© Louviere & Vanessa
I think I mentioned my friends Jeff & Vanessa of the alt country band/photographic artists otherwise known as Louviere & Vanessa. Vanessa also goes by the name Vanessa Brown, which gives her no street cred, as no one realizes that she is Louviere & Vanessa instead of Vanessa Brown. I’ve highly encouraged her to change her name to Vanessa Louviere because that is such a beautiful name and it’s not patriarchal if you choose it for yourself. ; )
Anyways, the Jeff & Brown’s are crazy German Shepherd people and currently have two, Blood & Bodoni (who I refer to with a heavy southern accent, Beaux Doney) who were quite fun to walk around with in an abandoned golf course near their Bywater neighborhood. We “dog people” can recognize each other by our heightened sense of smell and our propensity to carry a sticky dowel around with us to pick up shedders.
Friday night Bruce Davidson came into town and gave the keynote presentation for the weekend. I missed this because aforementioned hosts were having a fete at A Gallery for Fine Photography on Chartres Street, which I can’t even pronounce without sounding like a hopeless hick, and where they had a solo show installed on the second floor, Instinct Extinct, or was it the other way around? Anyhoo, a lot of the next day’s reviewers were attending, and though official oscar rules forbid reviewees and scallawags like myself from mingling with their interlocutors reviewers I was able to enjoy some jambalaya, interesting conversation and many rare and fine photographs.
The owner of the gallery, one Mr. Joshua Mann Pailet, owns a treasure trove of vintage photography. I am talking Josephine Baker by George Huron (?), Moonrise over Hernandez by Ansel Adams, Jerry Uelsman, Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, Eliot Erwitt, Sokolsky, Karsh, great vintage large format landscapes, Meatyard, just a bunch of to-die-for stuff. It really reignited my appreciation for Karsh, his prints were the best there imho – just really beautiful. It was all laid out salon style, not a modern clean aesthetic, but rather with reclaimed boards from old buildings housing clever built-in storage. A really beautiful space.
More breathing room was upstairs at Jeff & Vanessa solo show. They’ve created gold leaf prints, which are very much in keeping with their conceptual fanciful aesthetic, with now a sort of Gustav Klimtian look. The end result is a very beautiful large scale piece that is getting collected by big shots and famous celebrities, whose names I am not at liberty to disclose here. (But one of whom’s first name starts with an “A”. Yes, first person you think of is probably right.) Huge!
© Louviere & Vanessa
Anyway, I really love their work. In fact I own a piece, not from this current series, and it’s one of my favorites. (Did I mention their new work employs gold leaf? It’s at a bit higher price-point than what I myself have a budget for now). In New Orleans, I came to terms with the fact that I am at heart a collector, after hanging out in Josh’s gallery and feeling what it must be like to just live, literally, surrounded by great art. No more blank walls! Bah humbug! I have already begun the process of some acquisitions which I will reveal as they are completed.
Jeff is also this genius gifted graphic designer who designed all the materials for PhotoNOLA as well as their own artist books and promotional stuff. How nice it is to be so exceptionally gifted and be able to earn a decent living on something NOT related to your photography. Vanessa works in the studio of another NO photographer. Of course they would just rather be making a living selling their work, grass is always greener I says. I think the friction and battle keep you honest, but it’s nice not to STRUGGLE every minute of every day – still I think we can all safely incorporate a bit of angst and uncertainties as long as we stay focused on the fundamentals: the process and making enough to eat and pay rent however that happens. And it seems to me to be a good idea to have outside work when you are a married couple that lives, loves, and produces their art together. Unless you’re one of those happy loving couples epitomized in songs by joe jackson, drunk on the kool-aid of your love.
So these are my friends Jeff & Vanessa, artists making beautiful images with their two german shepherds, Blood & Bodoni, all of whom are Katrina survivors, among many other things. If you have any lucrative and creative design projects in your future I suggest you contact Jeff. He really is an inspired designer. It’s fun to be around people like this. You sit and bat around crazy ideas and ultimately just a bit of gossip about people who are just not nice and phony or really nice and genuine. Any scene has a few, and Photo NOLA was a scene.
Ted Jackson Working the Phone
One person who is no such phony is Times Picayune photojournalist Ted Jackson, who is just a good decent man trying to navigate the difficult terrain of post-Katrina New Orleans. It’s really sad, and I was heartened to hear about people like Brad Pitt, who are starting these green initiatives in helping to rebuild the 9th ward. I saw this is an article for Architectural Digest which featured what I found to be almost hideous photos by Harry Benson. Sorry.
All I can say is that all that misery is an opportunity for some people to perform some really heroic work and god bless them all each and every one of them. They have my support. Ted very kindly made time for coffee with me during a shoot and I grilled him about his Katrina story which is truly fascinating and, if not heroic, definitely a story of someone making some hard choices and facing difficult situations while consistently making good decisions and being guided by innate goodness and common sense. I will spare you the details because I am developing a screenplay based loosely on Ted’s story and employing magical realism and some good biblical themes of catharsis and redemption. Watch out Dreamworks! And when I say loosely based I mean that one of the Jonas brothers will play Ted. Did I mention it is a musical?
We squeezed just enough time in for me to catch up with him and makewhat I used to refer to as the telephone shot in my days covering members of congress for Roll Call newspaper. The subject is working! He is talking on the phone, making the wheels of government roll!!! It was an ouevre I am sometimes nostalgic for as evidenced in the work above. Ted over-obliged as evidenced by his toothy grin. What can I say? He radiates the joy I wish for you this holiday season and as we begin our new year.
Finally, new photographic idol Michael Wilson sent me a postcard with this awesome quote on the back:
The while ye have light,
Catch you not.