Friday, May 1, 2015

Beloved New Orleans

Ah, New Orleans, my Beloved, the City that Care Forget, the City that Time Forget.

The first time I ever fell in love with a place was when I first walked the heavily shaded streets of a city the like of which I had never even dreamed existed.  I was a child of the modern suburbs.  I remember a stirring of similar feeling when I had briefly visited Savannah as a child, but I had never truly felt the deep love of a place like I did during the days I lived in New Orleans.

New Orleans has a reach deep history.  The streets are peopled with stories and legends.  You can take historical tour after historical tour and only get a brief taste of what is to be savored.

The architecture is unlike anything that you see in most of modern America.  A local historian once described it to me as the northernmost city in the Caribbean.  The iron wire work of the balconies and galleries is beautifully intricate.  The stonework has a deliciously aged patina.  The colors of the cottages are bright, even garish.

It was something so far outside my experience as a teenager on the brink of adulthood, but something about it just felt like home.

Still, we are talking about a city that is below sea level.  A city that is really little more than a swamp just waiting to happen.  Disaster after disaster have struck the city over the centuries, from devastating fires, to epic plagues, to the fury of monster hurricanes.  The city stands.

"Laissez les bon temps roulez."  Pour me another round.

How can I help but love that irrepressible, unrepentant attitude?

I've lived in Baton Rouge for several years now and I have grown to respect and enjoy the capitol city very much, but every time I get a chance to visit New Orleans, I take it.  I come away with a renewed love, a little bit of heartache, and unstoppable homesickness.

I've been playing a lot recently with mixing contrasting images from my photographs.  The past few days I was scrolling through a series I shot in the Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District and was struck afresh by the beauty of those centuries old tombs: the patina of the stone, the exposed brickwork, the greenery that cannot be repressed and finds the cracks and crannies and insists on flourishing where there would otherwise only be death.

I juxtaposed a few of those tombs with the vibrancy of the downtown French Quarter but with, "Beloved", I took it in a different direction.

The finished piece almost looks like an odd bit of graffiti on a brick wall but it's pure mixed media showcasing the texture from different tombs in the Lafayette Cemetery.

If you ever do make it to New Orleans, I cannot recommend enough a visit or even a tour of one of our local cemeteries.  Better known as "Cities of the Dead", they are an experience all their own.  The Garden District tours I have taken spent a little too much time on the comings and goings of some of our local Hollywood residents, who move in and move on.  The Garden District itself is amazing with large opulent homes dripping with expensive elegance, but my favorite part of the tour is always the cemetery.

Maybe I'm a little dark.  Maybe.  But life in New Orleans always has that edge of darkness, knowing that disaster can be just around the corner.  Just put on your best party outfit and pour another drink.

Always remember.  "Laissez les bon temps roulez!"

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