This weekend on Saturday, May 15th, Dean Shapiro will be signing his latest book, Historic Photos of Louisiana, at Blue Cypress Books on Oak Street. For this particular edition, Shapiro put his vast historical knowledge and research capabilities to the test in order to properly caption each and every image in this amazing collection.
For someone like me who has been fascinated by this city for most of my life, but didn’t grow up here, this book is a valuable record of historical events and locations that makes not only New Orleans, but the entire state of Louisiana what it is today.
In the preface, Shapiro explains how culturally divergent Louisiana is from the rest of the United States. How varied influences and relative isolation enabled much of the state to retain its cultural distinctiveness, that “personality” is what draws visitors from all over the world to visit.
The photos in this particular tome range from Reconstruction in 1865 all the way to images of local livelihood in 1969. For example, a photo from 1865 shows a statue of Henry Clay in the middle of Canal Street, the same statue that now sits in Lafayette Square. Another depicts the flooded streets of Alsatia in East Carroll Parish in 1912, a record of how residents in rural areas struggled with flooding along the Mississippi River before levees were built. Yet another from the 1969 Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival captures gamblers huddled around a table, betting on which crawfish will win the race.
Most of the photographs are astoundingly clear considering their age, allowing you to almost step inside and take a look around. Only slight touch ups were made to the photographs where imperfections developed over the passage of time and all of the images for the tome were supplied by government institutions like the State Library of Louisiana and the Library of Congress.
Turning the pages becomes akin to strolling through time, watching the cities and parishes of Louisiana develop as well as witnessing some as they disappear. Historic Photos of Louisiana is an excellent, well made photographic journey through history that serves as an incredible volume that anyone who is enthralled with all things local would have to have as part of their collection.
Perhaps if you are able to stop by Blue Cypress Books this Saturday, you can pick up a copy of Historic Photos of Louisiana and get it signed by the author himself, I know I will!