POSTED Wed. Feb 25, 2015


Last Chance to Catch 'Studio, Street, Self'

Except for small placards with dates and simple identifications, few words accompany the dozens of photographic portraits along the warm walls of The Historic New Orleans Collection’s Studio, Street, Self exhibit. Faces line the halls of the exhibition space, some formally gazing at the lens like old Renaissance portraits, others caught in candid moments on the street or in their studios.

“It feels like you’re encountering people on the street,” said the exhibit’s curator John Lawrence, also the THNOC’s Director of Museum Programs. As for the lack of descriptions or explanations beside each photographs? “We want people to learn by looking,” said Mr. Lawrence.

And there’s much to learn from this wide-ranging collection of photographic portraits, both about photography as creative expression, and as a form of documentation. A stroll through the exhibit feels like both a walk through the history of New Orleans, and an intimate peak at artists and workers plying their respective trades.

Such an odd juxtaposition allows for a photograph of Tennessee Williams exploring his old New Orleans apartment to hang across the aisle from Ding Ding, a man with a face full of creases known for selling peanuts at football games in City Park many years ago. Other famous faces include legendary local musicians such as Danny Barker and Ellis Marsalis, as well as artists with strong New Orleans connections like Sherwood Anderson.

The loose, yet curated randomness of the exhibit allows for an almost puzzle-like experience. “Bring an open mind and expect to be surprised,” said Mr. Lawrence.

Every piece in the show needed to be a photographic portrait, either in a studio, on the street, or a self-portrait, but the exhibit also leaves room for playfulness within each of those categories. For example, the only painting in the exhibit was included because the painting’s subject is holding an early photographic tintype of her husband, thus making it a meta “portrait of another portrait.”

Another example—one photograph is a simple family picture at sunset, but the stretched shadow of the photographer extending across the frame qualified it as more of a self-portrait. Clever inclusions such as these allow visitors to think about just what a portrait really is, and what its supposed to do.

One stipulation, however, was that each face must be identified with a first name, last name, or both. “If we didn’t know the name of the person in the photograph, we didn’t include them in the show,” said Mr. Lawrence.

Though a few larger group portraits use the guideline that only some of the faces must be identifiable, the show emphasizes this ability to identify as a way to separate the photographic portrait as a distinct art form. After all, is a portrait still a portrait if you can’t identify the subject? That’s another question for visitors to ponder over as they lock eyes with faces of the distant and recent past.

Studio, Street, Self is free and runs through Feb 28th at the Williams Research Center (410 Chartres Street). Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 9:30am-4:30pm.

Photographs courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection.

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    Our Local Publisher Partners

    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
    • WWNO
    • WWOZ
    • PRC
    • NOMA
    • The Historic New Orleans Collection
    • Southern Food
    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.


    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at


    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.


    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.


    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.



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