A new frontier’ in New Orleans draws new residents

 By Korina Lopez, USA TODAY

Despite all its problems, New Orleans is attracting new residents. David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, says a growing trend, dubbed “the brain-gain phenomenon,” is getting traction in New Orleans.

“Katrina offers a new frontier for people who care about social change,” he says. After two years of volunteering in AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), Ashley Sloan, Greg Loushine and Jackie Smith decided to start their own non-profit group, Live St. Bernard. MORE: Some volunteers are in it for the long haul “There were so many volunteers and not enough skilled workers,” Sloan says. “So volunteers are often left standing around, waiting to be shown what to do. We wanted to start a program designed to attract and retain skilled laborers to the area.”

Community service Nathan Rothstein, executive director of NOLA YURP Initiative (New Orleans, La., Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals), moved to New Orleans after he spent his senior-year spring break volunteering in the area. Katrina “is our generation’s civil rights movement,” says Rothstein, 23. “People come from all over to make an impact, to have a part in history.” He estimates 5,000 people have settled in the area. And Richard Campanella, a geographer with Tulane University’s Center for Bioenvironmental Research, estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 working professionals have moved in.

Zack Rosenburg, a Washington, D.C., criminal defense attorney, and his wife, Liz, who worked in the non-profit sector, were so deeply affected that they started the non-profit St. Bernard Project, which helps find money, supplies and labor to assist residents in moving back into their homes. With the help of volunteers, the St. Bernard Project has rebuilt 88 homes in the past 16 months. “Many volunteers stay because they bond with and identify with residents,” he says. “It’s hard for the volunteers to leave and continue with their lives after bonding with the residents.” The couple have decided to make New Orleans their permanent home.

“New Orleans represents the great optimism of America,” Eisner says. “We’ve seen people turn their experience in long-term volunteering to inform their career paths. We’ve seen people move to change their lives of success to lives of significance.”


At first I wasn’t sure that I had the talent, but I did know I had a fear of failure, and that fear compelled me to fight off anything that might abet it.
Gordon Parks

Fear is a good friend when he keeps you up at night reading.


Photo Shoot: Behind the Scenes

Arnold Newman 

I used to turn the pages of Arnold Newman’s environmental  portrait books and imagine the creative collaboration between photographer and sitter that created the timeless documents.  Then I worked as a photographers assistant on a few to many client controlled collaborations and I wondered what room there is for collaboration on today’s commercial shoots. 

Here is a Vanity Fair video providing a behind the scenes look at an Annie Leibovitz’s photo shoot.

Speaking of Arnold Newman in 2003 I was knocking on doors in New York and ended up printing in his darkroom.  Mr. Newman, let’s just say he was a particular man. He saw the words “fine art” on my resume and he said, “let me see the work and I will tell you if it is fine art.”

His studio was on the west side of Central Park. It was 1947 in there all India ink, roll fax machine, and no internet. He had an image archive floor to ceiling that most libraries couldn’t catalog.  Amazing how one man could have such unwavering vision. 

Well one night I stayed up too late. I drank the coffee, too much and I had the darkroom jitters.  He kept coming in and checking on my prints and I couldn’t a good black for nothing.  I was printing on 16×20 paper and his darkroom was cramped with New York spaciousness.  I pulled on the overhead light switch with the box of paper open and boy I got a good black on about 46 sheets.  No more coffee for me and no more darkroom time with my hero Mr. Newman.  I think he fired me with one word, “goodbye.”

Chris Rose, The 60-Second Interview: Frank Relle

Posted by The Times-Picayune January 11, 2008 5:00AM

Categories: 60-Second Interview

By Chris Rose

Frank Relle, a West Bank boy, graduated from Tulane with degrees in cognitive science and philosophy. But then he discovered photography, or it discovered him — however that goes.

After serving time in various darkrooms in New York City, he moved back to New Orleans shortly before Hurricane Katrina to begin a curious documentation of New Orleans architecture.

He shoots long exposures at night, using high-pressure sodium, mercury vapor and hot lights. The look is singular, to say the least. His work is on display through Sunday at the Terrence Sanders Gallery, 936 Royal St., in the French Quarter. Or check him out at www.frankrelle.com.

There is a unique look to your photographs. How do you describe it to people?

I realize if people haven’t seen my work, it will be very difficult to explain. I tell them: I take pictures of houses at night. And they just kind of look at me. I tell them I go out and light the houses at night to give them a strange, eerie quality.

Frank Relle
Photo by Thom Bennett

What does it look like?

People use all these different words to describe the light, but, to me, it’s emotive. I use the light to bring out a particular subject or story I am trying to tell or trying to capture with the image. In New Orleans, every one of these houses are just like all of us crazy people here; we’ve all got our own little story. I’m trying to relay the story of people and life in New Orleans using architectural subjects to represent that.

Is your work still Katrina-related?

No. But the truth is, for me — for everybody in creative fields — Katrina was such a strong theme in our lives — it came to dominate all of our work. But I was doing this work before. New Orleans has always been tied to the weather and change and to some form of catastrophe or another — and moving through that. So, to answer your question: It’s not my focus, although my work does talk about circumstances that are occurring in 2007 as they relate to post-storm life — repopulation, tear downs, and things like that.

What do people want to see when they look at your work?

It might sound strange, but that’s just it: I just want them to see. Sometimes I feel like my job as an artist, photographer, creator, is to make people more curious about their own lives and the things going on around them. I want them to be interested.

Frank Relle’s work is on display through Sunday at the Terrence Sanders Gallery, 936 Royal St., in the French Quarter.

There are a million documentarians crawling around this town. How to you make your stuff break out?

If you stay really close to home and be honest with what you’re interested in and what you see and how you see it, then it will separate itself from everybody else’s work. I mean, there are a lot of people who take pictures of houses in New Orleans. I want to capture something that makes people wonder, makes them want to look longer, makes them want to ask questions.

How do you choose your subjects?

When I go out at night, I don’t have any plan of what I’m going to shoot. I just wait until something stops me and says: Whoa! What’s going on here?

Do the houses speak to you?

(Laughs) I hate stuff like that. No, they don’t speak to me. But I can drive up and down a street and there are certain buildings I’m not interested in and other buildings that, for some reason or another, resonate with me.

We’re using a lot of artsy-fartsy terms like resonance and emotions. Are they more than just pictures?

They’re stories, stories about the lives of the people who live in these houses. Through the collections of time and through the collection of the circumstances that affect that house — which is all about the people, the people who built it, when it was built and how it was lived in — you can convey a lot in those inhabited structures. For me, then, they’re more than just pictures. But then, I’m the guy that’s out there doing this stuff.

Could you do this work in another place?

I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I would have to know another place and care about it as much as I care about New Orleans. I’ve been around the country, a lot of different places, but New Orleans is my home. I feel like I have a background of history and understanding and connection to the place that I can relay in pictures.

You have a lot of out-of-town collectors. Why do they like your work?

People tell me my photographs capture what it feels like for them to be in New Orleans.

Columnist Chris Rose can be reached at chris.rose@timespicayune.com; or at (504)¤352-2535 or (504) 826-3309. To read past columns, visit

Martin Parr’s Reality T.V.

The Independent Reports: 

Musicals and opera have already been given the reality television treatment; now it is the turn of photography. A new Channel 4 series, Picture This, takes six wannabe snappers and sets them assignments over the course of three weeks, eliminating the unsuccessful contestants until just two remain to battle it out for the prize.

Martin Parr, the acclaimed photographer best known for his colourful pictures of British seaside life, is one of the three judges on the show.

The documentary photographer became involved with Picture This because he believes that photography is not given the prominence it deserves in the UK, whereas in other European countries and in the United States it is celebrated as an important art form.