Joseph Woodson "Pops" Whitesell (1876–1958), famous for his photographs depicting the wealth and beauty of the French Quarter, was also an important figure in the French Quarter Renaissance, an effort by artists, authors, and architects to preserve and reinvigorate life in the historic neighborhood.
The Collection's holdings of Whitesell's photos include images of Mardi Gras kings and queens and debutantes, but also those of his that capture scenes of everyday life, devoid of obvious signs of wealth or luxury. His photos document the relationship between the city and its people. He photographed the highs of Mardi Gras, he highlighted women and children outside on balconies and in courtyards, and he captured the strength and size of the buildings towering over the people of the French Quarter. He showed the city and the people together, his photos preserving emotions, buildings, and events. Although the streets of the French Quarter have changed since Whitesell last photographed them, the spirit he preserved remains the same. The artists still create, the buildings are still monumental, and the Mardi Gras floats still roll on.
Art show behind Cathedral exemplifies Whitesell's skill as a photographer and his role in the Renaissance. This moment presents men and women crowding the streets of the French Quarter admiring art, walking past historic architecture, and generally enjoying the neighborhood, not unlike visitors to the Quarter today. This photo shows the city weaving its way into the lives of its people while at the same time depicting people weaving their way into the city’s life, rebuilding and revitalizing the French Quarter one piece of art at a time.


Citation 1: 
Between 1920 and 1950; photographic negative
Citation 2: 
by Joseph Woodson Whitesell
Accession #: 
Sarah McKenney, Education Assistant