New Orleans has The Pie Man, The Special Man, The Beer Man, and now... The Picture Man. And like all the other simply-named icons of New Orleans, what he brings to the table has a special flavor that makes him rise to the top in a town that specializes in flavor.
You hear the call at the second line parades Hey Picture Man! Picture Man!, followed by club members striking regal, sexy or playa Mac poses. These moments are captured and memorialized in pictures saturated with the splendid color and raw energy that is characteristic of our Sunday rolling street party tradition.
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The Picture Man is Conrad Sam Wyre, a 34 year old native New Orleanian and self-taught photographer who started taking pictures at the age of 12. Granted hes not the first Picture Man to cover the second lines but hes certainly considered one of the best. Inspired by New Orleans culture and landscape, he shoots scenes at just the right moment and angle, capturing the very essence of what makes this city animated and magical. His images are at once haunting, fiery, whimsical and provocative.
Wyre began working professionally three years ago, going to second lines to photograph his childhood buddies from Uptown. I started with Pigeon Town Steppers helping them build a library of pictures and realized Damn.... I could make money doing this. I start liking it.
Members of other social aid and pleasure clubs saw Wyres work with the Pigeon Town Steppers and began calling him to cover their parades. Shortly afterward, he began creating yearbooks for the clubs using pictures from their second lines as well as shots taken during the clubs traditional parade day breakfasts, fundraisers, road trips and parties. The books are beautiful hard-cover bound presentations of second line culture unlike anything produced in the mainstream publishing world. Pigeon Town Steppers was first book I did, he says. Then I started shopping them to the other groups. [The clubs] never saw anything else like it. Ive done books for West Bank steppers, YMO, Prince of Whales, Original Four. From brass bands to jazz funerals to parades to photo shoots, I do it all.
Like most folks that follow the local parade scene, Wyre is drawn to the colors, the dancing, the bands, the culture... Where else in the world can you go and see stuff like this? Im just trying to capture it and put it out there so the world can see.
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If New Orleans brass bands and second line culture moves you, check out Sam The Picture Mans work at the La Belle Galerie at 319 Royal street in the French Quarter. Or online at www.Nawlinsimages.com