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New Orleans, LA

One of Many - Photo Essay 7 of 12

Story by Wesley Verhoeve May 19th, 2015

INTRODUCTION

What: One of Many is a monthly series of photo essays about twelve American cities and their creative communities.

Who: Designers, woodworkers, chefs, engineers, illustrators, writers and anyone else making something that moves people.

Why: To inspire and be inspired by the independent creative movement that is reshaping our economy and culture. To encourage others to make the leap. To empower those already there, and let them know they’re not alone.

Why Now: The growing creative independent movement, along with renewed interest in life outside the big cities, is rapidly reshaping our economy and culture.

Read much more at oneofmany.co and find below the seventh of twelve One of Many essays.

Many thanks to the good folks at Squarespace for helping make this project possible. I highly recommend using Squarespace to build your own website. Use the code “oneofmany” to get a 10% discount, and you’ll be supporting One of Many in a small way.

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Invading For Good

Justin Shiels is a creative director, graphic designer and web strategist. He moved to New Orleans pre-Katrina to attend Loyola University, and now runs his boutique design studio This Creative Lab. Justin also runs local lifestyle guide and events company Go Invade, for which he recently hired his first ever part-time sales person. This will allow him to focus on the print and online content curation as the project grows. Hiring a first employee can be quite daunting, especially if you’re used to doing it all by yourself. Learning how to delegate and trust, how to manage, dealing with payroll and things of that nature. It can be quite challenging, but if it’s done well it allows growth otherwise perhaps not possible.

Tippy Tippens is a the founder of Matter, an appropriately named creative studio for social change. She calls herself a Chief Eternal Optimist, and this is about the most apt way to describe how Tippy’s presence fills a room. In 2010, she knit a scarf and a hat for the Gandhi statue in Manhattan, driving up from Virginia to install it and hand out others to passers-by in need. This act of kindness set her on an interesting journey that unites eco-intelligence, creativity, and philanthropy.

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It Was Written

Alys Arden is a writer. Her alter ego works in strategy and advertising, but that’s a story for another time. Alys wrote her debut novel The Casquette Girls on online reading/writing platform Wattpad over the course of many mornings. There were no expectations, aside from fulfilling a New Year’s resolution to write. One by one, readers flocked through word of mouth until it had over 1 million reads. Alys decided to hire an editor and self-publish print and ebook versions, and promptly ended up on several Amazon best-of lists. Publishers and agents toke note and pursued Alys, with an eye on a second installment in the Casquette series. After ample deliberation, she decided to go with one of each in order to reach a wider audience and be able to focus on writing. The next next book is currently slated for early 2016.

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Sarah Baird is a food writer, a spark plug, and a dive bar connoisseur. We chatted about food, and people, and our love for bringing both together. While we competed vigorously at air hockey in the backroom of Pal’s Lounge, Sarah told me she approaches eating from a anthropological point of view. For a period, she was the restaurant critic for local alt-weekly The Gambit. It required navigating the social graces of living in a smaller city, while maintaining an editorial honesty expected by her readers. She has since transitioned to writing long-form pieces for a variety of publications, and a cook book about summer squash.

Aba Essel studies health and wellness, and writes fiction. The future might bring something that combines wellness and art. Aba is just figuring things out, like the rest of us.

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Reinvention

David Amsden is a writer who splits his time between New Orleans and New York. We talked about the changes New York has been through since David moved there in 1997. The increasing difficulty that young creative people face trying to pursue their craft there. He lucked out on timing, twice. New York was still somewhat affordable and writing still paid. When he moved to New Orleans to recover from a break up, the city was in recovery from Katrina. There was space for a writer, and David filled it. He meandered the city, figuring out what was next. His work shifted from novels to long-form pieces for a dream list of publications. A few times that week, I saw David scoot by on his Vespa. A writer about town. Tall, three dimensional, and between two great cities.

Bobby DeLaughter was a Mississippi state prosecutor and judge. His most notable case was prosecuting Byron De La Beckwith, convicted with the murder of the civil rights leader Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963. He wrote his first book about the case, and called it “Never Too Late”. Many years later, in an unrelated event, an unfortunate turn of events saw Bobby’s life turned upside down with allegations of bribery and a stint in prison. After his release, Bobby and his partner Peggy moved to New Orleans, a city people have escaped to to reinvent themselves for the last 300 years. He now works at a real estate and restoration firm, while spending his weekends writing novels, including his self-published fiction debut “Into The Labyrinth”. He now works to eat, and writes to live.

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A Vision Of More

When Lee bought a giant building in a not-so-great neighborhood about ten years ago people called him crazy. These day, he rents out the first floor to Renee Blanchard’s charming Church Alley Coffee Bar. The second floor is the creative studio that Justin Shiels and Tippy Tippens work out of (see above). Lee keeps an office and a work shop on the top floor where he screen prints t-shirts and signs for local historic homes. Lee had a vision of what could be, and his bet paid off.

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Andi Eaton is a designer and boutique owner, the founder of Southern Design Week, and a writer who recently published a book about the style of New Orleans. We talked about playing a part in building up the local fashion community, and bringing in young talent from bigger fashion cities to show that they might want to look at New Orleans as a great next step and a city still full of possibility.

Kathleen Currie is the proprietor of Smoke Perfume. She creates hand-made, all natural, small batch perfume oils. Kathleen created Smoke by accident in 2010. She experimented with essential oils for personal use, and received enough compliments to explore a possible venture. Her entrepreneurial brother inspired her to make the scents in bigger batches. It still took some years to get it right and in 2013 Smoke launched with one scent. There are now candles, two unisex scents and salt scrub and everything is available in 16 different states. Kathleen too, just made the step to hire her first employee to help expand beyond what’s currently possible.

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There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

You know those little gas light lanterns that hang outside many a New Orleans building? A 70-year old local company called Bevolo Gas & Electric Lighting makes roughly 90% of them. Nate Lefever is one of their coppersmiths. I watched him take a few pieces of metal, few pieces of glass, and turn it into a beautiful lantern in no time. All the while, conversing with curious tourists milling about, and making a sale or two.

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For The Love Of Coffee

Lauren Morlock runs the tiny and charming Sólo Espresso. She has been making and selling coffee for 17 years in various capacities. Sólo started as a pick-up specialty coffee spot for the neighborhood, run out of Lauren’s small basement. That changed when customers started lingering, and eventually hanging out. Two friendly customers happened to be woodworkers. They offered to build out the basement and turn it into a little coffee shop. Lauren has no ambition to expand into multiple locations. She’s pleased to fulfill her mission of providing a great cup of specialty coffee for her neighbors, and those willing to travel.

(Also pictured, a young man who was a customer at Sólo. He was reading a book on wellness, and talked passionately about the related wisdom that has been lost in today’s Western society.)

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Design For Life

Sam Randolph is a graphic designer at The New Orleans Advocate. She freelances under the name Copper Crown Design Co. While she was trained in Michigan, she’s come into her own in Louisiana. As a way to get to know her city increasingly well, Sam started illustrating the beautiful architecture that surrounds here for a project called Buildings of New Orleans. It’s gorgeous and thoughtful.

Ann Horton is graphic designer. She moved back to her native Louisiana after a three year stint in Brooklyn. After a little while as a freelancer, she took a job with eyewear company Krewe Du Optic. The company was founded in 2013, by proud local Stirling Barrett, with an eye on spreading the culture of New Orleans and its celebration of individual style. Ann is seen here holding Roger, her tiny succulent.

Jake Mason is a percussionist with his own production company by the name of Roc Solid Productions. He was born and raised in the 7th ward of New Orleans. Twenty years ago, his family moved into this house. It has a rich history that includes a retail past, and a period when it was a frat house. Long ago, when cleaning out the basement and the spaces below the house, Jake’s family uncovered human bones. New Orleans is the kind of town where anything can happen, and most things probably did at some point.

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Adapting To Change

McKenzie Lovelace Coco is the founder and president of FSC Interactive, an agency that specializes in SEO and social media management. The way McKenzie explains it, New Orleans has traditionally been a bit behind in terms of utilizing the internet for business. Tourism is a large part of the local economy, and innovation is a slow process in an old industry. It took time and a lot of effort to sell some of the more popular tourism-oriented businesses on using the Internet to win more business. After a long period of education on the part of McKenzie and her pioneering team, it’s paying off. Everyone in this city wants to help make the city better, and this is McKenzie’s way.

Chris Schultz is a man of many projects, including Launch Pad, a collaborative workspace and community of creative entrepreneurs. A new project called KungFu has me particularly intrigued. It’s a membership network for independent workers in the on-demand economy. This includes Uber/Lyft drivers, on-demand delivery people that work for Postmates or Task Rabbit, and many others. The goal is to provide quality services and products to support this new class of workers similar to how there is a cottage industry in support of creative entrepreneurs. By 2018, it’s estimated that 40% of the work force will be independent workers. What a massive opportunity to help and be a part of the new economy.

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Gerard Ramos is the co-founder of design and development company Revelry Labs. A self-taught coder with a path long, windy, and filled with peculiar stories. At one point. he was contracted to build a blog for Tom Cruise. There was a successful side project designing and manufacturing iPhone cases with…um…testicles. He spent time working in the tech communities of San Francisco and Las Vegas, before heading back home to Louisiana with a mind to shake things up. When he looked at the local tech community, he saw a lack of jobs, salaries too low to attract top talent, and not enough venture capital to change this around. Slowly but surely, he’s been doing his part by bringing in new talent and creating new jobs alongside likeminded individuals like Chris Shultz and others.

Jessey White-Cinis is a programmer and a most generous soul. Last year, he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse and moved down from New York on a part-time basis to help a close friend build a company in the marketing research field. Jessey has a long history of incredibly creative projects, previously pursued mostly on his own. His mind goes a mile a minute, but at the same time is able to broadcast a rather zen signal that can calm down any room when given some time. Jessey cares a lot, about a lot of things. It’s just a matter of focus and being in the right surroundings where others can keep up with him. I think Jessey might’ve found his place with this latest adventure.

Peter Bodenheimer is a man of cocktails and code. He’s familiar with the idea of having a side project take over his life. He splits his time between running an engineering firm, a cocktail discovery app called Bar notes, and being the co-founder of NOLA’s first start-up accelerator Launch Pad Ingition. Peter is one of NOLA’s own, but has spent considerable time in Boston and Silicon Valley, working on technology projects for large companies like Hasbro and Visa. His return helped kickstart change, first by helping the city overhaul it’s permitting system post-Katrina, and subsequently by way of his many projects. Did I mention, Peter was also a professional chef in there somewhere?

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The Arts Fantastic

Gabe Soria works at the renowned Euclid Records. He also designs games, marches in bands, and writes music commentary and comic books, including Batman. Some years ago, he moved back to New Orleans from Brooklyn. Baby number 2 and a need for space provided a convincing argument to seek out greener pastures. And Gabe loves NOLA, but also misses the Ft. Greene farmer’s market, apple cider, and Fall.

Together with Brian Gibbs of Gibbs Construction Company and The Solomon Group, Bryan Bailey is one of the men behind the resurgence of the oldest theatre in New Orleans. The Civic Center is 109 years old and, for two decades, sat unused and hidden inside of the Central Business District. Thanks to the State of Louisiana Live Infrastructure Tax Credit, they were able to invest in a 9 month renovation project for which they engaged architects Eskew+Dumez+Ripple. Today, the result is a gorgeous blend of history and subtle modern touches designed to increase the functionality and accessibility of the space. And the calendar is filled with beautiful shows, just like the old days.

Dave Hurlbert is a professional namer, and the proprietor of the beautiful Marigny Opera House, a non-denominational neighborhood church of the arts. It is supported by the Marigny Opera House Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to support the work of local performing artists. When it was build in 1853, the building was a more traditional church, of the Catholic variety. Already admired at the time for it’s superior acoustics, it only made sense that one day, when the parish relocated and the building was deconsecrated, music would again be at the center of it’s existence. Together with Scott King, Dave Hurlbert purchased the building in July 2011. Their goal was to restore it and make it a resource for the neighborhood and the surrounding community. It’s worked out pretty well.

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Making A Mark

Ooti Billeaud is a man of principle, commitment, and hard work. At the present time, he is building a house from scratch, painting, and making money by riding a pedi cab and shooting weddings. In the future, he hopes to be an always-traveler, camera and BMX in hand, and learning how to tattoo in various cities across this fine nation.

Adam Montegut is a tattoo artist and one of the people behind the recently opened New Orleans Tattoo Museum. It’s a so-called “living museum” that was founded to preserve and promote the history of tattooing in New Orleans through research and education. The stories of multiple generations of tattooing that are soon to be lost, but Adam’s emphasis on creative documentation hopes to prevent this and preserve this part of New Orleans’ rich creative history.

Émilie Lamy is the French-born founder and proprietor of The Stacks, a beautiful little fine-arts bookstore in the upper 9th Ward of the city. Émilie noticed a plethora of galleries about town, but no place to find publications or books about art. With a background in publishing and design, and a desire for a life change, she decided to fill the gap herself, opening the store in the spring of 2014. Listening to Émilie talk about art was infectious. As she enthusiastically leafed through books, it wasn’t so much that she was selling customers on a book. It was more like a passionate plea to enrich their lives. In the end, I didn’t see anyone leave without a big smile on their face, and a book in their hands.

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Highlight And Improve

Scott Emile Simon is the voice behind I Heart Nola, a wonderful local guide to all that makes New Orleans special, founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. His love for the city is infectious and seeps from between every written line and photo posted. Scott’s not just an observer. He’s an enthusiastic participant in everything that excites him, which is an inexhaustible list of things you too will be excited about after a conversation with Scott.

Jeff Januszek is a radio man who has moved all over the country to host morning shows. Eventually, romance brought him to New Orleans, where he opened up his own social media marketing company. Fast forward to May 2014, when developer Robert Lupo decided to print 100 “Fix My Streets” signs to protest the long-standing pavement problems in his neighborhood. When a local news station broadcasted a piece on the story, Jeff knew he found a cause he could get behind. He approached Robert, and ended up taking over the social media element of the campaign. Together, they’ve achieved quite a bit of progress with the city government, and plan on a lot more of it.

When I met Nick Burrell, he had just moved to New Orleans from San Francisco. He was intent on following in the foot steps of various family members and to pursue work in film and television. By any means necessary. As we strolled the Bywater neighborhood, he mentioned landing a gig for a TV show for the next day, but not yet knowing what said gig might entail. Whether it was being someone’s assistant, or a background, Nick knew he was going to attack the opportunity with everything he had in him. Sometimes you’ve just got to roll with whatever comes your way.

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NOLA At Night

Elizabeth Pearce is a drinks historian, and the founder of Drink & Learn. She has made something out of nothing, several times over. She can explain the history of New Orleans by breaking down the ingredients of various popular cocktails from different eras. She’s co-written a book of short stories about drinking in 100 French Quarter spots, and curates drinks exhibits for museums. Her next project is a touring one-woman-and-her-ukulele musical about the prohibition era. Elizabeth is a bad ass with a big heart.

Abbey Akes studied computer science and in a twist of faith is now the Master of Ceremonies at Cat’s Meow, the “worlds’ best karaoke bar” and the largest local account for both Miller and Budweiser. The Bourbon Street mainstay was a pilot bar for Pioneer’s original karaoke system and has a live stream that’s watched the world over by thousands of people each night. They watch Abbey control the crowd and make sure it’s fun for everyone involved. Sometimes that means veto-ing a song choice or giving a motivational speech. Not quite the path most traveled for a comp-sci gal, and Abbey likes it that way.

I got to know Noelle as a bartender at Bar Tonique, my favorite cocktail spot in New Orleans. I was there for her last night, and the next day this Alaska native was set to move to Seattle for one year. In 2016, Noelle will head to Germany, where she will live on vineyards expand her knowledge of wine exponentially into the realm of the professional sommelier.

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Louisiana Hospitality

Kelly Rayner runs the charming Lookout Inn, located in the Bywater neighborhood. Before she became a small business owner, Kelly had a career in corporate hospitality. In the years previous to that, Kelly studied Communications at Loyola University. During a visit from New York, Kelly’s mother stayed at a little inn with potential. Years later, it would end up being the Inn they’d purchase together when Kelly made the leap to independence. In her corporate career she was fully focused on sales. These days, the sales hat is one of many hats Kelly wears to make the Lookout a success. And she doesn’t do it alone either. When her architect husband Mark clocks out from a demanding day job of building schools, he puts on the handy man hat and fixes whatever needs fixing. It’s not easy, but it’s paying off. The Inn has shot into the top 20 best rated of NOLA in under a year.

Also pictured: Percy, head of security.

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An abundance, For Later

Pictured on the top left is a satisfied and exhausted Pableaux Johnson, shortly after shooting the Sudan second line parade. He invited me along and it changed everything. We started in Treme and stepped out 4 miles later for a break. When he is not capturing the beauty of New Orleans with his camera, Pableaux writes about food, drink, travel, and home.

His eyes sparkle with mischief as he tells stories, surrounded by old and new friends seated around a table later that night. We gathered for his well-known Sunday night gumbo meals, another way Pableaux changed everything. In case you’re not familiar, a second line is a lot of things all at once. High energy and chaotic, yet not stressful. One fist in the air to showcase club pride, and the other stretched out in the most inclusive of ways. Every day people, life changing moments. There was so much to see, learn, feel, and experience. Rather than trying to fit it inside of this photo essay, I will post a second New Orleans chapter on May 28th, fully dedicated to the second line. Sign up for the mailing list to be notified, and follow along on Instagram.

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EPILOGUE

|| More To Read and See ||

|| Visit oneofmany.co for the story behind this project, and information on upcoming cities and essays.
|| Find more photos on Instagram and by searching the hashtag #oneofmanyNewOrleans
|| Find outtakes on Tumblr, published on a regular basis.
|| A list of my favorite restaurants and shops in New Orleans (LA) is available on Foursquare.

PREVIOUS ESSAY: Madison, WI - Published March 31st, 2015.
NEXT ESSAY: New Orleans, LA Pt. Two - June 2nd || Seattle, WA - To be published June 29, 2015.

Follow along in real time via Instagram. Many thanks to the good folks at Squarespace for helping make this project possible. I highly recommend using Squarespace to build your own website. Use the code “oneofmany” to get a 10% discount, and you’ll be supporting One of Many in a small way.

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Footnote: Many thanks to Ann Horton, Pableaux Johnson, Jessey White-Cinis,Taylor Davidson, and especially Samantha Wilds.