Clarence John Laughlin and His Contemporaries: A Picture and a Thousand Words

A Louisiana native, Clarence John Laughlin (1905–1985) began his career as photographer in the 1930s, eventually emerging as one of America’s pioneers in surrealist and experimental photography.

Clarence John Laughlin and His Contemporaries: A Picture and a Thousand Words
November 15, 2016–March 25, 2017
Gallery hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres Street
Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art, 400 Chartres Street
Admission is free.

Though he felt himself isolated from the mainstream art world, his exhaustive written records and remarkable collection of images, amassed over 50 years, prove otherwise: Laughlin corresponded extensively and often traded photographs with his artistic peers. The exhibition Clarence John Laughlin and His Contemporaries: A Picture and a Thousand Words, displays the enigmatic photographer’s letters to and from fellow artists, writers, editors, and curators alongside the prints he exchanged

The image exchanges reveal both what Laughlin admired in the work of his peers and the interest that other important 20th-century photographers took in his work. The letters—which range from cordial to contentious—underscore Laughlin’s deliberate and uncompromising approach to his photography and prose. Much of the correspondence on display reveals both sides of each conversation: the letters Laughlin received are paired with his own carbon copies of those he sent. with his photographer contemporaries.

Most of the items featured in the exhibition are drawn from the Clarence John Laughlin Archive, housed at THNOC since 1981. Selections from Laughlin’s personal collection of works by other photographers, now held by the New Orleans Museum of Art, will also be on view: photographers with whom Laughlin exchanged images include Imogen Cunningham, Wynn Bullock, Edward Weston, Carlotta Corpron, and Brassaï. Individually, the images and letters offer glimpses into the minds of major figures in 20th-century photography. Together, they reveal Laughlin—who imagined himself working in artistic exile in New Orleans—to have been actively engaged (though not always in step) with national and international photographic trends throughout his life.

The free exhibition occupies both the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art and the Boyd Cruise Gallery at the Williams Research Center, 400–410 Chartres Street. The galleries are open Tuesday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. (excluding holidays), and the exhibition will remain on view until March 25, 2017.

Clarence John Laughlin documentary double feature
Saturday, March 4 • 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres Street
Admission is free. Reservations: or (504) 523-4662
Featuring The Phantasmagorical Clarence John Laughlin and Clarence John Laughlin: An Artist with a Camera and Q&A sessions with the filmmakers

Above: Clarence John Laughlin in his home library; 1981; photoprint mounted on board by Nancy Robinson Moss; The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of Mr. Stanton M. Frazar, 1985.242

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