Laurel Valley Village, Thibodaux, LA: slightly expired Fuji Neopan in the Yashica MG-1

I’ve been here before a couple of years ago; I always wanted to go back and shoot some black and white, so I had one of the meetups there a couple of months ago.

Cabins

Cabins

Old tractor

Burned cabin

Cabins

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Home sweet tiny home

Last Saturday was the meetup for my photography group, I scheduled it in Thibodaux, which is the home of Nicholls University (excellent culinary program, naturally) and about 2/3 of the way to New Orleans from Abbeville. I confess to an ulterior motive for having it there: the photography project I’m working on right now (and for the forseeable future, as I keep discovering new potential additions) is called Saints of Louisiana, and I read that the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph has relics (an arm bone) of St. Valerie. Alleged, anyway; I mean who’s to say the Pope didn’t just nip off down to the catacombs with a chisel and send any old arm bone off to Louisiana. Anyway, they enclosed it in an almost life-sized wax statue, which is in a kind of glass coffin, it’s super creepy.

Saint Valerie

WTF is up with the angle of her neck, she’s either having an epileptic seizure or a massive orgasm. Stay weird, Roman Catholic Church! Speaking of which, they also had a statue of my girl:

Saint Lucy

Yes, that is a plate of eyeballs.

Afterwards we went to Laurel valley Village, which I’ve been to before but Hope hasn’t.

Laurel Valley Village

To sum up: Giant sugar co-op has their workers (not slaves, this was after the Civil War) live in a little village, it goes bust during the Great Depression, place falls apart for a few decades until a history professor from Nicholls re-discovers it, they attempt to restore one building and go “Eff this, it’s too much work/money”, they settle for keeping it in a state of “arrested decay”. I think it makes a more interesting photo subject this way, anyway.

On the drive to Thibodaux, I passed a property along LA-14 in Iberia Parish that had tiny homes for sale and almost drove off the road. I have been obsessed with the Tiny House Movement since shortly after I moved to Louisiana, and I recently saw the documentary TINY: A Story About Living Small, so it’s been on my mind more than usual. Around here most people buy them to use as camps, but they were the real thing all right, less than 200 square feet and on a flatbed. He had 3 different designs, I’d love to see what they’re like inside.

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It’s a daydream of mine to get one and put it on my grandparents’ old property, although realistically I don’t know if I’d really care to live in close proximity with that many cousins. I’m saving for a car right now (my Pontiac has over 180,000 miles on it) and I’m seriously considering getting a truck, because if I have a truck, I can move a Tiny House wherever I need to. Hurricane coming? No problem, I’ll just haul it into Lafayette or Baton Rouge until it passes. Have fun re-building, suckers. I also wouldn’t mind having a boat one day–nothing at all fancy, just there are a lot of places I’d like to see that aren’t accessible by road nowadays (the Sabine Pass Light, Chenier au Tigre, Fort Simon). This is a boat culture and I’m sure I could get a used one cheap from someone who was upgrading.

Laurel Valley Village & Sugar Plantation

(These are just some digital shots again; I’m sending 2 110 cartridges to Dwayne’s today and getting 3 rolls of 35mm developed.)

I found out about this place through a Facebook page called Abandoned Louisiana. It’s outside of Thibodaux, which is just an hour and 45 minutes drive to the east.

It’s an old sugar plantation that went bust during the Depression, and there was a whole little town that housed their workers. It was just left to fall apart–not just the buildings but even a lot of the equipment–until Nicholls University got involved in preserving it in the late 1970s. Other than a couple of cabins, and the company store (which now sells local crafts and sugar products that go towards the upkeep of the place; there’s no entrance fee and the labor is all volunteer), they haven’t tried to restore anything. It’s like the gold rush ghost town of Bodie, CA, which coined the term “arrested decay” for their approach. I think that’s more interesting anyway; I love to photograph falling-down buildings with vines growing on them and old rusty metal.

You can’t go in the buildings of course, because they’re dangerous, and they’re almost all behind barbed wire so you can’t get up real close. But I spoke to a volunteer who said if you call ahead you can arrange a guided tour, and while you still can’t get inside the buildings, they will take you behind the wire and let you get a little closer. I may do this for a Lomographers meetup; there was an old mill that I especially would like to get closer to. I think there may have been a fire at one point because it’s just an empty shell, but it’s really choked with brush and secondary growth trees and barely visible from the road.

If these photos look familiar, it’s because they’ve filmed scenes from nearly 30 movies here, including Ray, Interview With The Vampire, and Angel Heart. Any time they need something slave-y or sharecropper-y, or just dirt poor-looking in the state of Louisiana, they call Laurel Valley.


PICT0393, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

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The store also housed some of the smaller things that were left behind, like things from the schoolhouse and church.


PICT0395, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

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You should avoid Laurel Valley if you have a chicken phobia.


PICT0377, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

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PICT0408 (concorde), originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

They even had a little movie theater.


PICT0401, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT0397, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I kept expecting the American Pickers to show up and start raving about all the AWESOME rusty metal junk.

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