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Monday, February 28, 2011

Dear New Orleans: Love Notes that Save Lives

I first heard about Dear New Orleans from my wedding planner, Emily Sullivan of Get Polished Events.  Emily thought that Dear New Orleans, which is billed as “the ongoing social collection of Love Letters to the City,” would be the perfect match for our charitable wedding mission. Dear New Orleans will be providing their rather unique photography services for our rehearsal dinner, but they also do weddings, corporate events and more.

The lovely Get Polished staff at a recent Dear New Orleans shoot
Essentially, Dear New Orleans is an interactive photo booth.  The photographers show up to your site and take pictures of you and your guests. The twist? Guest write messages or “love notes” on their arms and hands. Don’t worry- the markers are all dry erase, so no shadowy sharpie tattoos in your wedding pictures.

The idea itself is novel- notes written on the body and photographed as keepsakes, but what makes Dear New Orleans truly special, is its socially conscious commitment.  Founder Robert X. Fogarty and Creative Director Benjamin Reece believed strongly that Dear New Orleans should give back to the city that gave them their start.  So, they founded Dear New Orleans as a double bottom line company- a for-profit that also benefits the not-for-profit, Ten percent of Dear New Orleans’ net revenue goes into developing a technology and new media investment fund for the non-profit organization, which was established after Hurricane Katrina to aid the city in both evacuation planning and execution.

A map of's evacuation points around New Orleans, where people can go to evacuate safely. recruits, trains, and manages evacuation volunteers (evacuteers) who assist with New Orleans’ public evacuation option called the City Assisted Evacuation Plan (CAEP). The CAEP activates when a mandatory evacuation is called in the city of New Orleans and is designed to move almost 30,000 New Orleanians who would otherwise not have without transportation. New Orleans has successfully implemented the plan once, in advance of Hurricane Gustav (Sept. 2008), when 18,000 residents utilized the CAEP. 

In the future, plans to export to other the project to other major American cities.  In addition to their active role in evacuation planning, the organization also develops academic, peer reviewed emergency preparedness research, as well as new and social media emergency preparedness campaigns.’s flagship initiative with the City of New Orleans is to commission public art that will serve dual purposes as both art, and hurricane evacuation pick up point markers. 

 Dear New Orleans’ has gained a great deal of attention for its flagship project, which is called "Love Notes to New Orleans,” which features photographs of prominent local and national celebrities showing their love for New Orleans through love notes written on their hands and arms. Dear New Orleans and its photographers have photographed Saints' quarterback Drew Brees, Dr. John, Susan Sarandon, Saints' player Reggie Bush, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and thousands of other people who've lived and loved, laughed and played in New Orleans.

Now for some exciting news- Dear New Orleans is coming to Washington, D.C. tonight!  The one night only photo shoot event is being held at Bayou in Georgetown here in Washington, DC. Bayou will be serving $5 Hurricanes and will have specials on Louisiana’s own Abita beer, but the event is free of charge due to the generosity of  Second Line, a social innovation conference being held in New Orleans during the week of Jazz Fest.
 So, if you are in the DC area- come check them out! If you can’t make it out tonight, you can see more pictures by Dear New Orleans on their Facebook, Flickr and Smug Mug pages.

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