Uptown New Orleans an antebellum experience in photographs

I had the opportunity to live in Uptown New Orleans for the best part of five years, and I can honestly say that it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life so far. Not just because of the cultural significance of this part of town, but because every cultural influence is celebrated to the fullest degree.

There’s a reality in Uptown New Orleans that seems detached from other communities I’ve lived in. The weather, the music, the festivals, and the street side dining; all set in a juxtaposition of dilapidated streets, vintage shotgun homes, and ornate colonial architecture, with gentrification meaning the that the relatively thin frontier between the wealthy and the poor is ever changing. It’s quite different from my new home in the quiet humdrum of suburban Houston; and I have the photographs to prove it.

Audubon Park is a magnet for golfers, runners, and various other exhibitionists; and it was on my doorstep. I walked through the park every day on the way home from work, and often joined the hordes of other runners on the 1.8 mile circuit around the park. There was plenty of opportunity to photograph the park. Sitting on the Golf Club (which, by the way, serves amazing Gumbo) is the Rookery, offering a picturesque spot, ripe for portraiture and shots of the magnificent sunsets that grace this part of town. If the nice weather doesn’t fulfill you, then you may like the April showers, which flood out the lower end of the park, providing a nice photographic backdrop for the rows of live oak trees that dominate the landscape.

The colonial mansions in the Garden District are part of the attraction for tourists. They roll down St. Charles on the streetcar to Washington Avenue, before roaming around the cemetery, maybe eating at Commander’s Palace, and taking in the antebellum atmosphere; subsidence damaged pavements and all. I did a fair share of this myself; on days off work, I might walk the 3 to 4 mile length of St. Charles, photographing it in every detail that my imagination would permit. This included famous sites such as the Browne mansion, Columns Hotel (famous for Brook Shields’ first movie) and the house used as the setting for the epic Benjamin Button movie.

Uptown New Orleans is laced with fantastic bars; from the upscale Monkey Hill (which was on my doorstep), to the game day atmosphere at Fat Harry’s and the hot and sweaty Bulldog bar. Some of my lasting memories of uptown New Orleans involve sitting upstairs at the Balcony Bar late on a summer Saturday night, with the sound crickets in the air, and sitting mere feet away from the tangled knots of power lines which line the streets. All of these bars are eminently photographable, particularly at night. I loved combining long exposure photography with the vintage venues lit up at night.