The New Orleans native captures the survival of a culture.
“The painter constructs, the photographer discloses” — Susan SontagEric Waters is the embodiment of Sontag’s sentiments in On Photography, her great study of the medium. Honored this year with the LEH Michael P. Smith Memorial Award for Documentary Photographer, Waters has photographed the Black community in New Orleans for more than thirty years, documenting a slice of America too often rendered invisible to the larger population. Eric shows a part of America that refuses to kneel or bow down to racism. America, this ongoing experiment, is stronger for his capturing of this vibrant, life affirming, but still marginalized culture. Look at his picture of the second line dancer atop a casket: life/death, death/ life. In New Orleans we put the fun in funerals.
Harlem had James Van Der Zee during the Harlem Renaissance; Dorethea Lange documented workers during the Great Depression. Displaced by Katrina and unscrupulous contractors, Eric Waters has endured and, like the aforementioned photographers, he has followed his passion.
His photos of Germaine Bazzle, Terence Blanchard, and many others captured those moments of swing and melody that make New Orleans jazz the music that forces you get up and put one foot in front or back of the other—those moments that make jazz what it is.
Richard Pryor said, “Keep some sunshine on your face.” Eric Waters’ photography says, “Keep some sunshine on your soul.”
Stanley Taylor serves as Business Manager at The Original Prince of Wales Social Aid and Pleasure Club.