In 1958 young photographer Art Kane managed to assemble 57 great jazz musicians in Harlem for a portrait:

Photo credit: Apologies to Art Kane

I’ve thought for a long time it’d be great to do a New Orleans version of this photo.  In fact, we could do a few variations: one portrait of all the local jazz musicians, another of just the Mardi Gras Indians, maybe another still of all musicians regardless of genre. It could be scheduled for the anniversary of the Federal Flood as a kind of defiant gesture. (Obviously, it’ll be difficult to pick a day to maximize the number of musicians who are in town and not out touring.  So picking a day is tricky.)

The location for such a large portrait is a challenge.  We have a lot of musicians, and if the Mardi Gras Indians come in their pretty feathers, well, how do we arrange everybody to fit in the shot?

I’m thinking the plaza (it’s driving me crazy I can’t think of the name of this place, so I’ll probably run down there at some point and edit this post accordingly–here’s a link to a photo of the spot I’m talking about) across the street from St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square could be a great place, with the musicians standing on the rows of seating, facing the cathedral and backs to the river, and the photographers on the “stage.”

And given all of the photographers who feed off the work of the musicians 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?

About the Author

Derek Bridges

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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