Finding fresh moments when photographing a place close to your heart can be a challenge. When that place happens to be New Orleans—a city so lively, complex, vibrant, and beloved that it is a character in itself—the challenge is tenfold. Especially when that character is in full expression during Mardi Gras time.
When Tyrone Turner was a kid, Mardi Gras meant competing with his brother and sisters to see who could fill up their bags with the most beads and doubloons, reveling in the freedom given by their parents to roam a prescribed four or five blocks in their Uptown neighborhood.
As a newspaper photographer for the Times-Picayune, Turner covered the expected parade highlights from every vantage point, but it wasn’t until he returned to photograph the city post-Hurricane Katrina, no longer driven by newspaper deadlines, that he felt compelled to slow down and spend time around the edges.
He is particularly drawn to the energy—the potential and anticipation—to be found right before the main event of a parade or Mardi Gras ball. Here, it is about the poetry of moments frozen in a way that can only be realized using still photography. “Stills capture the feeling of standing in front of something and letting it unfold in front of you,” he says. “It takes a lot of work to get at the wonder and awe of the experience—it’s something I had to retrain myself to see.”
His favorite place to be is right in the middle of the action with a wide-angle lens. “I’m surprised with what I get most of the time. I feel like I haven’t gotten anything and I am surprised when I do. It’s a situation where you feel the poetry coming together.”
The city is like an onion, he tells me. The more he shoots these parades, the more he understands about the social fabric of New Orleans and the significance of this cultural tradition in strengthening the bonds of place.
“You only let loose when you are strong enough to do that,” he says. “Working your way to being able to party your ass off is an important thing.”
Proof is partnering with New Orleans native son Tyrone Turner as he revisits the city he loves in the year leading up to the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. All of Turner’s posts can be viewed here.