March 23, 2018 by HCDE-Texas
A week after the waters of Hurricane Harvey receded last August, Hattie Meehan walked into her family home, camera in hand, to document the damage done by 22 inches of water.
What started as a photography class assignment from teacher Terry Suprean became part of Meehan’s healing process and a way to work through a difficult situation. The photograph taken also earned the St. Agnes junior a Gold Key award from Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Regional Affiliate Harris County Department of Education.
When Harvey hit on Aug. 27, Meehan and her family woke at 5 a.m. to water rapidly approaching the doorstep of their Meyerland home. By 11 a.m., they had 22 inches of water in their house and were collecting necessary belongings and preparing to leave. Meehan and her family waded through the chest-high water outside with their belongings in a large Tupperware container to find dry land in a nearby Randall’s parking lot. Twelve hours later, at 5 p.m., the family was rescued by Meehan’s grandfather and taken to Cypress, Texas, where they stayed until the water receded.
After a week, the family began tearing out the walls of their damaged home. That’s when Meehan was inspired to take the photo that earned her the Regional Scholastic Art & Writing Award. The top half of the photo features teal walls and a white chandelier hanging from the ceiling, the last remnant of the childhood room Meehan shared with her sister. The bottom half shows the exposed pipes and frame of the house, almost as if it were a different photo. It depicts the difficult emotions Meehan experienced while walking through her home and the surreal situation she and her family were in.
“As I walked around what was once my fully functioning house of 12 years, I wanted to capture what Hurricane Harvey had done to the place of safety and comfort in my life,” said Meehan. “The strict division between the flooded wall and the top wall appealed to me because the entire upper part of our one-story house was absolutely fine, while the other half was destroyed.”
Like schools across Houston, many students at St. Agnes Academy were affected by Hurricane Harvey. Teacher Terry Suprean found students in his class chose to use photography as a coping mechanism.
“Hattie was one of the first to adopt this practice and she went on to develop an entire series based on the effects of the storm on her home and life,” said Suprean. “I hope that the photography series helped her in as many ways as possible.”
Meehan was recognized along with other Harris County teens at an awards ceremony on March 20 at the Ballroom at Bayou Place. Her award-winning photo, “Flooded Away,” was also on display at The Galleria in March as part of the 9-12 grade Scholastic Art & Writing art exhibit.
“These art exhibits are an opportunity for our students to share their stories through their art,” said Andrea Segraves, regional coordinator for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. “Hattie’s photograph is personal for so many people in the Houston community, and they can relate to her through her art.”
While honored by the Scholastic Gold Key award and regional recognition, Meehan says she took away something more from her experience with Harvey. She saw firsthand that a sense of normalcy can be uprooted in a matter of minutes, but she also saw how her school and community came together to create a support system for her family. She believes people’s lives are shaped by experiences like Harvey, but it’s how people respond to those experiences that defines their character.
“I chose to deal with my Harvey experience through photography and utilized this creative outlet to work through my situation,” said Meehan. “As an artist I now have a definite vision of how I want to proceed and what I want to continue to capture – the character that defines every single person.”
For more information about HCDE’s regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and opportunities to sponsor, judge and enter the competition, visit www.hcde-texas.org/scholastic.