During my travels last month I also spent some time in New Orleans with some of my closest friends. I’ve been talking about taking them to my home state for several years and this year we finally got the opportunity to experience all that Nola has to offer together. Our time in this great city was too short, but full to the brim with quality good times. New Orleans is one of the most special cities in this country and for those of you that haven’t been there before, well, I suggest you put it on your bucket list.
New Orleans is full of history and spirit, creativity and culture all mixed together to create the best gumbo you have ever tasted. The people are some of the nicest and most welcoming that you will ever meet in our country. Diversity is strong and is also the catalyst for unity. People have really big hearts in New Orleans and they are very vocal about their thoughts and feelings. It’s all out on the table with these folks and that is a beautiful thing. If ever there would be a City of Soul, this is it.
One day while roaming thru my favorite neighborhood, the Bywater/Marigny, we stumbled upon the art studio of Christopher Porche West, a photographer and scluptor who has been documenting New Orleans for the last 30 years. Christopher was one of the many characters of New Orleans, and our experience that day in his “Bank Of Soul” was by far one of the most inspiring moments on our trip. A special experience never to be forgotten that will always be a reminder of the special place I have in my heart for this city.
Walking into his studio, I felt all of the magic of New Orleans in one small little space. It was as if he had bundled up all of the history, architecture, music, culture and pain that the city is known for and packaged it together. His photographic perspective of people in New Orleans span the last three decades and captures everybody from Nola’s famous musicians to the Mardi Gras Indian tribes and so many more.
In addition to his photographic perspective, Christopher sets each of his photos in found object assemblage collage creating a sculpture to help set the tone for the photograph. He believes “that photographs set within sculpture deepen the meaning and message of the art.” He says that “flat photographs fail to achieve the richness and dimensionality of photographic sculpture.
Though a framed photograph can tell a good story, a photograph “housed” in sculpture gives a deeper narrative.” The photos are housed within salvaged architectural debris including door casings, floorings, window frames, knobs, fireplace mantles, and more giving the photograph a sense of place.
Christopher’s work is a representation of commonalities and simple behaviors and beliefs that are universal among people. His photographs of religious faith, celebration, death and suffering are things that are shared by all of humanity and are a reminder “that that which binds us together is greater than that which divides us.”
That is the spirit of Nola and what makes it one of the most special places in the United States. The spirit and the connection of the people living there is not like anything I have experienced before and it intrigues me beyond belief to imagine what it must feel like to live in this community of people.
If you find yourself in New Orleans any time soon, be sure and stop by “The Bank of Soul” on Desire street and have a chatting session with Mr. Porche’ West. I guarantee you will not be disappointed and you will walk out of there with a much higher level of understanding of this amazing city.
Check out his website to purchase photography and see more of his work and visit him at his studio on 3201 Burgundy Street.