In April 2018 I went on a seven day solo trip to New Orleans to celebrate my 25th birthday. An itinerary was not planned and I looked forward to how the universe would unfold for me. On my first day I met New Orleans local and celebrated photographer Patrick Melon (@melontao) on an isolated bridge by the French Quarter. It was almost like meeting him had sparked one serendipitous moment after another that ultimately changed my life. Throughout my trip he introduced to me to everything local and genuine that is Black, New Orleans culture. Intimate areas that most tourists couldn’t imagine experiencing. And for locals, that is almost intentional. There is so much love and energy for this city, but locals are aware that they live on a cultural gold mine. Music, food and art fuel the city. With so much passion, Melon explained that NOLA gives life to the South. That there are three year olds’ who can already perform drums on the streets because since birth they are surrounded by talent. The talent is raw and this is a city where love and creativity come before anything else. It’s enticing for outsiders to move into a city with such a loving foundation, however like many others, the city’s culture is threatened due to the negative impacts of gentrification.
The photos presented are from Easter Sunday. Melon made me steer clear of the tourist second-line in the French Quarter and brought me to the 3rd ward – 17th ward where the authenticity of Black brass music stem. After a spectacular crawfish feast and champagne to celebrate the occasion we followed the second-line parade through the neighborhood passing one colorful home after another, laughing with the crowds, climbing on roofs, and taking portraits of adults with their kids. So much warmth stems from the New Orleans community and these photos don’t even give it 100% justice.
I must mention that there are lot of outsiders like myself that come to New Orleans to capture the magnificent energy and cultural significance of the city and the locals who live there, but who then sell them to publications. Although it’s not wrong to build a career in travel photography, many publications, agencies and independent artists often exploit the culture of black and brown people while overlooking the same black and brown artists for creative job opportunities in the very same cities. Melon told me often that he is regularly asked by publications to either photograph or source areas to photograph for free, but the same publications will pay an outside photographer $45,000 for the same/similar job. I want to emphasize that you can enjoy the city without exploiting the people. You can enjoy the mixed culture of minority communities and celebrate it through art (because let’s face it’s intoxicating) without stealing the jobs and opportunities from them. My photographs are to celebrate this experience and I want to thank Patrick Melon, his friends and community for their kindness, love and generosity because this was a trip I will never forget.