Ancestral portraits and how we can see the past with a present through our lens


Here are my favorite shots from the November session with Askia Bennett – the talented, humble, laid back creative cat I met at Jazz Fest last year. He was marching w/ the Ole & Nu Style Fellas and it was there i got some of my favorite 2nd line photos.

After photographing him and talking with him during our follow up conversations I am again stuck with the powerful message that we, right now, are our own selves but forever tied to the family, lineage, and ancestors of our past. Our community makes us whole, feeds our inspiration, and helps put soulful strikes and bold fonts in our continuing storyline.

Askia was gracious enough to take some time and bring some of his new pieces to my studio for a session. He came by my Magazine Street studio and for an hour, we made some photos. I wanted to use a combo of red and white backgrounds and some gelled Paul C. Buff, Inc. #einstein lights. It’s nice to have some drama attached to a story such as his…soft light from a large octabox is nice but augment that with some specular colored strobes and you have deeper meanings…that’s just my opinion.

“I have been a member of Ole and Nu for 23 years, since the beginning,” says Askia, which really shows me that each bead and color put into his suit is a long rich story.

“What made me want to join the club, was that, my mother pretty much put me in it. While most kids would want to be held doing a secondline I want to be in the streets dancing to the music../Family is all I know and why wouldn’t I want to be in the best social aid & pleasure club in New Orleans?” answered Asia when I asked what made him want to join the Social Aid club.

Does creativity run in your family? Where does your inspiration come from?
“Creativity definitely runs in the family, my grandmother was very creative. She was a member of the original Baby Doll’s and she also created customs for other clubs during that time. All the inspiration comes from my brother “Trouble” everything you see have come because of his influence and inspiration…all credit is due to him”

At our shoot, Askia kept unloading gear and props..beaded typewriters, golden microphones and red gel binoculars. But one piece caught my interest – a 3 foot tall very lifelike but cartoonish older woman on a stand…
Emelda Lewis-Frank, Askia’s grandmother.

“The statue of her comes from all the years she couldn’t see the family. She started come out the door on secondline day so that was made so she could finally have the opportunity to see us come out the door and see everything from our point of view” says Askia.



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