New Orleans : Paige, Storyville. and the Maison Vitry
As a photographer and creative, New Orleans is the motherland for me. New Orleans' visuals are endlessly cinematic. New Orleans and I get each other because she has taught me her rules for survival as well as her rules for success and I have learned them both the hard way. New Orleans will make you or break you, and sometimes either or both on the same day. My experience her is that I constantly re-create myself as an artist and as a human being giving me the ability to stay current in my life.
I'm obsessed with the history of New Orleans Storyville. Storyville was a legal red-light district of the late 19th/early 20th centuries that was torn down to be replaced by the Iberville Housing Projects and is now called the Fauborg Treme. It's located behind the Krauss Apartments with the bounds of North Robertson and Basin and St. Louis Streets and ruled as a designated area for prostitution. It was home to many notable professional ladies like Lulu White and Josie Arlington, musicians like Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton and photographer E.J.Bellocq whose photos of the ladies show them at their most provocative. The movie "Pretty Baby" with Brooke Sheilds was based on the photographer.
"Yes, as much as New Orleans was like the rest of the nation, the commercialization of sex in New Orleans also had distinctive characteristics and outcomes. The city's location in an otherwise overwhelmingly rural and religiously conservative region its complex racial history-especially the prevalence of sex across the color line and repeated attempts by municipal authorities to control yet profit from prostitution-all set it apart from the rest of the country. So did the size duration and nationwide reputation of Storyville."
("The Great Southern Babylon" by Alecia P. Long)
I strive to do my best work with very little photoshop involved and to find the best angles with great lighting to enhance their beauty. I love an environmental portrait to make it as cinematic as possible. I work to make my models as comfortable as possible by building a connection and trust from the first conversation we have.
When I get my subject to let go, the magic happens. It gets past the ego and the photos become more real. more vulnerable.
I see beauty in everyone in the present moment and I strive to help each model find beauty in themselves and in their photographs after.
I photographed Paige before her weight loss surgery. It's been a year since she had it and I wanted to photograph her now to capture her in the new place that she worked so hard to get to.
We photographed in the Maison Vitry- a lovely house of Southern Gothic splendour located in the Treme neighbourhood on the outskirts of the French Quarter with every corner of the mansion a photo- setting waiting to happen. The Maison Vitry has been used in movies and a location for the American Horror Story Coven season as the Angela Basset/Marie/Laveau's hair salon.
"Body image is an intense state of mind. Going from working as a high fashion model in my younger years to becoming a larger plus size woman, only to now land somewhere in the middle has been one hell of an evolution. Sexuality, sensuality and desire are all fluid concepts. Feeling comfortable and sexy in your own skin is something that too many of us are made to feel shameful about. So many people still push their judgement or their own self loathing out onto others. My body is mine. Why waste the time and energy to put negativity out there onto others? My goal nowadays is to very simply love myself.
The decision to have Bariatric surgery also seems to trigger intense reactions from people. Surgery was not a decision that was taken lightly. I was never ashamed of my body, even at my heaviest weight, but I also was no longer comfortable doing the things I wanted to do. Aftermany failed attempts to do it on my own. I admitted that I needed help. It hasn’t been an easy road, but I don’t regret the decision at all.
In my lifetime I have had the opportunity to shoot with photographers from all at round the world, but have been fortunate enough to have worked with Arthur on more than one occasion now. The first time we shot (my fuller figure stage, I was ultimately happy with several pictures, but not without the initial panic state when the image I had of myself didn’t match the photographs. I took a sharp tongue from Arthur to remind me that beauty comes in many forms.....funny how we struggle to see ourselves the way we want to. Arthur once again reminded me that I don’t owe anyone anything, as long as I’m happy with myself (and I am).
“Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under taxes and frauds and maladministraions so that it has become a study for archaeologists…but it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio.”
— Lafcadio Hearn, 1879
Body image dysmorphia is a serious issue.
For more information about body image, call the OWHHelplineat 1-800-994-9662 or check out the following resources and organizations: 20 Ways to Love YourBody(link is external) — Information from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).
NAMI New Orleans offers an array of behavioral health services for adults living with mental illness in the Greater New Orleans area.
For more information about these programs, please contact our Mental Healthcare Navigation Team at (504) 896-2345 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will from Maison Vitry