Tag Archives: New Orleans

Romka magazine: a collective photo-album

Romka magazine, Issue #7

I wrote about Romka magazine over on the eyecurious Tumblr some time ago, but I will confess to never having picked up a paper copy before, so the latest issue (#7) is the first I have been able to flick through. The conceit is a simple one, “favorite pictures and the stories that lie behind them” by pros and amateurs alike. No book reviews, no interviews, no ads… no excess fat. The result is a kind of crowd-sourced collective photo-album, which makes it sound terrible when it is really quite good. Romka simply does what it says on the tin: it presents a series of single images by photographers (that might be Roger Ballen or it might be Sachi “the builder who lives in a pink house in New Orleans”), each accompanied by a short text explaining what that image means to them. It is a very simple recipe, and like many simple recipes it is hard to get right, but when it works it is rather delicious. Although it follows a fairly strict formula it doesn’t feel formulaic because of its democratic, all-inclusive approach to images and because it helps to reveal some of the myriad reasons why photographs matter so much to people. This simple formula also makes it refreshingly different to most other photography magazines out there.

I have done a lot of wondering (to myself and sometimes out loud) about whether the photo album has become irrelevant today given the changes in the way that we make and look at photographs… Romka makes me think that there is life in it yet.

Romka magazine, Issue #7

Romka magazine, Issue #7

Romka magazine, Issue #7, November 2012, edition of 1,500.

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The Convention Draws Near: The Romney-Ryan Road Trip to Tampa

Election Day is going to come quicker than you know.

Long the Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney has been gradually building momentum towards Nov. 6 since clinching the party nomination on May 29. Now, in the throes of virtually non-stop tours around the U.S. with running mate Paul Ryan, Romney moves to the next stage of his campaign next Monday at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. 

Photographer Lauren Fleishman has watched Romney’s campaign evolve since she first began covering the former Massachusetts governor for TIME. Traveling with him through more than ten states since March, Fleishman became aware of how the Romney-Ryan team began to pull out the stops as the Republican National Convention loomed closer on the horizon.

This past week, as the Romney motorcade raced through Boston, New Orleans and Long Island, N.Y., TIME was granted some rare moments of behind-the-scenes access, as Fleishman tagged along with him at work on the campaign plane, and at a private luncheon with supporters.

(See more: Paul Ryan’s Life and Career in Photos)

The Romney camp, eager to reach crucial members of their party before the 2012 convention, had ratcheted up their game. Campaign events seemed grander; crowds swelled in front of more-energized-than-ever candidates. And, in as controlled an environment as the modern political campaign allows, Romney exuded a new spirit—that of Paul Ryan.

“Now that he has a running mate, the crowd gets really excited—it feels like almost twice the energy,” Fleishman said.

Lauren Fleishman is an award-winning photographer based in New York City. See her previous coverage of Romney on Super Tuesday here.

Related: The Rich History of Mitt Romney

Dave Anderson at the Center for Photography at Woodstock

© Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson has photographed in tough places—a surviving Ku Klux Klan bastion in Texas, New Orlean’s post-Katrina Ninth Ward—but his photographs are rarely gritty. His Aperture monograph One Block, which documents the rebuilding efforts of one block of Ninth Ward residents, focuses less on the neighborhood’s despair and more on its hopes for renewal. Anderson knew that to photograph amidst such hardship he would have to tread lightly: “I was super-cognizant of ‘photographers fatigue’–people were sick of photographers showing up night and day and making grand promises,” he mentioned in a Color magazine profile. That Anderson spent time living and forming relationships with the residents he photographed is evident in the work—the subjects appear at ease, comfortable sharing their struggle to rebuild with Anderson and his lens.

Anderson produces videos as well as photographs—he is the man behind Oxford American’s SoLost web series, a video exploration of “the side roads, backrooms, cellars and psyche of the modern South,” which so far features 29 four-to-seven minute mini-documentaries on subjects ranging from a couple constructing a medieval castle in Arkansas, to Alabama menswear designer Billy Reid, to photographer William Eggleston. SoLost is a one-man operation, which accounts for the easy rapport between Anderson’s camera and his subjects, and why these videos feel like privileged glimpses into the richness and diversity of life in the American South.

Anderson will give a lecture about his image-making projects at The Center for Photography at Woodstock, this Friday, July 13 at 8pm. If you’re in the area, it will be worth checking out.

›› Watch a video of Anderson speaking about One Block with Aperture, and head to the Aperture store if you’re interested in purchasing a copy.

 

Photographer #453: Deborah Luster

Deborah Luster, 1951, USA, is a photographer based in New Orleans, USA and Galway, Ireland. In 1988 her mother was murdered by a hired killer. In 1998 it led her to start the project entitled One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana in which she photographed inmates of three Louisiana prisons. The photographs were published in a monograph in 2003 together with texts from poet C.D. Wright. She photographed each person as they presented their very own selves. The entire archive consisted of tens of thousands of portraits and she has given +/- 25.000 wallet-sized prints back to the portrayed. Her recent body of work, Tooth for an Eye: A Chorography of Violence in Orleans Parish, was released as a monograph in 2011. It consists of images that function as an archive of historical and contemporary homicide sites in New Orleans. She researched city police homicide reports and photographed the exact locations of the murders. “By approaching cityscapes through the disorienting context of homicide, the work disturbs the deep crust of stereotypical visual interpretations of New Orleans.” Her work has been exhibited on numerous occasions, mainly in the USA. The following images come from the series Tooth for an Eye, One Big Self and Rosesucker Retablos.

Website: www.deborahluster.com

Photographer #372: Will Steacy

Will Steacy, 1980, USA, is a highly productive and engaged portrait and landscape photographer. For his project Down These Mean Streets he wanders through American ghetto’s at night. He walks between the airport and the central business district of each city with a large view finder camera examining fear and the abandonment of America’s inner cities. He admits being scared while working on this project, but is convinced that by taking risks and push limits one is able to create something meaningful. The series 48 Hours examines the evisceration of the middle class through a portrait of the economic challenges confronting Madison and Gary. In Madison he focused on the events in and around the capitol building before Governor Scott Walker signed the bill that took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from state’s public employees. In Gary, home of the first US steel plant, he concentrated on city institutions. Will made several bodies of work in New Orleans. The series A Silent Affliction focuses on the deterioration of buildings in New Orleans due to mold. The following images come from the series 48 Hours, Down These Mean Streets and A Product of our Environment.

Website: www.willsteacy.com

Photographer #372: Will Steacy

Will Steacy, 1980, USA, is a highly productive and engaged portrait and landscape photographer. For his project Down These Mean Streets he wanders through American ghetto’s at night. He walks between the airport and the central business district of each city with a large view finder camera examining fear and the abandonment of America’s inner cities. He admits being scared while working on this project, but is convinced that by taking risks and push limits one is able to create something meaningful. The series 48 Hours examines the evisceration of the middle class through a portrait of the economic challenges confronting Madison and Gary. In Madison he focused on the events in and around the capitol building before Governor Scott Walker signed the bill that took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from state’s public employees. In Gary, home of the first US steel plant, he concentrated on city institutions. Will made several bodies of work in New Orleans. The series A Silent Affliction focuses on the deterioration of buildings in New Orleans due to mold. The following images come from the series 48 Hours, Down These Mean Streets and A Product of our Environment.

Website: www.willsteacy.com

chris bickford – death, rebirth, and celebration in new orleans

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Chris Bickford

Death, Rebirth, and Celebration in New Orleans

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The city of New Orleans lies at the swampy bottom of of the largest watershed in North America, and the top edge of the most hurricane-prone inland sea in the Western Hemisphere.  It is, at once, an epicenter of trade, transportation, and cultural ferment; and at the same time probably one of the worst places to build a city one could ever choose.   The same waterways that brought people, goods, and cultural influences from France, Spain, Cuba, Haiti, Britain, Ireland, the American West, the American South, the heart of Africa, and all of Europe, also brought the threat of epic floods and hurricanes, yellow fever and malaria, and conquest from every nation eager to hold the mouth of the great Mississippi River in its dominion.

New Orleans was built on high ground in the middle of a swamp, the only truly viable land in the area being the natural levee that had built up along a bend in the river (the “Crescent”) as it passed close to Lake Pontchartrain, a large brackish estuary that provided a faster and safer route to the Gulf of Mexico than the treacherous, shifting delta that faced cargo boats heading to the Gulf via the last 100 miles of the Mississippi.   Between the crescent and the Lake lay another strip of high ground, an ancient Indian portage route which the French named Esplanade Ridge.   It was on these mounds, surrounded by swampland, that the city, named after a notoriously decadent French Viceroy, was built.

It has been almost 300 years since then, and in that time New Orleans has survived three regime changes; disastrous floods, fires, and epidemics; times of great prosperity and times of dramatic financial depression.   It has endured racism, white flight, urban blight, and gentrification.  It has seen the establishment of several Big Oil headquarters and their subsequent abandonment.   It has seen its hometown NFL football team suffer losing season after losing season, until their dramatic Super Bowl victory in 2010.  It has watched as engineers and developers pumped out the swamp water adjacent to the ridges and built vast neighborhoods on soggy, below-lake-and-river-level ground.  And it has seen these neighborhoods flooded and destroyed twice, first from  Hurricane Betsy in 1965, and and then from the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It has seen the murder rate soar in its poorest neighborhoods.   And it has seen, through all of this, the strange and beautiful fermentation of a whole host of ethnic influences that have made New Orleans one of the most culturally significant cities in the world.   There is no city that compares to New Orleans in the sheer depth,  range, and complexity of its musical and cultural heritage, which remains a living, breathing, continually evolving way of life–and serious business for New Orleanians. New Orleans is, hands down, the funkiest city in the world.

It also has quite possibly the most complex and confounding history of race relations of any city in the United States.   From the Free Blacks of Color who played an integral part of the city’s commerce and culture for over 100 years before the Emancipation Proclamaton, to the Sunday gatherings in Congo Square where blacks both slave and free were given the day off to dance, sing, share news, and exchange goods, to the Post-Reconstruction takeover of the segregationist White League, to the repressive Jim Crow era, straight up to school integration and the White Flight of the 1960′s… from the institutionalized police brutality of 20th century to black Mardi Gras Indians leading a procession at the inauguration of white mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2010- race relations in New Orleans have swung from some of the most liberal to some of the most reactionary in the country, and back again.  Walk the streets of New Orleans today, and you can feel the same tension.  Whites, blacks, and other ethnic groups tend to occupy different neighborhoods and keep to their own, but those neighborhoods are so close to each other that interaction is second nature to the city dwellers.  And though there is plenty of racism and fear to go around, the boundaries are easily melted with a smile, a handshake, and an attitude of mutual respect.   The music and the street life bring people together.  There is violence, there is poverty, there are glaring inequities.   But in New Orleans, even the richest uptown houses look just a little run-down, and even the poorest black man can build himself a perfect suit of beads and feathers and dazzle the world when the Mardi Gras Indians come out to strut their stuff.

And through it all, there has been the Mardi Gras, the Carnival celebration imported from Europe, that, as history tells it, was first celebrated in Louisiana on March 3, 1699, by French explorer Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, on a campsite on the east bank of the Mississippi River, which he named “Pointe du Mardi Gras.”   From the beginning it was a multicultural affair.  On March 20 the local Houma Indians welcomed Iberville and his men into their village and treated them to a formal celebration, with dancers and drummers wearing body paint and fur headdresses and sashes of painted feathers.  The party lasted all day and into the night, in classic Carnival fashion: naked, painted and adorned revelers singing, dancing, and drumming their way into ecstasy.

Mardi Gras has undergone many transformations since then, from the raucous Creole street-parties of the eighteenth century, to the Protestant takeover in the mid-1800′s by “Rex, King of Carnival”, who sought to tame Carnival by establishing rules and creating secret WASP societies, or “krewes”, which staged elaborate parades through the city…then, to the hippie revolution in the 1960′s, when all hell broke loose on the streets…and all the while parallel carnivals went on, the “Carnival Noir”: the Carnival of the Mardi Gras Indians, the Carnival of the brothels and the Baby Dolls, the Carnival of the Skull and Bone Gangs- who would walk the streets at dawn on Mardi Gras Day, dressed as skeletons, waking up the living and the dead, and the Carnival of Zulu, the largest and oldest Social Aid and Pleasure Club in New Orleans, whose inclusion into the otherwise exclusively white roster of Mardi Gras Parades–and whose self-parodying traditions of coconuts, blackface, and grass skirts–sparked a controversy that exists to this day about the portrayal and inclusion of African-Americans in predominantly white American culture.

These photographs, taken in 2010 and comprised mainly of New Orleanians participating in a year-round roster of traditional festivities, dance nights, and costume balls, are presented not so much as documentary images of everyday life in New Orleans, but more as symbolic meditations on the cycles of death, rebirth, and transformation that New Orleans has undergone, and continues to undergo in its tragic, dramatic, fascinating, funky, strange, and beautiful history.

In New Orleans, the dead seem to lie just a little closer to the living.  Its cemeteries, or “cities of the dead”, are scattered about the city, mazes of above-ground tombs which were found necessary to build once it was discovered that bodies buried in the swampy ground would only rise to the surface after heavy rains.   Many of its old houses are considered haunted, and “Ghost Tours” are a popular tourist attraction in the French Quarter and other parts of the town.  News of shootings are common headlines in the Times-Picayune newspaper, and the sound of gunshot can occasionally be heard at night between the rumble of passing trains.   Nothing, however, has compared to the death-blow the city was dealt when Hurricane Katrina swept through in 2005, leaving in its aftermath a broken city, a mass exodus of generations-old families, and a glaring exposé of race-based poverty that still has not been addressed by the state or federal government.  But somehow New Orleans has managed to survive through it all, and to laugh in the face of death with its Carnival dance of Devil-may-care abandon.  At Mardi Gras time, at Halloween time, and on funeral days and Sundays throughout the year, New Orleans still puts on its high-stepping second-line shoes and dances its way through the streets and alleyways, celebrating life that is all the more sweet due to its fragility and unpredictability.

Five years after Katrina, New Orleans is on its way back. It is a slow rebirth, and brings with it changes that are in some ways positive and some ways not so positive.  But during my time in New Orleans, I heard the same story over and over again; countless people had heard the siren-call sent out by a desperate city, came to help out, fell in love with the place and its people, and never left.  So while the city works diligently to encourage the return of its diaspora, a new New Orleans is being born… perhaps not the New Orleans of Tennessee Williams or Andrei Codreiscu, perhaps not the New Orleans of Fats Domino or Louis Armstrong…but still a New Orleans of pride and revelry, a New Orleans of artists and free-thinkers, and a New Orleans that cherishes the crazy funky stew of culture that makes it one of the greatest and most interesting cities in the world.

This March 8 will mark the 313th Mardi Gras since Bienville’s first celebration with the Houma Indians at Pointe du Mardi Gras in 1699, and the sixth Mardi Gras since Hurricane Katrina.  May the sun shine warm on the merry revelers of New Orleans, and don’t, don’t, don’t stop the Carnival.

Note: Special thanks goes to Federica Valabrega, who assisted on this project and held the light in many of these images.   Federica’s essay, Daughters of the King, was published on Burn in the fall of 2010.

 

Bio

Chris Bickford is a freelance photographer based on the US East Coast. His work has appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Outside Magazine, Surfing Magazine, and various other national and inter-national publications. His photographic essay, After the Storm: A Life of Surf on the Outer Banks, was first published on Burn in 2009 and has been showcased at a number of exhibitions and photography festivals since then. Among various other projects, Chris is working on a long-term exploration of Carnival celebrations around the world, which was the impetus for his 2010 residency in New Orleans. This year he will be in Rio de Janeiro for Carnival.


Related links

Chris Bickford

– Women in Photojournalism

A great gallery of exemplary photos from the Women in Photojournalism Conference photography contest can now be seen on the Web. The 19th annual conference was held August 8-10 in New Orleans, La. Sponsors included Nikon, Canon, Avid and the National Photographers Association.

The gallery of includes 40 noteworthy photographs from across the United States. Check it out today or learn more about Women in Photojournalism.