Saints of New Orleans (not the football team), round 1

So I have this project I’ve been ruminating on for a while, Saints of Louisiana. About 2/3 of what I photograph seems to be religious in nature somehow: churches, cemeteries, shrines. And last fall I read Judika Ille’s Mystics, Saints, and Sages. Every entry has a section at the end listing major international places of worship or veneration for each figure, and gee, there certainly are a lot of them in south Louisiana. Most, but by no means all, in New Orleans. Coincidentally, I had already photographed a couple of them, such as the St. Roch shrine, which I semi-jokingly like to claim is my favorite place in the city. (It really kind of is, though.)

So I thought, why not do them all? I’d like to turn it into a book whenever I’m finished, even if it’s just a self-made one from MILK
I managed to get a couple more shot before summer weather shut me down, like Charlene Richard’s grave (the “Little Cajun Saint”), but then I kind of put it on hold until the weather got nicer. Like I said, a lot of them are in New Orleans, and I’d like to combine a bunch of them so I can do them all in 2 or 3 trips.

Saturday before last was one visit and I crossed a few things off the list. The primary visit was the New Orleans Chapel of the Santisima Muerte—“Most Holy Death”. I liked the Facebook page a while back and I contacted Steven Bragg, aka Sta Muertero Steven, who built and runs the chapel, through it. He was extremely nice, told me to photograph whatever I wanted, and even invited me into his home (the chapel is in his front yard, essentially) to shoot his personal devotional space.

The Three Robes

La Blanca

St. Michael

La Negra

La Roja altar

Halloween decorations

Next stop was the national shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the matron saint of both the state of Louisiana and the archdiocese of New Orleans. She has a double meaning, because to some followers of New Orleans Voodoo she is an avatar of Erzulie Dantor, and the child in her arms isn’t Jesus but her daughter Anais. Some people credit her with turning Hurricane Katrina away from the city (too bad she couldn’t keep the levee from breaking). The statue was commissioned by the head of the Ursulines (a religious order with very long ties to NOLA) in 1810. It was smaller than I expected! And in the photos I’ve seen it’s usually high up in a wall niche, but that day it was on a little table. There was some construction being done to the outside of the building, so maybe they were afraid the vibrations would knock it off and cause it to be broken.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor

Then I went to Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is the oldest original church in New Orleans. It was originally a mortuary chapel for St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which is right behind it. There’s an international shrine of St. Jude there, which used to contain a statue of St. Expedite. I didn’t see it, and I wondered if it had been removed because St. Expedite is such a favorite with rootworkers. I only saw a statue of St. Florian; but looking at the photos now, there’s another statue in there that might be St. Expedite, but I can’t see it clearly enough to tell. It looks like he’s holding something up and looking towards the ground, which makes me think it is, because St. Expedite is always depicted holding up a cross and stomping on a crow. If it is him I don’t know how I missed it, other than wanting to be fast and discrete because there were a lot of people in there. I’ll go back and take another look next trip.

Saint Jude Shrine

Peace Garden

Ex Votos

Then I went to the cemetery, because it was right there and I had time, even though it’s packed with tour groups on the weekends and kind of annoying. I just popped in for a few minutes to kill the rolls (I was using my Lomo LC-A+ and Yashica MG-1) with some photos of Marie Laveau’s tomb. Not the Glapion tomb; the unmarked one.

Side note: a while back somebody in one of the NOV/Hoodoo Facebook groups that I belonged to at the time (I recently quit several of them) claimed he was going to “sacrifice a dove” at her grave during an upcoming trip to NOLA. I don’t know why you would even do that, because animal sacrifice is not and has never been part of the veneration of Marie Laveau. People offer her money, alcohol, candles, flowers, even beauty and hair products (because she was a hairdresser by trade). She doesn’t want your tortured-to-death* animals, okay? I was like, you know there’s a constant crowd of tourists around that tomb, right? Enjoy the shocked/outraged reactions (which I suspect was the real motivation for this nonsense) and your stay in jail, probably.

*I have nothing against animal sacrifice when it is an established part of a religious ritual practiced by people who know what the fuck they’re doing. I’m pretty sure this proposal did not fall under either category.

Marie Laveau's tomb (maybe)

Marie Laveau's tomb (maybe)

Marie Laveau's tomb (maybe)

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Edgard, LA : Pink Slim Dress

This is a roll shot in Edgard that I brought in to be developed at the same time as the “lost” film rolls from last spring, but they neglected to include a photo CD even though I asked for one (and more importantly, PAID for one). So I brought the negatives in when I brought in the 35mm that I shot in New Orleans last weekend and asked them to please remember to put them on CD this time.

The Pink Slim Dress, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, is the Superheadz knock-off the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim, an amazing wide-angle plastic camera from the 1980s/1990s with a 22mm lens that has the unfortunate tendency to break if you so much as breathe on it too hard. The Slim line (it comes in a variety of colors) has preserved the wide-angle plastic lens and the fixed everything—aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/125th second, focus about 1 foot to infinity—while giving the user a body that isn’t so fragile. I don’t use it as often as I do some of my other 35mm cameras, but I’m always pleased with the results when I do.

House on Caire Court

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and Cemetery

Slave cabins at Evergreen

Slave cabin at Evergreen


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Forgotten in a desk drawer film roll #2

This was shot during my Mississippi road trip last spring–and I’m going back at the end of the month, so that’s appropriate. I’m taking Halloween off, because I needed to schedule 7 days off during the last 3 months of the year, and all the good days around Christmas were taken but not Halloween and it’s a Friday. I’m really, really hoping I can get back to Rodney, which I had to skip last trip because it had rained so much–getting there entails driving a few miles on a completely unpaved road. (I’m also hoping Mom will let me borrow her truck.)

Most of the roll is of the Windsor Ruins; a lot of the shots are underexposed because of how overcast it was all weekend. Still, I kind of like that, because they look how it felt. It was very oppressive.

Double Eagle Coffee

Windsor Ruins

Windsor Ruins

Windsor Ruins

Water Wheel

Old Mill with Kudzu

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Forgotten in a desk drawer film roll #1

There’s another one too, they’ve been sitting there since last spring. This one looks to have been shot during one of my trips along LA-82/TX-82 for what ultimately proved to be a futile attempt to photograph the Sabine Pass Light.

Grand Cheniere, LA

Grand Chenier, LA

Creole, LA

Creole, LA

Mouton Cove, LA

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Edgard, St. John the Baptist Parish

This weekend we finally, FINALLY had a Saturday without either rain or a triple-digit heat index, which hasn’t happened since June. I drove up to Edgard, the parish seat of St. John the Baptist. Seat or not, it’s still only got about 2,500 residents. The “saints” (St. John, St. James, St. Charles) parishes or river parishes that line the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge are really rural, most of the towns are actually unincorporated or census-designated areas. There are a lot of old plantations in the area, in varying degrees of upkeep, some of them open to the public and some not.

The main reason I went there was Evergreen Plantation. It still has a lot of the surviving outbuildings—pigeonniers, garçonnières, slave cabins, a kitchen, even a privy that looks like a tiny Greek temple—and I often find those kinds of buildings are more interesting to photograph than the houses themselves. However, the tour was kind of a disappointment. We got dragged through the grounds with hardly a stop on the way to the main house; which, other than an exterior double staircase, is frankly not that interesting. (If you’ve seen Django Unchained, you’ll recognize it as Big Daddy’s house.) We did get to stop at the slave cabins, because that’s where the tour ended, but I would have appreciated a longer look at the other buildings. And they didn’t let us stay on the grounds afterwards, which literally every other plantation on the River Road that I’ve been to does. At $20 adult admission, they need to give you more for your money. (And I made my feelings clear in my Yelp review!)

But a trip to the River Road is never wasted. I always find interesting things to photograph: tiny churches, graveyards with odd mausoleums, and of course abandoned buildings by the dozen. The highlight of this trip was the Caire’s Landing building, which I’d seen photos of in Richard Sexton’s Vestiges of Grandeur. I knew it was in Edgard, but it was still weird to drive along and just see it there. It’s not even fenced in, you can just walk up to it. Of course I also photographed the local Catholic cemetery, too. Supposedly General PGT Beauregard, who ordered the first shots fired in the Civil War, is buried there, but I didn’t come across his tomb.

Caire's Landing Building

Evergreen Plantation, privy & gardens

Evergreen Plantation, staircase

Evergreen Plantation, pigeonnier & garçonnière

Evergreen Plantation

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and Cemetery

Caire Court

Caire's Landing Building

LA Highway 18

Evergreen Plantation, slave cabins

Caire's Landing Building

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p.s. I started an Ello account yesterday and I still have a couple of invites left. PM or email me your email address if you’re interested. Or if you’re already on there and looking for more friends, I’m sarah_kay_gee. (I have no real reason not to use my full legal name, but decided not to just because I could, unlike with Facebook.)

Hasta la vista, Maria! (Obvious joke is obvious.)

Sometimes I remember that for the last few years that I lived in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was our governor. And then I have to think wait, did that actually happen, or was it just something I hallucinated as the result of one too many pot brownies?

Anyway, his official portrait was unveiled at the capitol in Sacramento this week, occasioning a bit of a sad trombone moment. It was painted when he was still in office—and still married to Maria Shriver—and features a hastily-retouched area. See if you can spot it! (Spoiler alert: Unless you are Mister Magoo, you will spot it.)


Apparently Maria Shriver originally made a cameo in the form of a lapel pin. Which seems weird to me, because are giant lapel pins in the shape of an actual person’s face really a thing? But she’s now the ex, so think of that sloppy dark-blue smudge as a history erase button. They couldn’t afford a better touch-up job? I know the state’s in a fiscal crunch and all, but this looks like they gave an intern a bucket of house paint and told him to make it happen.

(As always when I’m making fun of Governor Schwarzenegger, I feel compelled to point out that he wasn’t actually the worst governor the state ever had. He wasn’t even the worst in my lifetime. That dubious honor belongs to Pete Wilson, whose policy of energy deregulation is a straight line to Enron and the summer of rolling blackouts.)

Shorter Phil Robertson

“I love* gay people like Jesus said to.”

*”Love” here meaning “Really hate, but I don’t have the guts to deal with the fallout that being honest would cause”.

Good ol’ Phil must have read a different version of the Bible than I have, because in the one I read Jesus said fuck-all about homosexuality. It must be the same version all the wingnuts read, in which God condemns abortion and personally endorses the US of A.

Bonus derp: He claimed “no black people were singing the blues” before the Civil Rights era made them git all uppity. He did not add “Except for the black people who invented that very musical genre as a response to being second-class citizens”, so I see he knows music history as well as he knows the Bible.

I kind of hate myself for even addressing this, because everything that comes out of his mouth is such an obvious ploy to dig the ratings of his show out of the crater and/or move copies of his (to use Wonkette’s phrasing) book-shaped object. I can see that, but I can’t resist pointing out how stupid and wrong his words are. The only conservative bobblehead whose low-hanging fruit I absolutely refuse to pick (anymore) is Ann Coulter’s. Her only purpose in life is to get people ginned up, and she doesn’t care whether they’re for her or agin’ her. She’ll take whatever you got, so she gets nothing from me.

It’s been a bad year for Louisiana-set “reality” shows; apparently “Son of Guns” has been cancelled due to the host’s now-adult daughter claiming he molested her as a child. This is a show that flew so far under my radar that I didn’t know it existed until I read about its cancellation on the Bayou Progressive’s Facebook page. I avoid these shows because they traffic in grotesque stereotypes about Louisiana and appropriation/misrepresentation of Cajun culture.

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