good. He immediately sensed the historic proportions of the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Since 2005, he has been photographing the rebuilding of the city, tracking how specific neighborhoods have changed over time. Noting how New Orleans residents were left to fend for themselves for days, and, so far, how most of New Orleans has been rebuilt through private and charitable efforts, Mike’s photos ask: “What are the long-term responsibilities of society to assist others in need? … What form should our efforts to help the people of New Orleans take, when rebuilding in certain areas perpetuates their exposure to further flooding? … How does one weigh notions of the Common Good against an individual’s right to return home?”

In May 2008, the College awarded Mike the Sydney B. Karofsky Prize for junior faculty who best exemplify the ability to inspire enthusiasm, impart knowledge, and stimulate intellectual curiosity. Mike returned to New Orleans last September to continue his work.

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“When you take pictures you have an opportunity to examine what it is in the world you choose to notice. Our choices beg an examination of their meanings, both personal and to society as a whole.”