No sooner had I posted the last post about Michael P. Smith, that I received a press release that Debbie Fleming Caffery had received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, “Michael P. Smith Documentary Photography Award”. I have studied with Debbie at the New Orleans Photography Workshop and she is truly amazing. She has been photographing people in Louisiana for over 30 years, the sugar cane workers, Cajun culture and the aftermath of Katrina. She completed a Fellows project for the Open Society Foundation that George Soros started in 1984 for the Fellows Project, in which she documented the effect of Katrina on the African American community, which can be viewed here.
Congratulations Debbie, no one deserved this award more.
I first heard of Michael P. Smith while researching Clarence John Laughlin Smith, another well known New Orleans photographer. The Mardi Gras Indians were comfortable with him; as well as the musicians and second line members. And it shows in how comfortable people were with him and how he presented them and his vision. He documented many decades of New Orleans history;particularly music, jazz fest,and the culture of second line.
He has many published many books of his work and won many awards. Smith has had many exhibits in museums, such as the Smithsonian and some of the most important photography centers in the US. The New Orleans Historical Collection has acquired all of his negatives, prints papers and his copyright as he is now deceased and plan an exhibit in the future, but no date has been set.
This is Fat Tuesday….. I can smell the Jambalya and all the spices. I know I am missing some good times, but this little film shows a little taste and sound of what it is like to be there as you near Mardi Gras. Tommie Chimerie, the Cajun shrimper is a shrimp expert. he knows more shrimpring receipes than Bubba Gump. See the video here.
The smartphone is a wonderful thing,but I need smaller fingers to use. I tried typing one thig for over 20 minutes and the spelling was so bad, The keys are not big enough! i tried to share a link to a video I found on what Louisiana is like at this time of year , with the festivals, the music and cooking shrimp, but I can not get up to upload on smartphone, and now I can’t get it to load from the link onfhe computer either. I know I have done this before, will keep trying.
This is a public history blog about Louisiana,its people, its stories, but most of all its rich spirit, that prevaled despite the damage from Katrina. I am approaching this blog as a cultural investigator of Louisiana, the most interesting and magical state in the country. I will show you what I discovered in the French Quarter and the Garden District and about the people there as well as the architecture and the beautiful sugarcane plantations on River Road that still exist. I hope I can help you to see how special this place is and its cultural importance. We can never give up on this unique place, the Louisianan spirit is a strong one and there is much to learn from them. I want to also explore how Hurricane Katrina affected the people there and I will provide links ,videos and interviews of people there and how they have handled this. I do not know where this blog will take us, but I think it will be an adventure.
Cyril Neville Interview. Cyril Neville , is from the famous musical family, the Neville Brothers of New Orleans., He has his own band now, Cyril Neville and the Tribe 13. He is interviewed here in this podcast about the pain he feels about the New Orleans he loved and had to leave. He now makes his home in Austin Texas. In the interview he talks about how for him, the New Orleans culture was losing the feeling of Old New Orleans beginning with re gentrification, which had begun before Katrina. He talks of how in his heart he feels the loss of “home” that he felt for his city of birth, and that to him that it is not “New Orleans” any longer. He discusses the dismay that he felt when people referred to the poverty level that was finally recognized from before the hurricane and the frustration about the attitudes that higher ups in government,and media unfairly dispelled on the people of New Orleans.
Project Gumbo is a project that Neville started in Austin, Texas to help keep that “Old New Orleans feeling” alive and to help other displaced New Orleanians to be able to know they can have ” home” no matter where they are.. The traveling music venue ,Project Gumbo brings the legendary Louisiana culture, no matter where you are. When he writes his music he regards the lyrics as a historical document by showing what old New Orleans was about and about its rich history, both good and bad. . It is his way of keeping alive what he viewed as what was most beautiful about New Orleans. He talks about the Mardi Gras Indians which I will explore more in this blog in future blog posts. I was most struck by his heartfelt expression about the displacement he still feels as do many from New Orleans who have not been able to come home again. Neville said in his dreams he still feels as if he is there.
This is a musician I spotted playing on Royale Street. He looked as if he could have been from 1910 right off the boat from Ellis Island, but instead he was playing on Royale Street in the French Quarter in the fall of 2010. The street musicians are a big part of French Quarter life. They are allowed to set up on Royal Street and play for so many hours a day and put out their hat to collect whatever you wish to donate. There was always a crowd that stopped to listen and help to fill the hat. One finds a pep to their step as you walk around with the music in the background. Royal Street was the best place to see the unexpected and to people watch.