Greetings from the Jersey Shore, Japan!
A Jersey Shore photographer’s peaceful sunrise image of Casino Pier’s Jet Star — the Seaside Heights roller coaster that plummeted into the ocean during Superstorm Sandy’s fury — will grace the cover of the September 2013 issue of National Geographic Japan.
And it’s just one of thousands of stunning images by Jo Hendley, a Jackson-based photographer, who scoured the Sandy-stricken coastline in Ocean and Monmouth counties to document the destruction and early recovery.
“I started shooting the storm the night before,” Hendley says. “I was in Belmar and went down to Ocean Grove the day after. It was apocalyptic.”
He quickly realized that he needed to start shooting, but there was one problem: accessing the most severely impacted area — the barrier island — was impossible.
So Hendley hatched a plan.
“I decided to rent a plane and flew from Long Branch to the Barnegat Lighthouse [at the northern tip of Long Beach Island] with local photographers John Vigg and Mike Damon and back,” he said.
But there was much more to the flight than the artists’ desire to capture the moment, he adds, saying that he published the photos online “for anyone who wanted to know what happened to their home.”
In the days after his aerial tour, Hendley’s next plan was to figure out how to access some of the hardest hit areas.
“Some legitimate. Others not so much,” he says. “I got into almost every town from Ocean Grove all the way to Seaside Park — often with amazing access, day and night.”
Through his altruism, by providing images to a variety of state and federal agencies, charities, auctions, and homeowners, he gained the respect of law enforcement and local officials, receiving even more access.
And with the access, came the art.
“I wanted to both document the towns and find some kind of beauty in the destruction. I wanted to show the personal sense of loss and create hope. I wanted to draw attention to the need for help, and to help people heal,” Hendley explains.
But his extraordinary work, compiling over 20,000 images of the towns most severely impacted, came with a price.
His photography expeditions led to several police encounters, often ending in escorts from towns, detainment, and “more serious consequences,” he adds, without elaborating.