a local New Orleanian, I am documenting the outward visual expressions,
often signage, of the colorful, indigenous culture of the city
of New Orleans, one of the most unique cities in America.
New Orleans, or "the Big Easy"is
a very old American city, settled in 1718. It has had many influences,
but is now predominately African-American (65%). It is a cultural
crossroads with a legacy of being a European colonial settlement
and a port city trading in everything from cotton, to sugar, to
slaves, to culture. This amalgam of cultures has helped the city
organically mutate itself into the cultural anachronism that it
remains. It is one of the only American cities that retain the
"old world feel."
New Orleans is a "throne of
voodoo" which, though practiced by a minority, still lingers
like sub-tropical steam which envelopes the spirituality of the
city. New Orleans is known as the birthplace of Jazz. With elements
of original genius, spontaneity, and creativity, Jazz helped "center"the
prudish, stuffy white European culture that was so prevalent at
the turn of the century. Jazz spawned a progressive cultural catharsis
that is still resonating throughout the world.
New Orleans is notorious for its
excesses, with 24-hr. Jazz and liquor and a unique style of "good
living." It is a city preoccupied with food and drink and
all things "corporeal". There is a certain "traditional
wildness" or lawlessness that applies and that makes just
about anything possible. New Orleans has a Colonial Caribbean/Creole
hangover, demonstrated in vibrant colors, an "imperfectly
vertical" decaying aesthetic, and a certain "nihilistic
New Orleans is a subtle bouquet, of excess
and decay, the sweetest mire, or to quote Charles Bukowski from
his poem, Young in New Orleans. "It is a
celebration not of something to do, but only know". New Orleans
"House of the Rising Sun". Again, from Bukowski, "it
leaves you alone"; it
lets you be what you are.
Yet, within the life of the city
there is also the influence of chaos or entropy. Chaos lingers
close to the surface. The city is a font for chaos; it has a symbiotic
relationship with it, coexisting together in a dark beautiful
These photographs depict a "visual
jazz" made tangible and born from the same elements: poverty,
prejudice, intolerance, and suffering, with a dash of hope, talent,
vision and ecstasy. One physical, one ethereal. I think there
is a parallel between these "messages" and Jazz music,
which are both manifestations of the same creative energy numinating
from the citys rich psychical undercurrent.
The title is pertinent, in that
I took most of these pictures from my car while traversing the
citys many unique neighborhoods. These "messages"
definitely exist within their own context of "urban/folk
art," or "urban anomalies." It is unfortunate that,
as folk art--and because the city is in a constant state of flux,
economic growth, and so called "progress"--these classic
and often abstract landmarks are in danger of extinction from
urban sprawl, gentrification, and the dreaded "yuppie scourge."
I would also like to add that by
highlighting errors or anomalies this project is not meant to
demean. It is meant to elevate and celebrate the freestyle tenacity
and wholehearted expressiveness of these beautiful multi-racial,
multi-cultural peoples and their "messages."
Perhaps some of the stranger "messages"
are some sort of psychic fallout, or debris from the Voodoo tradition,
as if the city did not already have enough refuse. They are messages
mirrored from the subconscious, created then left forgotten. Whatever
your view, these urban anomalies are evidence of an older tradition
that has mutated to fit the urban environment. These images from
the street are like an urban gallery of anonymous artists, where
you never know what you will find. Like a buncha' vines , creepin.
I guess it is human nature to want to
fill in open space with inventions. Just remember the devil is
in the details.
is looking for a publisher and has limited edition original prints
available. Please click on 'Author's Links' above for contact
on each image for a larger view