64 Parishes

Florestine Perrault Collins

Florestine Perrault Collins, who began her career at age fourteen, was one of the first professional African American female photographers in the country.

Florestine Perrault Collins

Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

Portrait of a young woman and boy dressed in white. Collins, Florestine Perrault (Photographer)

One of only one hundred one African-American women identified in the 1920 U.S. Census as a photographer, Florestine Perrault Collins transformed what began as a portraiture studio in her living room into an unrivaled legacy of authentic expression that defied the oppressive racial and gender barriers of her time. Born into a large Creole family, Collins began working as a photographer at age 14 to help alleviate her family’s debt problems, though Jim Crow-era racism forced her to hide her racial identity in the troubling New Orleans tradition of passing for white. A capable entrepreneur, Collins grew her business from portraits of family and friends to become a photographer renowned for capturing subjects from weddings to high-school graduations to visits from soldiers during World War II. While always true to her craft, Collins sought to enhance her subject’s natural beauty and sensuality in images that stand in stark contrast to the period’s prevailing stereotypes.