Even those who’ve never been to the southern US city of New Orleans know it’s a place that possesses a very particular mystique and allure.
The characters you’ll see in this book will feel familiar to many readers, and they contribute to the city’s thriving culture, which begs to be photographed.
This is the first photo book by the photographer Akasha Rabut, herself based in New Orleans. She is also the founder of Creative Council, a mentoring program for young people in the city pursuing careers in the arts. She has been working with the people of the city for the past ten years to produce this comprehensive set of work.
As a result, you’ll find the pink smoke of the Caramel Curves; the first all-female black motorcycle club; the Southern Riderz, urban cowboys on horseback in the city streets; the second lines’ exuberant fashion, music and style; and life that seems to spring from dilapidated corners of the city.
The title of the book comes from second line parades, a tradition sprung from funerals that is central to the social lives of many New Orleanians. As part of an essay in the book, New Orleans photographer Sam Feather writes, ‘Second lines are a source of power. In a city where so much is oriented toward outsiders, the parade is not for sale, not advertised, not sponsored by corporations, not accompanied by souvenirs. Despite very tight budgets, you will see some of the most creative dressing in the world at the second line. It’s a stage and a dance club and a neighbourhood block party all walking by in the afternoon.’
Alongside the images, you’ll also find oral histories as told to the New Orleans Neighborhood Story Project, which is a non-profit collaborative organisation that runs in the story.
Overall, this is an intriguing and well-thought-out debut book, which gets you closer to a culture via photography than you might otherwise hope to. Akasha’s close connection to the subjects really shines through, and the book is well worth picking up if you’re interested in documentary photography, extended photo-essays, travel and culture.
Death Magick Abundance by Akasha Rabut
Anthology Editions, £35, Hardcover, 216 pages, ISBN: 978-1-944860-27-1 ★★★★