Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African Descendants in New Orleans: A Visual History

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Wedding, New Orleans, 1912

Arthur P. Bedou, Wedding, New Orleans, 1912, Courtesy Elodie Chabert

Bedou's formal and carefully-crafted images of lavish wedding parties, stylish jazz musicians, educators, and graduating seniors, much like the work of Harlem Renaissance chronicler James Van Der Zee, eloquently countered fixed and static notions of African American identity. Bedou and Van der Zee's work reflected a much broader range of African American representation, and countered race-based stereotypical images found in mainstream advertisements, film and other media. Many of Bedou's works reveal the construction of African American middle class identities and, in the context of New Orleans, Creole of color (and largely Catholic) representations of African American identity. As photographer Harold Baquet noted in a 1991 interview with Charles H. Rowell, "We have an acknowledged photographic heritage here in New Orleans. There is Mr. Arthur Bedou. He took everyone's ‘baby photograph'. He documented the Creole community, New Orleans people of color. It was a big thing to have a Bedou portrait. It meant that you were a person of means. You had contracted a professional. That photo would be proudly displayed on the mantelpiece."1 1Charles H. Rowell, "An Interview with Harold Baquet," Callalloo, Vol. 14, No. 3, 673–681.

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