Upon moving to New Orleans, I became fascinated by the pageantry of the city's African American cultural tradition of second line parades. I was captivated by their visual richness and ceremony, ritual and history, and by how they express a vibrant cultural heritage, intensely alive yet intimately connected to the past. The massive amount of industry that the social aid and pleasure clubs invest in creating their costumes, decorations, baskets, umbrellas and banners-truly a labor of love, blew me away. For over ten years I've followed the weekly parades, taking thousands of color photographs. I've formed friendly relationships with members of the social aid and pleasure clubs that stage the parades, allowing me behind-the-scenes access, resulting in distinctive photographs. My photographs vividly capture the paraders in their elaborate custom-designed, hand-sewn costumes and the dancing parade followers, revealing the festive mood of these sacred moments of cultural celebration.
The subject of my photograph, Ronald Lewis was a well-known culture-bearer who founded the House of Dance and Feathers cultural museum in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward that featured costumes of Masking Indians, second line parades, and social aid pleasure clubs. He was masking on Mardi Gras Day in Treme as a member of the Northside Skull and Bones Gang who wakes that neighborhood up at dawn each carnival. He passed away in New Orleans on March 20, 2020 from the coronavirus.
Ronald Lewis, Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans, 2020, archival pigment print, 20" x 15"