Thinking about New Orleans: Photography

Previously published on the ARLIS/NA 45th Annual Conference Blog.

It’s a Friday, and you have another weekend to consider your trip and make plans to attend the annual ARLIS/NA conference this coming February — which is fast-approaching. We will be in the beautiful city of New Orleans for Arts du Monde. Registration is now open.

We recently examined NOLA-centric films, so let’s take a look (of course!) at still photography related to New Orleans. When it comes to photography collections, New Orleans is the proverbial embarrassment of riches, but here are just few of interest.

A 1978 film mentioned in my last post on Thinking about New Orleans: Movies, Pretty Baby, relates to photographer John Ernest Joseph Bellocq (1873–1949) as well as to his photographs. Bellocq, well-known for his images of New Orleans’ prostitutes in the Red Light district called Storyville, also worked as a professional photographer making local views and doing copy work.

After Bellocq’s death, his brother, a Jesuit priest, inherited his negatives, and those negatives were eventually acquired by photographer Lee Friedlander, who printed them. Friedlander and MOMA curator John Szarkowski exhibited those prints at the Museum of Modern Art and in 1970 they produced E.J. Bellocq Storyville Portraits (Little Brown & Co.).

In addition to the film, several novels have featured a Bellocq-character. Read more about the real Bellocq in this Smithsonian magazine article.

The Historic New Orleans Collection holds the earliest known photographic views of New Orleans on paper. These salted paper prints were made by photographer J. Dearborn Edwards in 1858-1861. Edwards eventually moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he, known by then as J.D. Edwards, and his son and other family members, ran one of that city’s most prominent photograph studios for many years.

In 2009 The Historic New Orleans Collection produced an exhibit and accompanying catalog based on “The Antebellum Photographs of Jay Dearborn Edwards” called A Closer Look. That publication is an excellent examination of Edwards’s work, placing it in the context of the city’s cultural life and in relation to other nineteenth and twentieth century photographers’ work.

Another first in New Orleans photography was the first municipally-sponsored photographic survey of any American city. The photographer was Theordore Lilienthal (1829-1894), and his 150 large albumen prints were shown at the 1867 Paris Exposition. One of four American photographers (including Carlton Watkins) exhibiting there, Lilienthal won a Paris prize medal. Several of the buildings he photographed in the late 1860s were destroyed or seriously damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

An excellent book on the man, his work, and urban topographic photography, is New Orleans 1867 – Photographs by Theordore Lilienthal, by Gary A. Van Zante (Merrell Pubishers Limited, 2008). Many of Lilienthal’s photographs are at Tulane’s Southeastern Architectural Archive, others are at the Louisiana State Museum.

Another past exhibit of the HNOC, The Katrina Decade: Images of an Altered City, focused on the images made by New Orleans–based photographer David G. Spielman. See some of these amazing photos at

Keep in mind that there will be a tour to The Hogan Jazz Archive Photo Collection, as well as to other Tulane University collections, offered to attendees of ARLIS/NA’s upcoming annual meeting. In the Jazz Archive there are over 6,000 images of New Orleans Jazz documenting “people, places and events important to the study of New Orleans jazz.” Represented are photographs by Ernest Bellocq, Arthur P. Bedou, Lee Friedlander, Michael P. Smith and many, many others.

Speaking of music, Ben Sandmel, who will be a panelist on “Pulse Points and Backbeats,” the Music Plenary at our February NOLA meeting, is a folklorist, music journalist, producer, musician, and author. His publication Zydeco! (University Press of Mississippi, 1999) was produced in collaboration with photographer Rick Olivier. Olivier, an award-winning New Orleans photographer, is represented in the permanent collections of both the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Historic New Orleans Collection.

Olivier made his prints for Zydeco! “in the style of classic black and white silver gelatin” — read more on his project here.

You see? Here are even more reasons to be in New Orleans in early February for the annual conference of ARLIS/NA, it is truly Arts du Monde!


E. Lee Eltzroth,

ARLIS-NA 2017 publicity coordinator


The Vancouver Art Gallery is proud to present two important photography exhibitions this summer

Harry Callahan: The Street

A major retrospective of the American photographer’s work, featuring 150 images that Harry Callahan (1912-1999) made in the streets of Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Cairo, Mexico, Portugal and Wales.

Stephen Waddell: Dark Matter Atlas

Vancouver artist Stephen Waddell has created a new body of work focusing on underground caverns in the United States, Canada and Lebanon, photographed and printed in massive scale.

Both shows run from June 11 – September 5, 2016

For those that can’t make it to Vancouver, this book is available through the Gallery Store and other vendors:


An Exhibition of Photographs by ARLIS/NA Member Raymond Smith, October 24, 2015 – January 3, 2016

     The exhibition, In Time We Shall Know Ourselves: Photographs by Raymond Smith, organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, travels to its fourth venue, the Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Athens, where it will be on display from October 24, 2015 through January 3, 2016.  The exhibition consists of fifty-two photographs taken on a three month road trip through much of the South and parts of the Midwest and the Northeastern U.S. in the summer of 1974.   Substantial reviews of the exhibition have appeared in the Florida Times-Union (for the exhibition at Jacksonville MOCA), the Charlotte Observer (for the exhibition at the Hickory Museum of Art) and the Montgomery Advertiser, and a feature based on an interview with  the photographer is scheduled for publication in the October issue of Atlanta Magazine.
     An opening reception is scheduled for October 23, to which ARLIS colleagues are invited.
    For those attending the ARLIS/SE Chapter Conference in Atlanta, November 12-13, 2015, it is hoped that members coming the day before (Wednesday, November 11) or staying an extra day in Atlanta on Saturday, the 14th, will take the two hour drive to Athens to view the exhibition.  A book published in conjunction with the exhibition will be available at the Georgia Museum of Art’s museum shop.
    The photographer will be presenting a talk at the museum auditorium at 5 P.M. , November 19, followed by a question and answer session and a tour of the exhibition with the museum’s Deputy Director and curator of the exhibition Annelies Mondi.  The talk, titled “Report from Infinity: Rural Highway, Southern Georgia, After Rainstorm” and reception are free and open to the public.
    Raymond Smith, of R.W. Smith Bookseller, New Haven, Connecticut, has been a long-time ARLIS member and supporter since the early 1980s and has exhibited at many of the national conferences over the years.  His photographs are in the collections of the Yale University Art Gallery, the New Britain Museum of American Art, The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, and the Harry Ransom Center Gernsheim Collection of Photography, University of Texas at Austin.  His photographs have been published in Chicago ReviewNew America, and most recently in Southern Cultures.  His talks have included “Photography and Genealogy”, presented at historical and genealogical societies in Connecticut and Long Island, “Imaging the South” presented at the Southern Studies Conference, Auburn University (Montgomery Branch), in 2013, and “I Am a Camera” delivered at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in 2014 and available on SoundCloud.
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MoMA Acquires Hundreds of August Sander Photographs

A procession of faces from another era is coming to the Museum of Modern Art.

In what MoMA describes as a landmark acquisition, it has received a complete set of 619 photographic prints by the German portrait and documentary photographer August Sander from his sweeping chronicle of German society, “People of the 20th Century.”

Over about 60 years, Sander, who died in 1964, created the photographic record of his country’s people, making naturalistic, anthropological portraits of tradespeople and professionals.

“His ambition is nothing less than to use photography to describe the people of the 20th century,” said Sarah Hermanson Meister, a MoMA photography curator, who described the collection as one of the most important works of 20th-century photography in its ambition, scope and influence.

“He is doing this through the German people, but it’s not limited in its intention to that.”

The set was acquired from the Sander family. The terms were not disclosed.

MoMA already has about 80 Sander photographs, but the acquisition takes its collection to a new level. Seven editions of the complete set were printed from the artist’s glass-plate negatives between 1990 and 1999. MoMA said it was now the only museum to hold one of these sets in its entirety.

The faces of boxer, draughtsman, engineer, bohemian, dancer, sailor, criminal and many more stare out solemnly in a classic survey of individuals as archetypes.

When asked her favorite, Ms. Meister said, “It’s a bit like picking my favorite child.”

“But maybe,” she added, pointing to a pale girl peering from a circus wagon, “the circus people are my favorite.”