Picturing Black New Orleans: A Creole Photographer's View of the Early Twentieth Century

Arthé A. Anthony

Details: 152 pages    7x10
Cloth: $34.95   ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-4187-2   
Pubdate: 9/2/2012
Review(s): 8 available

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"Collins was a feisty, ambitious Creole woman in twentieth-century New Orleans who overcame the barriers society and the law put in her way. She meant to be successful on her own terms and she was."--Patricia Brady

"A welcome addition to the study of vernacular photography. Anthony reveals how this remarkable woman marked her place in a 'man's world.' Picturing Black New Orleans will have an impact on the history of photography and the city of New Orleans, particularly the Tremé neighborhood. This book is a revelation."--Deborah Willis

Florestine Perrault Collins (1895-1988) lived a fascinating and singular life. She came from a Creole family that had known privileges before the Civil War, privileges that largely disappeared in the Jim Crow South. She learned photographic techniques while passing for white. She opened her first studio in her home, and later moved her business to New Orleans’s black business district. Fiercely independent, she ignored convention by moving out of her parents’ house before marriage and, later, by divorcing her first husband.
Between 1920 and 1949, Collins documented African American life, capturing images of graduations, communions, and recitals, and allowing her subjects to help craft their images. She supported herself and her family throughout the Great Depression and in the process created an enduring pictorial record of her particular time and place. Collins left behind a visual legacy that taps into the social and cultural history of New Orleans and the South.
It is this legacy that Arthé Anthony, Collins's great-niece, explores in Picturing Black New Orleans. Anthony blends Collins's story with those of the individuals she photographed, documenting the profound changes in the lives of Louisiana Creoles and African Americans. Balancing art, social theory, and history and drawing from family records, oral histories, and photographs rescued from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Anthony gives us a rich look at the cultural landscape of New Orleans nearly a century ago.

Arthé A. Anthony is professor of American studies at Occidental College.

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