We live in a special place and time. All places and times are special, but ours, for various reasons, seems even more so. While this may be something we instinctively sense or feel, it is the artists among us who are often the best at illustrating this sensibility. For photographer Frank Relle, it's old houses, and while many have documented them, Relle's nocturnal streetscapes may come closest to capturing their soul. Taken with a mix of existing streetlights and an elaborate portable light system, Relle's portraits of homes, large and small, reveal their poetic aura in this survey at the new Sibley Gallery on Magazine Street. Among the older images are favorites like Telemachus, in which only the ancient arches of a Victorian facade are visible under a canopy of jungle vines, and the crumbling brick and plaster walls of Livaudais, a two-story Garden District carriage house that looks like it could be right out of an Anne Rice novel but actually appeared in Cat People years ago. His new work includes Leona (pictured), among other images that feature softer, more naturalistic lighting and broader panoramas for a hauntingly cinematic effect. It's an impressive survey in an impressive new gallery.
For Jonathan Traviesa, it's all about the soulful people who live in those densely textured old structures, and while some are visual artists, all are artists in the ad hoc collective performance that is everyday New Orleans life. A selection of these urban denizens in their native habitat is currently featured at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and if local folks constitute a photographic subject as popular as the city's architecture, Traviesa's environmental portraits capture some vital aspect of the enduring creative soul of this place. In addition to the exhibitions and grants this series has garnered, a striking and timely new book from the UNO Press, Portraits: Photographs in New Orleans 1998-2009, is now available. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Frank Relle: Nightscapes
Through Jan. 6
Sibley Gallery, 3427 Magazine St., 899-8182; www.sibleygallery.com
Jonathan Traviesa: Portraits: Photographs in New Orleans 1998-2009
Through Jan. 23
Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600; www.ogdenmuseum.org