Saturday, August 18, 2012

New Orleans #3

The photo above of Welmon Sharlhorne was taken in Jackson Square in New Orleans. Interesting story here. Welmon is a folk artist in the city; some people call his art "outsider art." These terms stem from the fact that Welmon's not a classically trained artist. His work is very linear and geometric -- often containing buildings, birds, and clocks. It's pretty unique, and honestly not what you'd expect from a street artist in New Orleans. Kim and I were sitting in the park taking a break from the warm late May temperatures when Welmon strolled by and stopped at the same park bench. We struck up a conversation immediately and he told us his life story. Welmon spent some time in juvenile detention as a young boy in Houma, then as a young man began mowing yards in the New Orleans area. After getting into a dispute over payment for a job, Welmon found himself on trial and eventually incarcerated at Angola State Prison. The details of the story here get pretty vague. But ultimately, he spent over 20 years at Angola, and during his time there he began creating his art using ballpoint pens, manilla envelopes and tongue depressors. His story became known, and upon release from prison his art became highly collectible. He's been exhibited in numerous regional art galleries, the Smithsonian, and in Europe. He's not shy about telling you his story and promoting his art. He seems to survive through support from fellow artists and local places of business who let him work in their space. He's a true character -- one that you couldn't make up and don't meet very often in life. I knelt down on the warm Jackson Square concrete and took some photos of Welmon as we finished our conversation ... using the trees behind our bench as a backdrop. With the late afternoon sun coming from behind my right shoulder I used the pop-up flash on my camera for a little fill, but the majority of the warm light came from the low sunlight behind me. 1/125 sec at f/5.6, 300mm. Note he has no lenses in his glasses, which made my job of getting rid of reflections very easy.

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