The 8 Best Fine Art Photographers in New Orleans
Fine art photography is about mixing imagination and balance. It is, as a photographer, allowing yourself to go the extra mile in trusting your vision. It’s trusting your instincts behind the camera and giving into your impulses in post. Some of the most famous photographers in the world were experts at fine art, whether they’ve identified as such or not — Nan Goldin, William Eggleston, Irving Penn, Robert Mapplethorpe. Each saw magic through the lens and captured it forever, as they had a vision. These New Orleans fine art photographers have vision, too — a vision to bring the city to life on their own terms.
Photography team Greg and Chrystal Mimbs may live in North Carolina, but their hearts are in New Orleans. So much so that they and their cameras visit the French Quarter quite often. Although they both got their beginnings in wedding photography, it was their love of the land that won them over. Now focusing on landscape and urban photography, the pair have taken photographs of everything from tiny mountain towns to NOLA’s bustling Bourbon Street. Their photographs are an intriguing mix of well-framed shots and post-processing effects. Shooting in black and white, as well as color, they present an interesting case wherein four eyes are better than two.
2. Epaul Julien
Epaul Julien was born in New Orleans, though he grew up in Modeste,LA, in a plantation house. All of the time he spent running around in nature was his first step to becoming an artist. As well as that, he was always making things with his hands. Although Epaul is self-taught, he sought out and questioned professors from LSU and Southern University, who then became his mentors. The New Orleans Museum of Art, Ogden Museum or Art, and the Louisiana State Museum, among others, have all exhibited Epaul’s work. His photography and mixed media reflect his New Orleanian heritage from losing everything in Katrina to the city’s history and rebirth.
3. Andy Levin
The first thing that strikes you about Andy Levin’s work is contrast. One of his shots we love the most has a hurricane-ransacked home in the background and, walking to the right, a parade walker in fluorescent fuchsia. Levin got his start in New York where he worked as a magazine and street photographer. As well as being a contributing photographer to Life, his work has appeared in Time, People, National Geographic, Paris Match, and the Village Voice. In 2004, he up and moved to New Orleans. A year later, he’d be taking photographs of Katrina and its aftermath, now permanently exhibited in the New Orleans Museum of Art. You can buy prints directly from Andy at the Frenchman Street Art Market seven days a week.
New Orleans fine art photographer Josephine Sacabo has called the city home for years. However, she studied in New York, and her photography career began in France. A far cry from the dreamy, surreal photogravure images she creates now, she began as a photojournalist and humanist photographer. In the vein of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, it was this that eventually led her to move to New Orleans. Inspired by the Baudelairean flâneur and observer, Sacabo wanted to photograph the French Quarter and its people. Her pictures now are an escape from what she saw then, finding her inspiration in poets, the dreamscape, and the romanticism of the Big Easy.
5. Frank Relle
Award-winning photographer Frank Relle was born and bred in New Orleans, which is where he continues to reside today. After graduating from Tulane University with non-photography degrees, he accompanied a researcher to photograph carnivorous plants. This inspired him to study photography in New York, where he also worked as an assistant to renowned photographers.
He moved back to New Orleans in 2004, just before Hurricane Katrina took the city for its own. Relle documented the devastation in the 9th Ward and beyond creating long-exposure images of flooded houses and abandoned neighborhoods. His work is in the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. It’s also featured in the private collections of everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Sheryl Crow.
Jennifer Shaw’s photography focuses on fleeting and personal moments. Growing up in Milwaukee, she moved east to earn her bachelor’s in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. Upon graduation, New Orleans was calling her. She wanted to live the artist’s life, and now, by all means, has achieved that goal. With work in B&W and NPR, as well as pieces exhibited in the New Orleans Museum of Art, she’s living a creative’s dream. Alongside her current photography, she’s beginning to dabble in and experiment with photogravures. In her not-so-spare time, Shaw teaches at the Louise S. McGehee School, as well as serves as the creative director of PhotoNOLA.
Maiwenn Raoult might have moved back to her hometown of Los Angeles, but we still consider her a New Orleans fine art photographer. Raoult majored in photography and education at the Hampshire College and hasn’t stopped snapping pictures since. While shooting fashion and documentary-style street photography, Maiwenn also teaches photography through non-profits. Shooting in both digital and film, Maiwenn has an uncanny knack for capturing her subjects which can be seen throughout her personal and professional portfolios.
It isn’t so rare for an artist to explore art through different avenues. For Ryan Miller Lane, those streets come in the form of photography and music. His photographs are exceptional snapshots of New Orleans, using the artificial lights of the French Quarter and beyond to create his prints. A New Orleans-lover will adore his work, which is at times faded and others bright, whatever the scenario calls for. New Orleans is photogenic, after all — however, it’s only with a good eye rather than just a good lens that you’ll find its spirit.
As special as fine art photography is, the conduit photographer doesn’t need to have special training. Although it helps, there are times when the self-taught artist could teach others a thing or two about the world. Perhaps, then, these New Orleans fine art photographers will do the same.