Cleveland-based pseudonymous photographer Seph Lawless ventured to New Orleans in July of 2015 to tell the story of a still-recovering city 10 years post-Katrina. Intrigued by the now-abandoned Six Flags theme park and other vacant areas of the city, he believed the photographs would yield a fascinating look into a once-thriving city.
"I remember being younger, hearing about the Lower Ninth Ward and seeing the images and being kind of haunted by that early on," Lawless told AccuWeather.
But when Lawless shot the collection, nearly a decade after Katrina made landfall in southeastern Louisiana as a Category 3 storm, the Lower Ninth Ward remained sparsely populated, dotted with open, overgrown fields, cement slabs that houses once sat atop and eerie stairs to nowhere.
While exploring the area, Lawless stumbled upon a group of men perched on an isolated set of stairs, trying "to beat the heat of New Orleans in the summertime."
"When I approached a group of men sitting on one of these structures in the Lower Ninth ward, a man pointed over to his friend and said, 'This used to be his home.'"
Throughout the area, the last remnants of these obliterated properties stand beside newly reconstructed homes, as a "sobering reminder of a painful transition," Lawless said.
"They're almost like tombstones."
As of June of 2015, the Lower Ninth Ward has recovered only 37 percent of its pre-Katrina population.
"When you go to certain parts, you go 'wow, what is really going on here? Are things really changing as fast or as readily as we need it to be?'"
But Lawless believes you need to see the destruction with your own eyes.
"I don't think the problems we face as a country will change until we face them, so I thought we'd just simply start by looking at them," he said. "If you don't see it, you really can't grasp what's going on."
For more photos by Seph Lawless, check him out on Instagram or at his website.