Friday, June 26, 2009

Ride Along

On Wednesday we went to the Times Picayune and met some of the photojournalists working for the New Orleans paper. I got to do a ride along with Jennifer. Jennifer had two assignments today and I was lucky enough to tag along. The first was the documentation of a tree over 275 years old, being restored after it had been severely vandalized. A man know as "The Gray Ghost", a title he sustained due to the gray squares of paint he uses to cover graffiti in the city, was helping to restore the tree in a non damaging way. Her second assignment was a lot more complex. We went to Borders Bookstore, previously a funeral home. Jennifer was to meet a couple that wanted to remember a lost loved one who was buried there. There was a specific book section that used to be the revered location.  I was very curious to see how she would execute such a project. Jennifer took some great portraits of the couple both indoor between bookshelves, and at an outdoor patio. 
After her assignments Jennifer asked about our essay projects and gave us a lot of helpful insights. When I told her about my project, she took me to Old Jefferson. In this area there were many houses living on the river, some of the houses were old and many had long wooden docks leading into them. I got some great shots of these houses and I hope I get the oppertunity to go back and meet some of the individuals occupying them.

Tony Maniscalco

Mississippi Cajun

Tony Maniscalco is a Cajun currently living in Summit, Mississippi. Tony, born and raised in New Orleans, has recently moved back to the south. Tony resided in New Orleans until he was 38, growing up in a white and green house on 3517 Washington Ave. When he was 38, Tony moved to Colorado and lived in Denver for two years and then moved on to spend 18 yeas in Rapid City, South Dakota where I was first acquainted to him. I grew up in Rapid City and as a teenager, was good friends with his daughters Becky and Amanda. In 2006 Tony decided to leave South Dakota and return home. Tony remarried and moved to Summit, where he has spent the last 18 months. I spoke with Tony about his Cajun history and learned a lot about him. I was curious to learn how much the land had changed in his twenty years of absence.  Tony spoke of the devastation that had befallen New Orleans and of his shock, but he quickly moved past any emotions he must have experienced. 
While speaking with Tony I couldn't help but notice how extremely self sufficient he is. He built a number of structures on the property including a greenhouse and the renovation of a trailer. Tony also tends to gardens that contain the all time cajun favorite; okra, in addition to white squash, yellow squash, zucchini, watermelon, tomatos, corn and peas. A happy suprise was the fruit and tomatos that Colleen, and I got to bring back to New Orleans. Tony seems to be happily married and doing quite well, but he misses his children that still live hundreds of miles away in South Dakota. Throughout it all, his time spent away and hurricane Katrina, Tony Maniscalco is still a Cajun to the core. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Clippers Barbershop

Harlon Guillot

Today I went to Morgan City to meet with Harlon Guillot at his barbershop. While speaking with him I learned so much about his background, and some history of the Morgan City area. As it turns out Morgan City used to be a logging town. With the introduction of the levees the bayous and the trees dissapeared leaving all those who worked the land without jobs. Until the 80's a lot of the Morgan City residents worked in the oil industry and many suffered when that also declined.
Harlon is a cajun to the core. Growing up on the bayou, Harlon was surrounded by fur trappers, shrimpers and fishermen. Those living on the bayous were pretty self sufficient, trading amongst themselves, and living off the land. As a Cajun, Harlon Guillot's family are French Canadian immigrants from Noviascotia. The Guillot family happen to be the inventors of the Guillotine, and did so while they still resided in France. Harlon did not speak any english until he was fifteen years old, and at sixteen he quit school to work on a shrimp boat. Harlon served in the military util 1975 when he returned to Morgan City. After years of working in the oil industry Harlon adapted with his changing surroundings. In 2003 Harlon opened Clippers Barbershop with his son Nick. 

Sunrise Shooting

This morning I woke up at 5:00 and went out with Colleen, Lisa, Peter, Micah, Ryan D., and Ryan G. to do some morning shooting. We went to Holy Cross where I captured some great shots of residences; both abandoned and in various stages of reconstruction.

The morning light was absolutely beautiful. I also took some shots down by the river, and was particularly captivated by this bridge, and the way the light illuminated the supports underneath it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

June 22, 2009

Today I met up with Colleen at noon and went to check in at Country Inn and Suites. Prior to I had wandered around a few blocks from my hotel, in a desperate search for coffee, finally ending up at a Starbucks inside a casino.
We took a Hurricane Katrina tour today. On our tour I witnessed a lot of areas recovering from the storms devastation, and some areas that are rotting. The most striking thing I saw today were the markings on houses yet to be restored. Large X's, most often near the roofs. These marks were made by those who searched the houses for survivors after the storm. Many of the X's are near the roofs due to the fact that the majority of the rescuers were in boats floating by in 14 feet of water. In the four spaces made by the X there were the date of the check the number of survivors/deceased found at the house, the organization that searched the house and NE for no entry.
I really enjoyed seeing the bayous. I am excited to get closer to the water, the wildlife and the spanish moss draping the massive trees. It was interesting to learn that spanish moss is neither spanish, nor moss.
Overall I had a great day, despite the blistering heat. It will take a few days to get used to the heat and the humidity. Sweat however, will be the least pleasant part of this trip.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Nightmare Boarding

I am in New Orleans! My plane landed at 4:00 this afternoon. I'm comfortably settled in my hotel with one exception; I have no luggage.
This morning my first flight was at 6:40, and I was late. My bag was 14 pounds overweight. I was prepared for that and had brought an exta suitcase, however, when I returned to the desk I discovered that they had stopped checking bags. In a crazy rush I eventually made my flight, without my luggage. Its been a great start to my trip and hopefully it gets better from here on.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thinking about my trip...

Today I got a bus ticket to Rapid City, SD. My bus will leave next friday at 7:00 am, and I will commute home. My plane to New Orleans will take off at 7:00 am on Sunday, June 21, and from there I will begin a terribly long day of connecting flights and layovers to finally arrive in New Orleans at 4:00 in the afternoon. I have booked a hotel in the French Quarter to stay at while awaitig the arrival of my classmates the following day.

On Tuesday, June 23, I will head to Morgan City to meet with the owners of Clippers Barber Shop, and hopefully to tour the Swamp Gardens, Museum of Cajun History. On Thursday, June 25, I will be headed to Summit, MS to meet with Tony Maniscalco, a cajun recently returned to the south after twenty years of absense. Saturday, June 27, I will head to Bay Saint Louis, MS and hopefully will spend some time with my family.

My Dad is from the south, and his Brother, Phillip Williams and family, still reside in Bay Saint Louis. I haven't been there since I was fourteen and I hope that this will be a reunion of sorts. I am slightly afraid of viewing firsthand the wreckage caused by Katrina. Whatever happens with my family I plan on making this a memorable experience.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Morgan City

Jean Johnfroe referred me to her cousin Harlan Guillot in Morgan City. Harlan runs Clippers Barber Shop with his son Nick. I spoke with Nick yesterday and he invited me to come visit the shop during my trip. Best of luck to Nick and his wife they are expecting a child due June 25, so hopefully I can meet with him before he is engrossed with a new baby.

While in Morgan City I would love to visit "The Swamp Garden" a museum on Cajun history.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I just spoke with Lisa Laws. Lisa is Jean's sister, who lives in St. Amant. Lisa works for Ascension Parish. I plan to meet with her and learn about her cajun heritage during my stay in Louisiana.


I have been speaking with Jean Johnfroe, a proud cajun living in Austin TX. Jean has been very helpful in educating me about cajun culture. Jean has recently referred me to a few of her relatives that live in Morgan City. I am trying to contact them in an effort to meet more cajuns to support my topic.


I remembered that a friend of mine back in South Dakota is from the area and that her father recently moved back to Summit MS. Coming from cajun background Tony Maniscalco has agreed to meet with me during my visit and tell me about his heritage.


Thus far I have refined my essay topic to learning about cajun\creole culture. I plan to speak to locals and learn about their heritage. My biggest struggle has been locating individuals in the area surrounding New orleans to meet with.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"The American Experience"

While watching this film I was introduced to so much information that was interesting to me. I have to decided to focus on more than one chapter of the film in my response. The first part that really jumped out at me was the introduction to the Creole's and their background. I learned that Creole's are mostly urban living Roman Catholics  that speak French and share a "cultured enjoyment of life." I also noted the comparison to the Cajun people who are French Canadian immigrants that happened to settle in the Louisiana countryside. 
I was fascinated to learn about the graveyards and that the reason they are above ground is to keep the caskets from floating away. It also intrigued me that it was common to picnic in the cemetaries. One speaker said, "Cemetary has nothing to do with the dead and everything to do with the living," an interesting observation. 
  I was most interested and horrified by the segregation laws. I hadn't previously known about the "free people of color," or about the Reconstruction Constitution of 1868. It is devistating to learn how terrible it was for black people in New Orleans. My heart broke when I imagined the persecution that little Ruby Bridges went through when she attended William J. France Elementary.
It was interesting to learn about how things changed for the better with the invention of the wood pump. I'm glad that things have progressed in NO and and I won't have to fear Malaria due to a mosquito bite when i visit in June.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Brainstorming Essay Ideas:

My family, Uncle/Aunt/cousins/home/neighbors
---their lives post Katrina, Bay Saint Louis,
---the gulf, the beach, fishing/boating piers
Cajun Heritage, Creole Heritage, Compare/Contrast,
Cajun vs. Creole; heritage, background, culture, cuisine, language, communication, land,
Bayous; Baratarra, Noir, etc.
-hanging moss
-whats poisenous?
-voodoo practices/healing
-local people:
---specific bayou towns/villages
----fur trappers
Sugarcane plantations
-not working
Oak Ally Plantation
Plantation Houses
Quarter mile alley

Where I'm Headed

I am heading to New Orleans this June where I will be participating in a photo essay class with some of my peers. While in New Orleans I will be constructing a photographic essay of my time there. During my trip I hope to document many aspects of the bayou culture. Among my exploits I plan to gain a more in depth knowledge of Cajun and Creole cultural differences.
I plan to photograph bayous surrounding, but not limited to, New Orleans. I also plan to venture to Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi to visit some close family relatives. My aunt and uncle both have a cajun heritage that I plan to explore more thoroughly. My family also has Creole heritage, although not as dominant as the Cajun background.
I do not have a concrete plan for my trip, but I hope to take part in many cultural activities during the duration of my stay, such as Cajun festivals and bayou river tours.