It's been nearly a year since hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and with another hurricane season starting, It feels like a good time to go back and share my experience.

What follows is my point of view during and after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

Before I start I need to mention; We had it better than most people in the island. I had the chance to fly my wife and kid out of Puerto Rico shortly after the storm. For the most part I had water and I didn't pass much hunger.

There are thousands of heartbreaking stories of people losing everything. We truly were the lucky ones.

Also I'd like to warn my viewers, there's an odd mix of baby photos and naked people ahead. It's just the nature of my reality.


Before Maria, Hurricane Irma was announced, we wanted to be near family so we boarded up our apartment and headed for my parent's house

 My favorite thing in this world, we share him at  https://www.instagram.com/teamcamsen/

My favorite thing in this world, we share him at https://www.instagram.com/teamcamsen/

We worked preparing everything, even doing the traditional patio furniture in the pool

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We were nervous as fuck with Hurricane Irma. Now that we are parents we worry to death about our little dude who had no idea what was to come.

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Also just before Irma I did a fantastic art install for a client, I am very proud of this one.

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Irma barely did anything to us. We lost power in the apartment so we continued to stay at my parents house.

It was Maria that truly fucked us over

This photo was taken just after the hurricane ended. The street drains had completely clogged and the first floor of the houses were flooding.

As soon as the winds died down everyone ran for the drains doing their best to clear the drains.

That's me on the green shirt

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A day or two after the hurricane we tried to find some cellphone signal. At this point we were running on our local power plant and had no cellphone signal or water. We had no idea of how much the hurricane damaged the island.

We had a good amount of supplies as well as a solid power plant so it really was a waiting game.

 One of the main roads of Dorado

One of the main roads of Dorado

 I love how he's always happy

I love how he's always happy

 Navigating the roads was nearly impossible, there were brave souls that risked their life to help people move.

Navigating the roads was nearly impossible, there were brave souls that risked their life to help people move.

We heard a rumor there was some phone signal next to the local Walgreens. At this point we still had no way to contact anyone outside our house and only a single AM radio station was working. Everyone was there  struggling to find a hint of signal to contact their loved ones. We had no luck

 Dorado, Puerto Rico looking for phone signals

Dorado, Puerto Rico looking for phone signals

After a few days we headed to take a look at our apartments, the highway was clogged with people trying to find signal, this went on for miles and lasted for weeks. Luckily the apartments only suffered minor damage.

 Highway to San Juan

Highway to San Juan

The days before and after the hurricanes were intensely hot.
There was no air conditioner so we gave frequent baths to the little guy. He enjoyed them immensely.

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 A boarded house in Dorado

A boarded house in Dorado

 Kids entering an empty house

Kids entering an empty house

My kid LOVED the extra attention, no phones were working, no playstations were running, no tvs were on. Young kids everywhere had a reason to go outside now, and the neighborhoods were full of bikes.
New friendships were started these days, between all the doom and gloom it was a beautiful thing to witness.

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In the early days we spent a lot of time in the family business. The offices were better prepared for emergencies with a stronger power plant and more supplies. One of my father's employee lost everything and had to live there with his family for some months.
My kid would take naps on the air mattresses when we visited.

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Our power plant, didn't last long, the constant abuse killed it and there was no repairman available.

The heat became unbearable at nights.

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We were also dependent on water deliveries as our drinkable water supply was running low (we had piping running from the pool to the house, so for the most part we could take showers and use the bathroom comfortably).
It was around this time that I started getting seriously worried.

 Getting drinkable water

Getting drinkable water

Two weeks after the hurricane we decided to drive to our mom's house, we still hadn't heard from her in all this time and were very worried by now. She lives in the country about an hour and thirty minutes drive from where we were staying.

On this trip we realized how truly fucked the island was. The same story happened for miles and miles, endless gasoline lines, wherever you saw. People were just camping there and many times they would push the cars forward as to not waste more gasoline than needed.

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 Tankers were always flanked with armed policemen as it became a regular thing for them to be attacked.

Tankers were always flanked with armed policemen as it became a regular thing for them to be attacked.

 San Sebastian

San Sebastian

My mother in law was fine, but her  sister's house was destroyed . As I write this, it is currently being rebuilt

By early October we had the chance to fly to Miami, we had a photography engagement booked before the hurricane and after having out ticket initially canceled, the airlines honored our ticket.

When it was time to returned I had my wife and son stay on Miami until things were more stable in the island. I hated to be separated from them, but it gave me peace of mind knowing they were safe.

I had not predicted how being by myself would be so detrimental to my mental well being, I went back to my apartment where living conditions where quite poor. There was no water or electricity and my fridge had found new smelly tenants living in there. I'll never forget the smell.

The nights were the worst, it was pitch black in most places and there was barely any distraction to pass the time. I could not edit photos since my main editing machine is this heavy colorful desktop. I also gained twenty pounds eating pure crap everyday (burger king whopper with a warm soda, anything to take my mind of the situation). I was also drinking every heavily every day, anything to pass the time.

During this time I turned once again to my passion and started shooting for myself again.

I started putting calls out for people to shoot with me. Rooftops, abandoned houses, whatever location I could find that would help me focus my energy more positively.

These people quickly became my friends.

 Late night rooftop adventures

Late night rooftop adventures

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 no tv for you

no tv for you

I also went to a house that seemed abandoned, not sure if it was the hurricane or kids breaking inside that destroyed it. Seeing such a lovely house in the state it was in was a sad reminder of how precarious our situation was.

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I started pivoting to shooting couples, by this time I getting close to a month without seeing my wife or my baby and it was taking a toll on my well being.

These guys were amazing. Just being around them filled me with positive energy.

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I was offered a second chance to return to Florida and was blessed with a picture perfect moment when I saw my little guy.

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Something we loved about Orlando. It's really family friendly. There's a lot of activities that we could take the little dude to. 

This is kids park called the "Funderdome"

  https://www.instagram.com/camille_dp/  watches over the little guy on a slide

https://www.instagram.com/camille_dp/ watches over the little guy on a slide

We also fell in love with the Orlando Science Center. It's a pretty special place, one I would love have available closer to home.

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Never though I would like Orlando, but as a first time parent I can now understand why so many families move there. It's very family friendly

There's also an abundance of parks and slides.

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We spent Halloween in Orlando where he had his first proper Trick or Treat and his first lollipop.
After this we went back to Puerto Rico where things were slowly turning back to normal.


If there was one thing I could learn from this experience is realizing how fragile our sense of well being is.

I'd like to think i'm a pretty positive person but my state of mind degraded at such a speed it took me by surprise. If it wasn't for my love of photography and pushing to do something that gave me happiness i'm not sure how I would've passed those days.

 

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