On Photography….

My philosophical interests in photography are to find threads that bind peoples of difference backgrounds who collectively are sustained by faith in life itself. For in each personal visage there is a connection with its origins, its sense of faith, its practices in crafts and arts, in human relations, in healing and meditation, which reflect that faith. In some ways photographic depictions are like the true existentialists, they "live in the moment." Thus, they are released from the burden of the past and without the fear of the future. Faces are approachable, for they hold something that invites reflection; and looking into their "hearts" there is lightness and a grace we might all emulate. The ultimate puzzle is that photographic visages hold the history of a people and the feelings in their hearts; we discover how they all fit together while we honor how each piece is not like any other.

Artist Statement

Porché West’s artful expresssions exists at the nexus of photography and sculpture, the point where photography and sculpture converge. Dramatic and thought-provoking photographs are “housed” within salvaged architectural elements adorned with thought-provoking, symbolic objects. The net effect is additive - the sum is greater than the parts - photographs encorported within sculpture deepen the meaning and message of the art.

It is Porché West’s contention that flat photographs fail to achieve the richness and dimensionality of photographic sculpture. Though a framed photograph can tell a good story, a photograph “housed” in sculpture gives a more nuances and deep narrative. Salvaged architectural debris door casings, flooring, window frames, knobs and pulls give the photograph a sense of place, an authenticity that comes from being at home in the soul of the artist’s works.

Porché West’s assemblage is cultural “curatorialism” masked as art. The simple behaviors and beliefs of ordinary people are universal and easily understood. Religious faith, death and burial rituals, celebration and suffering are comprehended, if not shared, by all humanity. To see one’s own emotions in the face of a Haitian child or the hands of an elderly woman in New Orleans, is to be reminded that that which binds us together is greater than that which divides us. We are in essence, one.

Christopher Porché West is an award‐winning photographer and artist who has been documenting the people and culture of News Orleans for 30 years. A native Californian with Franco‐European roots in Louisiana, Porché West first came to New Orleans in the late 1970’s on a fellowship from the University of California at Santa Cruz. It was during this period when he began forming the major focus of his artistic career – New Orleans’ Franco‐Creole culture – by researching the antebellum era "Les Gens de Couleur Libres" or free people of color. Captivated by the city, he returned in 1981 to undertake a self‐directed photo‐documentary on the daily lives and cultural activity of contemporary New Orleans Creoles of Color and African Americans, including the elaborate costumes of Mardi Gras Indians, passing rites, community occurrences, neighborhood scenes and jazz funerals. These photographic surveys led to the development of a permanent exhibit for the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve Visitor Center in the Vieux Carré. Between 1985 and 1994 he maintained a commercial photographic studio in Newport Beach, California serving a wide array of clients, including design firms, architects, advertising agencies, manufacturers and corporations, by contributing to their marketing and related collateral production needs. While working as a commercial photographer, he also self‐published a series of lithographic reproductions, “Eloquent Visages”, which included selected members of the Black Mardi Gras Indian tribes of New Orleans and cameo portraits, which are still currently in distribution.

In 1995 he returned to and settled in New Orleans, and established a temporary studio to accommodate solely formal portraiture in a controlled environment for individual members of many different tribes of the Black Mardi Gras Indians. In all, 40 different Indians were persuaded to collaborate in the effort: the first and only time that the Indians themselves were part of the process of their own documentation. After years of photographing this colorful local culture, his artwork made its debut at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1996 and was featured there for the following 12 years.

Approaching his third decade as a professional photographer, Porché West began exploring new mediums of creative expression, while also expanding the thematic focus of his work beyond New Orleans’ Franco‐Creole culture. Recycling scraps of wrought iron, aged cypress, window frames and other found materials from the streets of New Orleans, Porché West began creating handcrafted, one‐of‐a‐kind ensembles through which to view his imagery. These “Assemblages”, three‐dimensional art works that are part photograph and part sculpture, debuted in 1998 at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and in 1999 won the Festival’s Best Display Award in its Contemporary Crafts showcase. The themes and subjects of his photography similarly progressed during this period, leading him to venture abroad. From 1998 to 2000 Porché West thrice traveled to Haiti as part of a humanitarian aid mission sponsored by the New Orleans‐based American Haitian Development Association, where he found further expressions of Franco‐Creole culture while photographing the lives and customs of everyday Haitians. A strong interest in Carnival traditions led him to visit Cuba in 2003 where he documented their Afro‐Latino customs and culture. Two years later he found himself in Liberia, photographing people and places that could have just as easily hailed from communities in Cuba, Haiti, or the bayous of Louisiana. Porché West has been featured in over 40 exhibitions. Most notably, in the summer of 2003 he was singularly selected to commemorate the Louisiana Bicentennial in Paris where he exhibited at the Festival L’esprit Jazz à Saint Germain des Prés. And in 2006 he was one of ten artists statewide who were awarded with the Louisiana Division of the Arts’ prestigious Artist Fellowship. Collections of his work can be found in the archives of the Historic New Orleans Collection, the New Orleans Museum of Art, Harvard University, the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University and the University of California at San Diego, as well as in numerous private holdings. Porché West currently lives and works in one of New Orleans’ oldest neighborhoods, Bywater, founded in 1809, where he continues to document and preserve the culture and life of New Orleans and its people.


Publications:


Eyes of Eagles: New Orleans Black Mardi Gras Indians, A Studio On Desire, New Orleans LA (2009)

'New Orleans - What Can't Be Lost: 88 Stories and Traditions from the Sacred City' University of Louisiana Lafayette Press, Lafayette LA (2010)

'New Orleans: What Can't Be Lost' Louisiana Cultural Vistas, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities 2011


Expositions:

Through the Lens: 'Photographing African American Life' Amistad Research Center, New Orleans LA 2013

Expo Personal: Christopher Porche West “La Odisea Cultural de New Orleans a Santiago de Cuba, Association Hermanos Paiz, Santiago de Cuba 2012

NOLA NOW : Landscape, Seascape, Cityscape Contemporary Art Center , New Orleans, LA 2012

Residents and Visitors: Twentieth-Century Photographs of Louisiana,
New Orleans Museum of Art 2010

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Contemporary Arts and Crafts, New Orleans, LA 2008, 2009, 2010

“Entr’acte” A satellite of Prospect 1, Bush Antiques, New Orleans, LA 2009

Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Tampa FL 2008

Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park, Houston TX 2008

“Santiago de Cuba: ReBirth & Congas en la Calle,” McKenna Museum of African-American Art, NOLA, 2008

Three Rivers Art Festival, Covington, LA 2007 Bogue Falaya Award


“Regards sur la Nouvelle Orleans” (Visions of New Orleans) French Ministry of Culture,
Saint Honoré Paris, France 2007

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Contemporary Arts and Crafts, New Orleans, LA 2007

"Fresh Art" New Orleans Arts Council 2006, Award of Merit

“Unforgotten Souls- New Orleans, Haiti, Cuba, Liberia” 333 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 2006

Sausalito Arts Festival, Sausalito, CA 2006- 1st Place Mixed Media

Coconut Grove Art Festival, Coconut Grove, FL 2006

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Contemporary Arts and Crafts, New Orleans, LA 2006

From Louis XIV to Louis Armstrong: A Cultural Tapestry, The Historic New Orleans Collection, New Orleans 2006

The Darkroom, New Orleans Center for Photographic Arts, New Orleans, LA 2005

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Contemporary Arts and Crafts, New Orleans, LA 2005

"La Louisiane, del la colonie franciais a l’Etat américain", Mona Bismark Foundation, Paris 2006

Haiti Cherie: 200 Years of Independence, Alliance Francaise, New Orleans, LA 2005

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2004, Contemporary Arts and Crafts. Best Display

Haiti Cherie: 200 Years of Haitian Independence, Alliance Francaise, New Orleans, LA 2004

Galerie Laurent Herschtritt, Paris, France. 2003

“L’ame Creole: Visages de la Nouvelle-Orleans et Haiti” Alliance Francaise, Paris, France. 2003

“Remembrance,” A Memorial of the 911 Anniversary - Pan American Life Building, New Orleans, LA 2002

“A Moveable Feast: The Essence of New Orleans in Elements of Art & Architecture,”
International House, New Orleans, LA 2002

"Fresh Art" New Orleans Arts Council 2001

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2001 Louisiana Marketplace

"Exploring Assemblage in New Orleans," Barrister's Gallery, New Orleans, LA 2000

Group Show: "Friends of Haiti," Barrister's Gallery, New Orleans, LA 2000

"Haiti Cherie" Haitian Association for Human Development, New Orleans, LA 2000

"Love and Death in Louisiana": New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Grandstand, New Orleans, LA 2000

Kentuck Festival of the Arts, Northport, Alabama. 1999

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 1999 Contemporary Crafts 1999: Best Display Award

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Louisiana Marketplace 1998

"Native Visions," Galerie Royal, New Orleans, LA 1998

Folk Arts of Louisiana, Festival International, Lafayette, LA 1998

"A View From New Orleans," L'Atelier Piroska, New Orleans, LA 1997

"You See What I Say," University of Alablama, State Black Archives; Huntsville, AL 1997

"The Mardi Gras Indians," Mardi Gras Museum, Gallstone TX 1997

"The Power of the Needle and Thread," New Orleans Center, New Orleans 1995

"You See What I Say," La Belle Gallerie; New Orleans, LA 1995

"New Orleans Views," Sheraton Hotel, Atrium Gallery, New Orleans, LA 1994

"Jazz Fest and Heritage," Indigo Nights, New Orleans, LA 1994

"Local Scenes," City Hall, New Orleans, LA * Group Show: The Center for Creative Photography
San Juan Capistrano, CA 1985

"Mardi Gras Indians," Tilden Foley Gallery, New Orleans, LA 1981

"Architecture for People: A Social Message," Lyceum Theatre, San Diego, CA

"Wine History of the Santa Cruz Mountains," The Octagon, Santa Cruz County Historical Museum, Santa Cruz, CA 1980

"Creoles of Color: A Vanishing Louisiana Legacy," Merrill College, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 1980

Group Show, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, CA 1980

Group Show, Gallery of Contemporary Photography - Laguna Beach, CA 1980

Light Works, Studio Gallery - Santa Ana, CA 1980

Photos of Christopher Porché West - A Studio On Desire (6)

  • porche_west by peter.clark
  • Christopher Porche West by cecily7
  • Christopher Porche West, working on a new piece by cecily7
  • Jazz Fest 2010-48 by Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans
  • Jazz Fest 2010-49 by Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans
  • Jazz Fest 2010-50 by Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans
 

Christopher Porché West - A Studio On Desire's favorite photos from other Flickr members (3)

  • Palo Mayombe (Guantánamo) by palomonte
  • Me & Jane Arrigo; 1968 by Harold Gee
  • tuba fats april 03 by kefuoe
 

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Name:
Christopher Porché West
Joined:
November 2006
Hometown:
New Orleans
Currently:
New Orleans, Louisiana
I am:
Male and Single
Occupation:
Artist
Website:
A Studio On Desire
Email:
porchewest [at] earthlink.net
Yahoo! IM:
pwdersu