Over ten years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the project “Faubourg Tremé” focuses on the daily life of the population living in one of the most legendary and historical districts of New Orleans. When it comes to African-American culture in the city, Tremé lies at the heart.
Each Sunday, In historical times, the slaves would gather in the neigborhood’s center, ”Congo Square,” and dance to the rhythm of the percussions from their long-lost, distant homelands. Later on, the “Creoles of color,” (freed blacks) would regularly put together brass concerts on the very same Square. Without knowing it, they were establishing the foundations of what would become one of the world’s most fertile music genres: jazz.
Recently, I decided to go back to Tremé in order to observe the daily life of the district’s contemporary inhabitants. I also went back 10 years after the Katrina disaster, curious to see what remained. I discovered that despite everything which had happened, music never left the city. Instead it permeates all the aspects of local culture, blending into every facet of the city’s life: religion, education, tradition, bars and in the very streets themselves.
Particularly during special occasions, such as jazz funerals and carnival parades, the mixing of past and present becomes abundantly clear. Meanwhile, at night, when the darkness has fallen, areas far from the center begin to liven up. The lights of the bar create a unique aesthetic and each venue offers a different vibe. Finally, during the yearly climax that is Mardi Gras, the entire city dances as one to the upbeat rhythms of the carnival and the parade’s “Indians.”
Over several separate visits to the city, I worked on different topics in order to understand how to work with this city and its unique population. Over time, I saw firsthand how music was and remains the people’s principle remedy against the bitterness and challenges of life.
This project aims to study the traditions and perseverance of these people who, after Katrina, were abandoned and left aside by all. It is a penetrating look at these men and women who continue to survive and thrive thanks to the sound of brass.
I hope my pictures convey the beauty of exaltation and fervor triggered by the eternal rhythms of New Orleans music.
Editors’ note: This series will be shown as a gallery exhibition, titled “Faubourg Treme,” at Art en Transe in Paris from October 10 to November 9, 2017. The photographs are accompanied by musical recordings made on-site by Pazoumian. Well worth a visit if you’re in town!