Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, Breaux Bridge; 1974; © Douglas Baz and Charles H. Traub; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2019.0362.107

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, Breaux Bridge; 1974; © Douglas Baz and Charles H. Traub; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2019.0362.107

September 8, 2020 to January 17, 2021

Tuesday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

520 Royal Street

Admission is free.

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In 1973 and ’74, two Chicago photographers spent more than six months documenting the southern Louisiana region known as Acadiana, as well as its coastal outposts to the east. The exhibition Cajun Document: Acadiana 1973–74, featuring images by Douglas Baz and Charles H. Traub never before gathered as a comprehensive exhibition, visits Louisiana towns from Welsh to Erath, Mamou to Golden Meadow, capturing everyday life in living rooms and dance halls, on fishing boats, and at rural Mardi Gras festivities, as well as a sweeping view of the region’s industries and geography. The scenes Baz and Traub preserved comprise a relic of a time and place integral to the Louisiana story.

With a foreword by John H. Lawrence and an introductory essay by the photographers, a large-format companion book of the same title, available for purchase at The Shop at The Collection, collects the images on view in the exhibition.

Purchase the catalog              Visit the virtual exhibition


Cajun Document Artist Conversations

To preview the exhibition’s opening, THNOC editor Molly Reid Cleaver, who oversaw the companion book, conducted a long-distance video interview with Baz and Traub. The pair recount their journey into Acadiana—and, nearly five decades after they set off from Chicago on a south-bound winter road trip, their work’s journey to The Historic New Orleans Collection.

 

Part one: Introductions and Background

In 1973, two photography instructors decided to spend their winter break on a road trip. To escape Chicago’s cold, they drove south along the Mississippi River, capturing photographs along the way. They had no final destination in mind. They found one near Baton Rouge.

 

Part two: Across the Atchafalaya

“When we ventured over there and came upon this culture, we found it almost impossible to believe that in 1970s America, it hadn’t been documented,” Baz says. “No one had photographed it that we knew of.”

 

Part three: Capturing the Culture

After returning to Chicago, Baz and Traub spent a year researching Acadiana and planning their return. Carrying the tools of their trade, including large-format cameras on tripods, the pair traveled throughout Louisiana Cajun country for nearly six months, returning nightly to their Breaux Bridge apartment to develop their film in a makeshift darkroom.

 

Part four: The Fun of It

“The Cajun people were so friendly,” Baz says. “Once people found out that we were really interested in them—in their lives, how they made things, how they fished—they brought us in with open arms.

 

Part five: The Afterlife

Baz and Traub had small shows of their Acadiana photography and saw some interest from publishers but otherwise got “very little traction on it,” Traub says. However, before they left Louisiana in 1974, they’d met with John H. Lawrence, now THNOC’s Director of Museum Programs, establishing a relationship that eventually resulted in this exhibition, for which Lawrence serves as curator.