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Snapshots: Down But Not Out in Alexandria

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Snapshots: Down But Not Out in Alexandria

Coming into Alexandria, Louisiana up Route 1 from the south was a difficult ride. Buildings were crumbling, houses were obviously lived in but shouldn’t have been and the road itself was terrible. And then, before I knew it, I was in the heart of downtown, and at first glance it was more of the same. Broken glass, graffiti and boarded up old buildings seemed to be everywhere. I seriously considered turning around and heading right back out of town. But I knew Alexandria had been around for over 200 years and sat right on the banks of the Red River; there must be beauty there to capture somewhere. So I parked and started walking and slowly, very slowly, the beauty of Alexandria started to emerge from the cracks. I started wiping away the years with my mind and my lens and found some extraordinary buildings and scenes to photograph. And then, as happens, I started talking to the people who live there and every one of them from the businessmen to the homeless people were unbelievably friendly. While I found all of these wonderful scenes as I wandered the city, I would still say Alexandria’s real beauty is in its people. The more I lingered and the more people I talked to, the more it grew on me. I went to see a play at the Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center, took a stroll along the levy and stopped in for a beer or two at Finnegan’s Wake. By the time I was pulling out of town, I had an entirely different opinion of Alexandria. This was definitely a case of “don’t judge a book by its cover”, stick around a while and you might just like what you find there.

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Snapshots: Monroe, Louisiana - A Diamond in the Rough

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Snapshots: Monroe, Louisiana - A Diamond in the Rough

I had no expectations when I pulled into downtown Monroe, Louisiana last week. I had really never heard anything about it, good or bad. It was the biggest town in northeast Louisiana, but that was about the extent of my knowledge as I headed into town. Sometimes it is great when you go into a place blind, because you can see it completely unhindered by preconceived notions of what it should look like. I was impressed the moment I hit downtown by the beautiful classically industrial architecture and the lovely riverfront park and bridge. It helped that it was a gorgeous evening, but my camera and I were kept busy for hours as I wandered the streets, with amazing shots around every corner. I really had a great time taking these photos, even though it was really quiet as I wandered the streets. At one point, I was taking a photo on a street corner and a police car was stopped at the light. The officer rolled down his window and said something along the lines of “just taking photos of beautiful downtown Monroe?”. I replied “yes, I am” to which he just laughed and laughed. The light turned green, and I could still hear him laughing as he drove off into the evening. I wish I had called after him and given him my card so he could see these photos. Maybe it takes an outsider to see the real beauty in a place, and maybe that’s what makes me the right person to shoot these kinds of photos. I know he found it hilarious, but I loved my short stay in Monroe. It is truly a diamond in the rough of northeastern Louisiana.

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Snapshots: Ratchet City Blues

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Snapshots: Ratchet City Blues

When I arrived in Shreveport, my first impression was that I had found Biff Tannen’s alternate future from Back to the Future II. Massive casinos line both sides of the Red River and the Hustler Club is prominently placed nearby. The streets were empty and the rest of town appeared to be falling apart, except for the outet mall across the river which seemed to be the place to go.. As I looked closer though, I started to find Shreveport’s hidden gems. The Noble Savage Tavern on Texas Street, for example, where great local food, drinks and music are only made better by the excellent staff. Or at Strawn’s Eat Shop out on King’s Highway, where I got the best slice of pie I’ve ever had in my life (their strawberry ice box pie). Then I started spotting some of the lovely murals and public art projects around town and I started to come around on the place. Finally I went to two wonderful local festivals where I ate well, heard some great music and met many of the wonderful people that live there. Shreveport took a major hit when Standard Oil left town in the eighties, but seems to me on the upswing. There are some beautiful old buildings around town, though many are in desperate need of repair. There is much to love about the Ratchet City, but much like a great blues song you need to look a little deeper to see what makes it special. I hope you enjoy these photos from my visit to Shreveport.

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