New Orleans: Beyond Bourbon Street

In April 2018 I embarked on a seven day solo trip to New Orleans to celebrate my 25th birthday. An itinerary was not planned and being a spiritualist, 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. That meeting sparked one serendipitous moment after another,ultimately changing my life forever. He introduced to me to everything local and genuine that is Black, New Orleans culture, including intimate areas that most tourists could never imagine experiencing. For locals, that is almost intentional. There is so much love and energy for this city, and locals are keenly aware that they live on a cultural gold mine at risk of exploitation. 

Music, food and art fuel the city. With a tremendous amount of passion, Melon explained that NOLA gives life to the South. There are three-year-olds who can already perform drums on the streets because they are surrounded by performers since birth. 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 under threat from  the negative impacts of gentrification.

The photos presented are from Easter Sunday. Melon ensured that I steer clear of the tourist second-line in the French Quarter and instead brought me to the 3rd Ward - 17th Ward, from where the authenticity of Black brass music stems. After a spectacular crawfish feast and champagne toast 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, try as they might, still don't give the city its justice.

I must mention that there are lot of outsiders like myself who travel to New Orleans to capture the magnificent energy and cultural significance of the city and its locals, but who then sell those photos to publications. Although it’s not wrong to build a career in travel photography, many publications, agencies and independent artists exploit the culture of black and brown people in cities like New Orleans while overlooking the same black and brown artists for creative job opportunities in those very cities. Melon told me that he is regularly asked by publications to either photograph or source areas to photograph for free, but that those same publications will then pay an outside photographer $45,000 for the same or similar job. I want to emphasize that you can enjoy the city without exploiting its people. You can enjoy the mixed culture of minority communities and celebrate it through art (because let’s face it - it’s intoxicating) without stealing jobs and opportunities from them. My photographs are presented here to celebrate this experience, and I want to thank Patrick Melon, his friends and community for their kindness, love and generosity. This was a trip that I will never forget.

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Woolridge, Drummers, 35 MM
Woolridge, Red Wagon, 35 MM
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Woolridge, Easter Sunday, April 2018