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Defender Picks


Portrait of an Artist

Zack Smith's "My Muse Louisiana"

Photographer Zack Smith’s work is virtually ubiquitous in the Crescent City. For the last fifteen years, he has captured many of NOLA’s most prominent musicians on film. Now, Smith has turned his focus to other artists, not to mention, to the rest of the Boot with his new project “My Louisiana Muse.”


Specifically, Smith travelled over 1000 miles criss-crossing the state and meeting with fellow artists. When he sat down with other creatives, the photographer interviewed them including the simple question about their inspirations “Where?”


“The project aims to further strengthen the connection and ties that Louisiana artists have with the land that they create in and tie those two together,” explained the man behind the camera.


Smith told NoDef that after learning what spots his subjects found inspirational, they travelled to these oasises together. Once there, Smith shot portraits of the artists framed by their inspiration.


The resulting prints are created with an early process called “bromoil.” Bromoil allows for the addition of paints and colors to the final positive. Or as Smith explained, “I’m able to add another layer of inspiration.”


Photographers Frank Relle, Michel Varisco, Jenny Ellerbe, along with artists and musicians Goldman Thibodeaux, Nick Slie, and Bryan Lafaye are just a few of the featured subjects. Locations range from the swamp to the mound at Poverty Point.


Smith was particularly struck by the Mound, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “It’s kind of mind blowing to think about the fact that was a civilization in Lousiana that dates before the pyramids.”


As the projct progressed, common themes and locations emerged. “Whether or not these artists know each other, they share many of the same inspirations,” noted Smith.


Of course, the creator of “My Louisiana Muse” is himself an artist. Traversing the state to work on the project instiled the photographer his own newfound sense of space. He told NoDef that for him people and the communities that they create and perpetuate in Southeast Louisiana provides a special inspiration. Pushed for a physical space that moves him, he cited the swamp as well as the prairies north of Lafayette and Opelousas.


However, the series is about more than just eye candy. “One impetus was my dissatisfaction with the stories that news sources feed us. There are artists out there telling important stories about our vanishing coastline and migratory species. I’m trying to give people with a powerful message another avenue to get that message out,” noted Smith.


“I though that Katrina and BP would really wake some people up, especially the lawmakers. But, we’re not there yet,” lamented Smith.


Still, there is hope. “I think that it’s the beginning of a larger story.”


The Jazz and Heritage Foundation Gallery will be hosting the show with an opening on September 12th, 2015 and a number of the artists featured in the project will be in attendance. Find out more on the website.

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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

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