My recent visit to New Orleans-“The Big Easy”-memories both old and new

August 5, 2009

I had a rare-albeit welcome-free weekend in July and used it to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana for six days. I went alone to photograph old haunts, make new discoveries, reflect and recharge the creative batteries.

My parents, grandparents  and forebears were all from New Orleans, some by birth, and others emigrating from France to this most French – influenced of American cities.

As a child I’d spend Christmas, Easter and sometimes a week or so with my family visiting my grandmother at her house ‘Uptown’. My grandmother, who spoke with a french accent  though born in New Orleans (French being her first language) : she was named Edvige Tiblier. She came from an old New Orleans family and  though whatever  wealth they had in the 19th century was long gone, a good New Orleans name transcends all and she was a member of that society. “Vigie,” as we called her had been  a Queen of The Olympians , an old Mardi Gras  society ball , in 1916. The Olympians still have their ball to this day as well as a ‘krewe’ and a float in the Mardi Gras parade.

My mom and dad moved to Baltimore in the late 1940’s where my sister and I were born – partly for my dad’s career, but also to escape the cloistered, close-minded, uber-Catholic, New Orleans society, and it’s expectations for  members, both subtle and overt,  that they found so confining and stifling.

As a kid, I had no negative associations  with the city and found it stunningly beautiful, exotic, deliciously ‘foreign’, and endlessly beguiling. During our visits especially starting when I was about ten years old years old, I’d ride the streetcars- sometimes all day long and without a thought for safety. This was in  ’60’s this was before most of the  tracks were pulled up, when streetcar lines crisscrossed the entire city.

My grandmother had two sisters, my great aunts, Octavie and Aimee, whom we called Tante (aunt) Aimee.

Tante Aimee, who  never married and had polio as a child, walked with crutches and was my favorite ,a real live wire. The first woman to sell a million dollars worth of life insurance in the USA, she was charismatic, charming, generous, warm-hearted and had a wicked sense of humor. As a famous gourmet in New Orleans, she  was one of the few woman to attend Le Cordon Bleu cooking school- well before Julia Child. Because of her disability, when we went out to dinner, we would sometimes have to enter through the restaurant’s kitchens, where there would be a chorus of greetings  to her from the chef’s, waiters and busboys, who  knew and venerated her.

I stopped going to New Orleans when I was about thirteen and didn’t return until my  mid-thirties, long after my grandmother and great aunts had died, in order to ‘prop-up’ my grandmother’s house, which my mother could no longer adequately care for in her old age.

The city had changed during my 20 year hiatus, however it’s beauty and character were intact, thriving in fact, despite  systemic  pervasive poverty and  corruption that have always been a part of New Orleans’ identity

I fell in love with New Orleans once again, and have been returning every year or so to document it’s buildings and people . I also travel to photograph Southwest Louisiana, known as ‘Cajun Country’ – a very special place unto itself.

Here’s a few images and notes about my most recent visit:

Phillip and David, owners and  innkeepers of The Royal Street Courtyard B&B, where I stay when in New Orleans. Truly a great resource and very near ‘The Quarter’. Phillip and David know where all the locals go to get great N’awlin’s cooking and are fabulous hosts. I highly recommend their B& B as a wonderful place to stay.


The guys at The Camellia Grill, a legendary breakfast spot near Riverbend, in the Uptown section of the city. Their repartee and good humored interactions with the diners are as good as their waffles with walnut maple syrup


Elizabeth’s in Bywater is only a few minutes drive from my B& B. David and Phillip turned me on to it. Incredible food: on par with the best any restaurant could offer in the French Quarter-at half the price!


Abandon all hope, ye who enter Elizabeth’s.


Another New Orleans institution, Hubigs Pies. They haven’t changed their recipes in 70 years -or their ways of doing business. Hubigs was wiped out in Katrina, but their employees returned to work for no pay until the business was up and running again. They are thriving.

My friend, Arthur Smith. We met in New Orleans a few years before Katrina. I had been searching the neighborhoods for folk artists and interesting people to photograph and at the suggestion of someone I had chatted up at a gas station, who described a man living in a wildly painted and adorned shotgun house on Music Street, I found Mr. Smith. Every time I go back to New Orleans, I make a point of seeing Mr. Smith. I saw him the day before Katrina hit and I found him again the year after. On this visit when I went to his house I found that the city had demolished it. Still owning the land on which his house once stood, he’s created a ‘garden’ of found objects as well as a small shrine to his mother, whose tomb is actually in St. Louis Cemetery Number 1, near the tomb of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen.

Though now homeless, Mr. Smith is a survivor of the first order and there are people who know and care about him and are looking out for him.Arthur-Smith-B&-W-1


So there I was walking down Bourbon Street  at night with a ginormous camera on a tripod and a couple more hanging around my neck. Not exactly inconspicuous. “What the hell”, I said to myself , “Let’s chat up the ladies”.

Treat people with respect , show ’em your heart and they’ll give you images. True with everyone, from brides to the ladies of Bourbon Street.




Cecil J. Fontenot, manager of Floyd’s Record Shop in Ville Platte, Louisana. Floyd’s in the heart of ‘Cajun’ country has been around since 1956 and is famous for Cajun and Swamp Pop recordings. Cecil is holding a hand- crafted accordion he made. It was gorgeous. I made this image during a little trip   out of New Orleans to Southwest  Louisiana,” Cajun Country”.

Cecil J. Fontenot, Mgr. Floyd's Record Shop Ville Platte, LA

Coffee shop near my B&B in the historic Faubourg Marigny just outside “The Quarter”
Coffee shop

“Mr. Okra,” as he is known in the neighborhood.
Mr. Okra

Typical facade of a “Shotgun” house. So called, because the rooms are one behind the other in a straight line. If you fired a shotgun through the front door of one, the blast would go unimpeded straight through the back door.

French Quarter, 7:00 a.m.

French Quarter house

F.Q. 7:05 a.m.


7:20 a.m.

The “Human Statue” going to work in Jackson Square in the heart of The French Quarter. 7:45 a.m.

Living-Statue-The Lower 9th. Ward. The neighborhood was totally decimated by Katrina and thousands lost their homes-never to return. The house in the background is part of Brad Pitt’s rebuilding project. In the foreground are the foundations of a house destroyed in the hurricane. The new homes are ‘green’ , solar powered, hurricane -proof and architecturally- totally cool..


New home, Lower 9th.


Just moved in that day. Lower 9th.

Cypress swamp, Magnolia Plantation, Washington Louisiana
Cypress Swamp-Magnolia Plantation

Audubon Park. My grandmother would take me there to feed the ducks in The Lagoon when I was about four years old. We’d get day- old french bread from the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Bonnie and Clyde had a warm spot for Piggly Wiggly’s and robbed them often during the Depression.

Live Oaks -Audubon Park

The “Live Oaks” in New Orleans grow to a huge size.
Spanish Moss & Live Oaks Audubon Park

Spanish Moss and an a abundance of atmosphere

Spanish Moss

The Tomb of Marie Laveau, known as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. Notice the offerings at the base of the tomb and the triple cross marks on the sides.


The young lady here shared with me that many of the woman in her family, past and present, were ‘Seers’. She explained exactly what some of the offerings left by others, were intended for. Some very hopeful things and some rather ‘dark’ things. Yet another compelling reason why I love to travel;to see how others view the world.

Offering at Marie Laveau's tomb

Triple crosses and other symbols, scratched into the Voodoo Queens tomb.


Metairie Cemetery, one of my favorite ‘haunts’. Absolutely beautiful and justly famous for it’s above ground tombs. I’ve been shooting there for years and still find unique and powerful images each time I go. We’re planning a show here at the studio in the future so I created a number of these images in a High Definition mode (multiple/ layered exposures)which can’t really be appreciated in web size for this blog. Full size prints are drop -dead gorgeous with impossible- to -believe sharpness.


Tomb Allie


The tomb of Arthur deRoaldes, my great-great uncle,from whom my Father and I both took our first and middle names. I’m named after my Dad. Dr. deRoaldes was a very much larger than life figure, a war hero and founder of Charity Hospital in New Orleans. The story goes that Dr. deRoaldes lost ownership of the family chateau, Maison Henri IV deRoaldes, which had been in our family since the Fifteenth Century and bought it back with the winnings he’d accrued from playing poker at the New Orleans Club. I have some pretty cool furniture from the deRoaldes chateau which still exists in Cahors, France.


This visit was an especially good one for me, spiritually, emotionally and creatively. I feel much more ‘centered’ and available to our wedding couples after a visit to this special city.



  1. WOW! This is the BEST “my trip to New Orleans” post I have ever seen!
    You appear to have stayed in my neighborhood (pre-federal flood) the Marigny/bywater.
    I used to work at the Flora Cafe (pictured).
    I mean, your shots are so cool it feels like walking around there again, smelling the jasmine and oleander, closing my eyes to find my way home.

    You might find this entertaining. I have it on good info that Kennedy Toole (Confederacy of Dunces) at one point sold Lucky Dogs on Bourbon. Word has it that back in that day, those hot dog guys were either writers or drug dealers… or both! HA! And of course you probably know that he set the “Levi Pants Factory” at the Ice Cream factory in the bywater. Local lore.

    Anyway, needless to say we hung you onto today’s Ladder. Hell, wit’a name like Remanjon, you ain’t got to tell anyone you are from New Orleans, but it is nice to hear about your mominem!
    Your photographs made my entire week.

    Thanks youz,
    Editilla~New Orleans Ladder

    • Too cool! I’m glad you like it. My mom was actually a member of the same club, Le Petite Salon, as John Kennedy Toole’s mother. Mrs Toole would talk about the novel her son had written and couldn’t get published. After her son died, Mrs Toole showed the manuscript to the author Walker Percy, and he was instrumental in its eventual publication.

  2. I remember your mother well. Beautiful white hair.

  3. Not sure who will read this just heard about the tragic death of Arthur Remanjon Arthur Worked for Inter Sign National when I was married to Gilbert M. Bloch President…I have since run into Arthur in Fells Point on several occasions. I am sure he will be missed by many It is a tragic loss. My ex husband Gilbert M. Bloch also lost his life tragically in a car crash on July 29th, 2007. My condolensces to the family and friends of Arthur

  4. I’m missing this boy pretty hard without ever getting the chance to meet him.
    If anyone has a good write-up obituary I would be honored to post it onto the Ladder.
    Late I know, but, Memorial has no deadline.
    My heart still goes out to his family and all who loved this child of the City That Care Forgot But Not Remanjon.

    Editilla~New Orleans Ladder

  5. Author Arthur,

    I never met you, but I love you. New Orleans was in you heart. I’m so glad you had the recent opportunity to visit So. Louisiana. New Orleans misses you.

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