New Orleans at the Crossroads of Past and Present
Time in New Orleans flows differently. It is closer to the end of the world than we realize. People are compelled to be the biggest version of themselves while it lasts. The Immortals are present. While the city is known for Dionysus, with the revelry of Mardi Gras and the drunkenness of Bourbon Street—and Poseidon is known to wreak havoc—there is much more. Artemis makes her presence known with the 504 boys riding their steeds on the city streets, and Hera whispers in our ears keeping empires alive despite interstates fracturing the city. The past, present, and future shake hands and it is beautiful to see.
In 2007, I moved to the South and found my place. The weather is almost always great, people look you in the eyes, and my Midwest sense of humor fits in well. I didn’t have any preconceived notions of New Orleans when I was invited to speak about photobooks on a panel at PhotoNola in 2013. I had never been to the city and had never been in a hurry to get there. I was there for four or five days. It slowly swept over me how much I loved it and I started to find excuses to get down there. Within five months, I moved and made the city my home.
New Orleans is the best of a big city and small town. I see many of the same people every day—my neighbors; the crossing guard I bike past who sometimes gives me candy; the man who sells okra, watermelon, and bicycles. People acknowledge people. I love to photograph the quiet routine of the city and the people who are there every day. I am slowly getting to know the surrounding areas, like Houma and the Gulf Coast.
In Tennessee and the surrounding areas, I was drawn towards the loud and bright. Here, with the humidity acting as a giant softbox, I have found a more subtle and confident pageantry. Most people are in a krewe, gang, or group here and make easy alliances. While out and about, I’ve been handed drinks, been given cheap plastic flowers (which I inexplicably can’t throw away, they litter my house and can top off an outfit by putting behind my ear), and have biked along in second lines and not even taken a photo.
I am continuing to take photographs, especially in my neighborhood, and am currently collecting sounds and short videos for a multimedia project—as this city is full of sound and movement. Within a few years, I hope to share this body of work on a larger scale. Until then, these photographs act as a chronicle of my experience.
Photo Essay is a monthly series on the CMOA Blog that features images from both emerging and established photographers working in a variety of styles—from documentary and conceptual, to fine art and commercial. For past installments, visit the archives.
- Series: Photo Essay