Octavia - Behind the Scene

Posted by Frank Relle on Sep 15, 2019 6:08:00 PM



During college, I worked as a restaurant server in the French Quarter, regularly using the St. Charles Avenue streetcar to commute from Tulane’s uptown campus. St. Charles is an iconic New Orleans street, because of the streetcar and because the avenue is a presentation of architecture, family history, and wealth. The houses are like the people who line the avenue during carnival season screaming for attention, “Look at me…Throw me something. Give me your gaze!”

After making the trip from Tulane to the Quarter on the streetcar for years, I finally noticed a wall of foliage in the midst of the street’s grand homes. From the wooden seats of the streetcar, I couldn’t tell what existed beyond that wall and concluded that the manicured vegetation was just another aesthetically pleasing, decorative feature of the street. My conclusion quickly overturned following a walk down St. Charles; on foot I found a little cut in the wall that revealed a gate and a home set-back from the sidewalk. This house felt hidden. It’s on St. Charles Avenue, but it isn’t asking for attention; it remains a secret, an escape from view.

I first photographed the location in 2004; it’s one of the places that came to mind when I decided to tell photographic stories about the people of New Orleans through architecture. However, lighting a semi-secluded house proved challenging and none of those early photographs captured the scene. I’d illuminate the gate or light the ground in front of the home, but could never light the building or catch the house with the interior lights on.

In February of 2018, I went out on a shoot that lasted all night. As the sun began to rise, I noticed the azaleas on St. Charles were in bloom. I thought this could be my chance to capture the rising light of dawn on the house. I set up a little light on the azaleas in the foreground which created a wrapped tapestry of bushes that hold the recessed home, alluding to the wall of foliage that insulates the home from the street. The light in the sky along with the light coming from the porch allowed the scene to take shape.

Topics: Photograph Story