If I were to sell any prints or images of costumed Mardi Gras Indians, I’d certainly split any profit with the Indians. However, I don’t get the impression most photographers work that way.

Generally, though, everything I shoot is available through a Creative Commons license, a practice I’ll continue until someone pays me to do otherwise.  I’ve uploaded probably hundreds of pictures of Mardi Gras Indians onto my flickr page. I’ve always thought of it as a way to celebrate the culture, and maybe in some marginal way to raise its profile.  Plus, street photography is what I’m most drawn to, and I simply can’t get past what a freaky sight it is to see Indians walking in the street.  I live a block from 2nd & Dryades.  I can’t resist.

A lot of musicians feel exploited by photographers as well.  I sympathize.  As much as I enjoy shooting musicians performing, I always feel a little dirty about it.  It’s too easy almost.  (Secondlines are another story).

So this mistrust of photographers is part of the reason behind an idea I had a while back based on the famous 1958 photo by Art Kane of dozens of Harlem jazz greats. I thought maybe doing a variation of Kane’s shot featuring  just New Orleans jazz musicians, or just brass bands, or just Mardi Gras Indians, would be a fabulous thing.   Maybe it could be a way to raise money to benefit musicians or Indians:

And given all of the photographers who feed off the work of the musicians [and Mardi Gras Indians] in this town, wouldn’t it be great to make it a fundraiser of a kind, like, say, $5-$10-$20 a head for access to prime shooters’ real estate on the stage, with the proceeds going to the Musicians’ Village or the New Orleans Musicians Clinic [or directly to the musicians/Indians]?

And maybe the photographers would be required to sign a statement promising to share the proceeds from the sale of any images.

Derek Bridges lives in New Orleans, trading in words and pictures. A carpetbagger of long standing, he grew up in the top right corner of IL and later went to college in the middle cornfield part. He has also lived in MS and FL, for educational purposes only, and was diasporized for a time in TX.

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