New Orleans is at the roots of American culture. In 2018 it turns 300 years old, and its traditions still play out in the streets for all. As the world changes, the small community of culture bearers feel the strain of time and loss.
Deconstructed Po-boy: A Parkway Po-Boy spilled across the sidewalk. The french bread sandwich was created in 1929 to feed transit workers on strike.
Land of Dreams:
Vitoria Coy and others dance to the Kris Tokarski Band along Bourbon Street during French Quarter Fest on April 9, 2017. Bourbon Street is part of the original French Quarter founded in 1718 by French Canadian naval officer Jean Baptiste Bienville. After fires in 1788 and 1794, the Quarter was rebuilt to its current look by the Spanish, who were in control of Louisiana at the time.
Krewe of Muses' signature "Shoo" float, size 875, rolls up Tchoupitoulas to top of the parade route in New Orleans during carnival 2012.
Muses outside their pre-parade party during the 2012 Carnival season. Started in 2000 the all female krewe is well known for their satire, decorated shoe throw, and walking krewes.
Monogram Hunters Big Chief Jeremy "Blaze" Stevenson and his father Big Chief Tyrone "Pie" Stevenson work on Blaze's suit for Mardi Gras Day 2016. Since 2015, Jeremy has taken on the shared title of Big Chief, while Pie has taken a two year break from masking. The costly tradition of making a new suit every year can limit yearly participation for some.
Indian practice at Kermit Ruffin's Mother-In-Law Lounge the Sunday before Mardi Gras day 2014.
Big Chief Darryl Montana:
Yellow Pocahontas Big Chief Darryl Montana illustrates the size of his new suit during the Monogram Hunters practice closing song "Indian Red" at the First and Last Stop Bar on January 8, 2017. Originally the Monogram Bar, generations of Downtown Indians have grown up going to practices at the bar, and after a long hiatus the Monogram Hunters returned for practices there in 2017. Montana's father, Big Chief Allison "Tootie" Montana, is considered the pioneer of the downtown 3D look, and he influenced more peaceful traditions focusing on sewing beautiful suits, song and dance.
Cowboys and Indians:
Creole Wild West Spy Boy Horace Anderson sews a patch for his new suit, while watching the Cowboys in the playoffs on January 15, 2017. Anderson, a lifelong Cowboys fan, is the fourth generation in his family to participate in the Mardi Gras Indian tradition.
Royal Artists work on props for different carnival krewes on November 2, 2015. The floats must be ready in time for the January 2016 season, and Mardi Gras Day on February 9, 2016. Royal Artists use traditional papier mache to produce floats for older Krewes like Proteus, founded in 1882, and Knights of Chaos, a spin off of Momus founded in 1872.
Bryan Harrell puts the final touches on king cakes at Dong Phuong Bakery at 2:30 a.m. in New Orleans East on January 26, 2017. King Cakes are a carnival tradition originating from a bread-like cinnamon cake used to celebrate Epiphany and the end of winter. Today most local bakeries in New Orleans have their own twist, and in 2017 the Vietnamese bakery Dong Phuong was the people’s choice for best King Cake.
Sam Morris, Rex Den Manager for the last 13 years, in the Rex room. Rolling on Mardi Gras Day, Rex is the king of Mardi Gras and New Orleans for the day. Founded in 1872, Rex is one of the most elite carnival krewes, with its membership of wealthy and prominent New Orleanians spanning many generations.
Krewe of Iris Captain Kristin Danflous talks with members during a French Quarter luncheon the day before their parade on Feb. 24, 2017. Founded in 1917, Iris was the first all female krewe. Danflous' family has been heading the krewe since the 1950's.
Iris krewe members decorating sunglasses for their parade, during Uptown get together on February 5, 2017. Iris, founded in 1917, is celebrating their 100th year as a carnival krewe.
Members of Krewe d'Etat hang out on Bourbon Street before their parade during Carnival 2013.
Knights of Chaos parade in their satirical style along Napoleon Ave. on February 23, 2017. Chaos was founded in 1872 as the Knights of Momus. In 1877 they created parade floats ridiculing the Grant administration during reconstruction. In 1992 facing pressure from the city to offer membership to non-whites, Momus stopped parading, and in 2001 rebranded as the Knights of Chaos.
Marcus Bronson works on the Butterfly King's wand at the Rex float den a few weeks before Fat Tuesday 2015. Rex was founded in 1872 and is king of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The parade rolls on Fat Tuesday every year.
Endymion rolls down Canal Street during Carnival 2014.
Ending their parade in the Superdome, Krewe of Endymion's Extravaganza is well known in New Orleans for its elaborate floats and decadent parties. Founded in 1967, the super Krewe celebrated their 50th anniversary parading with Steven Tyler as Grand Marshall.
Athena: Krewe of Athena's Coronation Mardi Gras Ball during Carnival 2015. The all female parade is the first all black carnival parade to roll in suburb of Metairie.
Wild Tchoupitoulas Big Queen Mary Kay Stevenson sings with (left to right) FiYiYi Big Queen "Cutie" Kim Boutte, Black Eagles Big Queen "Calliope" Shmuela Padnos, Wild Tchoupitoulas Big Queen "Mercy" Mercedes Stevenson during a celebration of Mardi Gras Indian queens in 2014.
Members of Zulu have their faces painted a few hours before their parade rolls on Fat Tuesday 2014. Founded in 1909 by members of benevolent aid society groups, this first black krewe was a parody of Rex and commentary on segregation during carnival. Zulu members wear blackface as a form of anti-racist resistance by reclaiming the negative connotations through satire.
Big Chief Pie:
Monogram Hunters Big Chief "Pie" Tyrone Stevenson puts on his white suit for the first time with the help of his son Tyrone Jr. on Fat Tuesday 2015. Starting at age 12, Big Chief Pie suited with Yellow Pocahontas. He was granted his own tribe in 1992 called the Monogram Hunters, named for Yellow Pocahontas Big Chief Tootie Montana's father’s tribe.
Black Hatchet Spy Boy on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans on February 28, 2017. Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee - rhrphoto.com
Spy Boy Horace:
Creole Wild West Spy Boy Horace Anderson meets the Gold Blades tribe on Mardi Gras Day 2016. A tradition spanning back to 1880's Mardi Gras Indians or Black Indians are considered one of the first examples of American civil rights protest against segregation. Creole Wild West is believed to be the first organized tribe, and may have included members from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show which wintered in New Orleans 1884-85. Adopting the look of Native Americans is a tribute to native peoples who took in escaped slaves. Their music hearkens to Congo Square, a Sunday meeting place for enslaved people to congregate around the beat of the drum and tambourine.
Monogram Hunters Big Chief Blaze during Fat Tuesday in New Orleans on February 28, 2017.
Fat Tuesday: Revelers enjoy Mardi Gras Day in the Marigny on February 12, 2013. Society of Saint Anne, founded in 1969, marches through the ByWater and Marigny to the French Quarter on Fat Tuesday.
Fat Tuesday along Frenchmen Street in New Orleans on February 28, 2017.
A Krewe Delusion float is walked home in 2015.
Baby Doll Kit dances to Da Truth Brass Band during the Spirit 2 Da Street SA&PC second line on November 13, 2016.
The Monogram Hunters move through the Treme streets they grew up on during Saint Joseph’s Night 2014. The black suit was Big Chief Pie's first suit in 15 years. Outside of Mardi Gras day Indians are seen in the street a handful of other days in the Spring.
French Quarter Festival 2017 day 1 April 6, 2017.
The spoils of a crawfish boil are devoured on Treme Brass Band leader Benny Jones' truck in front of Kermit Ruffin's Mother-In-Law Lounge during the final day of WWOZ Spring 2015 Pledge Drive.
Allen Toussaint in the French Quarter in April 2015. A music legend and New Orleanian, Toussaint has been writing R&B hits since the 1950s.
Jim Mesch from Chicago who has been going to Jazz Fest for 21 years during day one of Jazz Fest 2016.
Golden Star Hunters Spy Boy walks through the crowds of Jazz Fest 2015. Many tribes parade the jazz fest grounds to help pay the bills and fund next suits. Some of the bigger tribes have stage sets where they play adaptations of Mardi Gras Indian traditional songs and share their work with festival goers.
Red Bean: Morris Douglas makes Red Beans for the Jazz Fest Red Beans and Rice stand. Douglas has been a partner for the stand festival since 1999. Red beans and rice is traditionally made on Mondays in New Orleans, while the laundry is done.
Shawna Proctor, Allen Yaya, and Josie Johnson dance to Forgotten Souls Brass Band at Jazz Fest 2013.
Fest goers party in the after hours of Jazz Fest in May 2015
Day one of Jazz Fest 2016.
Flags fill the front of a Jazz Fest stage to mark the location of different festy groups, during day 4 of the festival on May 4, 2017.
Jazz Fest attendees try to sneak a peek at Mardi Gras Indians suiting up before their parade around the festival grounds in 2014. Indians originally only came out on Mardi Gras Day marching as a tribe within their community, but now showcase their work on other holidays, parades, and festivals. Performing on stage and parading at Jazz Fest has become a source of income for Indians who at times struggle to finance sewing from year to year.
July 4th Royalty:
The fourth annual July 4th Flotilla honors Al "Carnival Time" Johnson and Wild Tchoupitoulas Big Queen Mercedes "Mercy" Stevenson as their king and queen along Bayou St. John. Born in 1939, Johnson is a local R&B legend known for the song “Carnival Time” and Mercy, born 1925, was the first Big Queen of Wild Tchoupitoulas and one of the original baby dolls.
Big Queen Mercy:
Darryl Press of the Old Style New Style S&P Club at the funeral of Big Queen Mercedes "Mercy" Stevenson of Wild Tchoupitoulas on August 20, 2016. Living to ninety years old Mercy was an active member in the community till her final day.
Treme Brass Band:
Treme Brass Band plays at the Candlelight Lounge as a memorial to Uncle Lionel Batiste a few days after his passing on July 11, 2012. Born February 11, 1932, Batiste had been part of the New Orleans music scene since he was a child, and became known for playing the bass drum and his unique vocals. He co-founded the Treme Brass Band with Benny Jones, Sr. in the 1990’s and became a fixture at local music clubs with his signature three piece suit.
Guests dance during a morning wedding reception at Muriel's in the heart of the French Quarter, before heading to Jazz Fest on April 29, 2016. Built in the mid 1700's next to Jackson Square, it was a favorite of the New Orleans elite until the Civil War, when the wealthy and powerful relocated Uptown and left the French Quarter in disrepair. Since 1891 the building has functioned as a bar and restaurant.
Saint Joseph's Day Altar at Saint Joseph's Church in New Orleans on March 19, 2015.
A Jazz Mass during Satchmo Fest at Saint Augustine Church in Treme, days before Louis Armstrong's 113th birthday on August 6, 2014. The church opened its doors in 1842, and was the most integrated congregation of its time, with a mix of free people of color, whites, and slaves.
Mohawk Hunters Gang Queen Rita Henry Chamber with her granddaughter lil Queen Massiyah Allen in her Saints themed black and gold living room, on August 14, 2015. Sundays for many in New Orleanians means watching the Saints.
Versatile Ladies of Style Social Aid & Pleasure Club's second line with Free Agents Brass Band on November 13, 2016. After the Civil War, black communities in the city organized social aid societies to pool resources and provide a brass band for member’s funerals. Eventually the clubs became Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, each offering an annual second line parade in their respective neighborhood on Sundays.
New Orleans summer of 2017.
A house in the Marigny under transform after many years of vacancy.
Big Lee's house in Metairie on November 18, 2016. While New Orleans is traditionally Democratic, the surrounding suburbs and the state are heavily Republican, with former KKK leader David Duke recently running for office in Metairie, LA.
A statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis along Jefferson Davis Parkway in New Orleans on June 27, 2016. Unveiled in 1911, this monument and three others have been approved by the city council for removal, but threats to removal companies and legal battles have delayed the project since 2015.
Mardi Gras Machine:
Pixie, a mechanical arm built by KUKA Robotics, cuts out the styrofoam body of Krewe of Tucks mascot Friar Tuck for the front a float at Mardi Gras World on January 26, 2017. The roughly million dollar robot started cutting just after Mardi Gras on Ash Wednesday 2016.
Raymond Bowie, 62, works on a Rex float in the heat of mid August 2017. Bowie has been painting carnival floats for 35 years.
Throws: Crepe Myrtle in bloom over the summer as beads thrown by Krewe of Endymion disappear into the foliage on July 15, 2015. The low grade made in China plastic beads from carnival season have been blamed for making the ground along the routes toxic.
Southern Decadence annual gay pride parade meanders down Royal Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, August 2015.
Slow street work provides an opportunity to make make a display of found objects in the ByWater on December 12, 2015.
Land of Dreams: A broke pipe sprays water, while a carriage passes. The aging New Orleans has many infrastructure needs.
Fallen branches in a flooded street after Hurricane Issac in August 2012.
Monsoon: Flooding after New Orleans received an average of 10-inches of water in a matter of hours on August 5, 2017. Heavy rain fall, that the city's water pumps struggle to keep up with, is becoming increasingly more common in recent history.
Kevin and Jessica, of Chicago, celebrate their wedding with a second line through the French Quarter. New Orleans has become a favorite wedding destination, with its party atmosphere. Cultural traditions like second lines can be seen year round performed for weddings, parties, graduation, and conventions.
Dianne at her job in the Royal Sonesta along Bourbon Street in July 2017.
Former New Orleans city council-member at large Jackie Clarkson at a fundraiser for a local theater on March 10, 2016.
Work All Day Sew All Night:
Big Chief Tyrone "Pie" Stevenson making Pralines at Leah's Candy Shop in the French Quarter. After returning to masking in 2014 and 2015 Stevenson had to take a break for two years due to finances and time. He plans to return in 2018 with the a large tribe of returning long time members, while also bringing more children into the tradition.
Birdfoot Festival student tune their instruments before their final performance in June 2017.
Musicians and supporters fill the New Orleans City Council Chambers during a Save the Sound Rally at City Hall. The coalition formed after the city council considered a noise ordinance that would impact venues with unreasonable sound regulations and endanger the grass roots music community. The ordinance was taken off the table shortly after the protest.
Southern Decadence annual gay pride parade on September 4, 2017.
Mario Abney & the Abney Effect play a short set at local radio station WWOZ 90.7 fm, during their 2013 Fall pledge drive.
Young Fellaz Brass Band busk at the corner of Frenchmen and Chartres Streets on a busy Friday night in October 2014. Founded by the French in 1718, the Crescent City is nearly 300 years old. Since Katrina, in 2005, New Orleans has been launched into the national and even international spotlight. People from all over flock in record numbers to the city at the roots of American Culture.
For Uncle Lionel:
Passing the Christopher Inn Apartments, where Uncle Lionel lived his final years, the memorial second line marches on through flooded streets in honor of Batiste despite his funeral march getting rescheduled earlier in the day, New Orleans 2012.