New Orleans on my mind ~ Distinctive stories from the past & present

I have three cities that I consider home. Seattle, San Francisco & New Orleans. Each time I am in any of these cities I am completely at ease, know my way around, love the atmosphere and culture of each and truly feel like myself. Since New Orleans has recently become the city I am currently residing in, the way that I see and feel about the city has changed some. The mystic aura that I have always been drawn to about the city has lost a little of its shine. And this is just to say that now that this is where I walk my dogs, do my grocery shopping, work on my businesses and hang out with my neighbors….well, it is no longer just a city of intrigue. It has actually become a bit more….normal.

Whenever I was in New Orleans for Jazz Fest or during Halloween, I would be on the go every single moment to try and enjoy the nightlife, culture and live music photography while I was in town and had the chance. Now that I live here I can say well, I’d love to catch this performance tonight but I’m tired or have a long day tomorrow, so I think I’ll wait until another night….this feels to be such a luxury of normalcy. For now New Orleans is my home day and night. Weekday and weekend. Cold weather and hot.

Photographer EJ Bellocq and one of the Storyville Brothel photographs he made.

© EJ Bellocq ~ Photographer EJ Bellocq and one of the Storyville Brothel photographs he made.

When I walk through the Quarter and see street musicians, tourists, locals, service industry people and others, I see a bit of life that seems frozen in time. There is something about this city that holds its history so near and dear that it never wants to move on. It absolutely refuses to break ties from the past. There is immense pride in nurturing how things have always been. And it impresses me. The tangible feeling of an accumulation of time and circumstance permeates this place, and yet it is all so shrouded in secrecy that I am completely drawn to finding ways to understand more about it’s past. It tempts me, teases me and taunts me. It’s as though there is a secret town committee where every inhabitant pledges to uphold all that New Orleans is, as a whole and with complete allegiance. And the sheer brazen nature of New Orleans past inhabitants intrigues me too. These inhabitants of the past entice me and I feel as though I must come to understand more of their stories. From the times of photographer E.J. Bellocq and the images he made in Storyville brothels to the music of Jelly Roll Morton during the beginnings of Jazz, there are distinctive stories of the American South. Even going back to the first settlers, pirates and politicians.

Jazz Pianist Jelly Roll Morton

© Unknown ~ Jazz Pianist Jelly Roll Morton

Many misfits and castaways landed in the port city of New Orleans, mostly against their will and these people formed this city into one that hasn’t changed much since. There is literally no where else just like New Orleans. And I think there in lies why I am still intrigued.

New Orleans on my mind ~ I am a misfit! And a photographer, and a traveler and a passionate soul

I am a misfit! Always, I have been! Even as a young girl, I always seemed to fit the ‘girl next door type’, even looked the part. But inside this mischievous mind of mine, I always had other ideas. I’ve always been hyper-aware of those around me. Honestly, it was probably manifested out of survival mode. My childhood was rather traumatic, a bit scary. But many people have lived through similar experiences and mine just helped me to become aware, fiercely independent, free-spirited and unwilling to follow the norm. At 17 years old I had an intense, sudden internal calling to become a photographer. And as I mulled it over that day, I realized that was the perfect lifetime occupation because it didn’t enslave me to anyone or any location permanently. Photography instantly seemed to align perfectly with the type of life I was going to lead. And thus my schooling and then my career began. Without a second thought. And exactly 20 years later, it is still what I do for a living. I’ve combined my background in Photojournalism & Documentary photography with Wedding photography, Corporate photography, Portraiture and my passion for Blues music photography. I’ve also worked in the past and now again presently in Medical photography. I’ve found a way to keep the left-side brain and cerebral aspect to who I am engaged with my love of a creative medium. I do not consider myself an artist, you see. I consider myself a documentarian. There is a huge difference in my book. I don’t care for pretty pictures. I want gritty, say-something, conflict-raising, awareness-raising, visual representations of our lives as we live them. The pretty that sometimes appears is more a bonus.

My desire to live in New Orleans began almost 7 years ago. I’d been traveling down here for Jazz Fest a few years in a row at that point and I had been instantly taken with the city and it’s culture and especially it’s history. See, Louisiana has held an intense fascination with me since I was about 6 years old. My father is originally from central Louisiana and after one of his trips home to visit family he brought me back a little Louisiana flag and I would lay on my bed at night at stare at the letters L-O-U-I-S-I-A-N-A. There was something poetic about those letters together and my intense longing to understand more about the place where my roots originated began there. Now, just over 30 entire years later, I have finally made it my home. So many musicians here in New Orleans and through the South, very much including the young kids who are trying to make their way within the music community, are misfits. They are unique, they push boundaries, social norms and expectations and have a determination to make the most out of their talents. They have my utmost respect!

© Fire Eyes Photography | the Blues Documentary 2010

My life is unlike most others I know. I have chosen not to have my own children, I have been through a divorce and even through that was extremely tough, it was the best decision for me and I have been enjoying the flexibility of being single again so I can explore my own dreams again. It has helped me mature, become deeply aware of what I want and it has solidified my desire to do things that most people I know wouldn’t try. Like picking up and moving to New Orleans, arriving in town 3 days before Halloween without a place to live! 😉 Yea, I’m getting even bolder as I get older. One thing I have definitely learned is that life always seems to work itself out and stress or worry has never helped, so I’ve learned to go with the flow a bit more as well.

These chances that I take have inspired me and encouraged me to photograph in clubs and towns and juke joints that I may never have known existed if it wasn’t for a willingness to seek out adventure. From Memphis to the Mississippi Delta and down on into Louisiana, I have driven those highways, photographed some amazing musicians, met some really cool cats and truly had some of the most amazing experiences. I’ve never really shared these experiences with anyone either. That needs to change! Hence, the reason why I am going to continue with this blog and share about my life. My experiences. My thoughts. I’ve never felt like anyone would care, so why try to put into words, what words just won’t justify. But I’ve decided I’m going to try. And I’m going to share these things because they are worth sharing and because I want to have a written record of all I have seen. There’s some cool stuff stored up in this soul….time to release it! 🙂

New Orleans on my mind ~ A blog from Photographer and new New Orleanian Trishann Couvillion

After 9 years of traveling to New Orleans for Jazz Fest and during Halloween, I finally made the move! I am now excited and proud to call New Orleans home! My roots are in Seattle and San Francisco and I will no doubt live in Seattle again, maybe soon, but for now my desire is to not only have a chance to explore this city and it’s history, but to also buy a house here. For the rest of my life New Orleans will be one of my ‘homes’. As a documentary photographer who’s passion project for the last 11 years has been photographing the Blues, it has been my deepest desire to spend as much time in the South as possible. Now is my chance! The more I talk about my love of the Blues, the more I learn. So many wonderful people who have crossed my path have introduced me to different aspects of Blues history, musicians I had yet to hear, clubs I have yet to photograph in.

© Fire Eyes Photography | New Orleans 2004

The communal feel between the people of this city and it’s neighborhood is unlike back home. Never in my life would friends just show up on my doorstep back on the West Coast and just expect to spend time together without notice. Here, I arrive home to my doorstep and if my neighbors are outside they instantly chat me up, tell me about events happening later in the week or that very night and inevitably I receive an invitation to join. And I’ve impressed myself that I usually say ‘yes, I’d love to come’. My entire adult life has been spend sacredly guarding my time, focusing on my businesses and my photography and seeing just ‘hanging out’ as a distraction. But I always had a hunch that the Southern part of my heritage was in there and that I could loosen up, mellow out and enjoy new experiences that weren’t necessarily of my own making and adventures.  See, I’m the type to just decide to grab my camera, head over to some new club I’ve never been to, make my way to a dark corner and just observe the rhythm and groove of the room. Then I’d began to photograph. This is my greatest passion and it is also the origin of my solitary style. I could be in a club all night and never say more than a few words to the bartender when ordering a whiskey or beer. But amazingly, I enjoy the vibe and my own observations enough, that for the most part I don’t mind sticking to myself. But New Orleans has a way of drawing you in and demanding your participation on a more reciprocal scale. So here in lies the opening of my life and soul to what may be. A willingness to try things others enjoy. I look forward to learning and allowing my life path a bit of unstructured, unplanned, unanalyzed exposure. I also look forward to spending time researching the history of music in this city and photographing the current music history. Also, looking into my own Acadian roots and heritage (my father was born in Alexandria, Louisiana) as well as the sin and vice of the famed Storyville. Living right in the heart of it all is just the inspiration I now need. And having my close friends and wonderful boyfriend be able to spend time with me here, excites me even more for all New Orleans has to offer.

© Fire Eyes Photography | New Orleans 2004

The music history, the cities history, the art, the culture, the absurdity, the hospitality, the generosity and the overall palpible vibe in the air provides an opportunity to reach into the deeply cultured marrow of life here and create a gumbo of experiences, and that is what makes New Orleans a city unlike any other. A true chance at filling the deepest crevices of my soul with good spicy roux.