Table of Contents

Louisiana Folklife: An Introduction

Louisiana Folklife: An Introduction, Nicholas R. Spitzer

Ethnicity, Region, Occupation and Family

Documenting Tradition

An Introduction to Media Documentation of Louisiana Folklife
The Vietnamese Documentary Project, Mark Sindler
Recording Louisiana Folk Music for Arhoolie Records, Chris Strachwitz

Folklife and Public Policy

Public Sector Attention to Folklife in the United States, Archie Green
Folklife and Public Policy In Louisiana
A Folklife Plan for the State of Louisiana, F. A. de Caro
Folklife and Education, C. Paige Gutierrez
Folklife and the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism
Office of Cultural Development: Division of the Arts, Louisiana Folklife Program, Division of Historic Preservation, Division of Archeology
Office of State Museum
Office of Tourism
Office of State Parks
Office of the State Library


1. Resources in Research, Preservation, and Presentation of Louisiana Folklife
2. Doctoral Dissertations/Masters Theses Relevant to Louisiana Folklife
3. Film and Video on Louisiana Folklife
4. Louisiana Folk Music on Sound Recordings
5. Louisiana Festivals -- Traditional and Otherwise
6. Louisiana State Documents Relevant to Folklife
7. Oral History and Folklife
8. Louisiana Folklife Legislation/Louisiana Folklife Commission
9. Louisiana Folklife Survey

An Introduction to Media Documentation of Louisiana Folklife

By Nicholas R. Spitzer

This essay originally appeared in Folklife in Louisiana: A Guide to the State published by the Office of Cultural Development in 1985. This essay is provided online courtesy of the editor since the publication is out of print.


Media documentation is a key tool in the contemporary preservation and encouragement of folk cultural communities and practices worldwide, and its role in relation to Louisiana folklife is equally important. The joining of media formats with folk cultural documentation and presentation is, however, a major undertaking and not without its attendant difficulties. Folklorist Roger Welsch commented on the problems of uniting media techniques with folk culture documentation after his tenure on the Folk Arts Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The agony has been that just as there are many filmmakers who assume that there is nothing to being a folklorist, there are many folklorists who assume that making a film involves only pulling a trigger of a camera. The consequences range from 'talking heads' (films that should be audio tapes) to Zoomer's Syndrome-a vertigo that is induced by viewing films in which the cameraman has gone berserk with a zoom lens and constantly moves in and out, never at rest, never at peace. (1982:112)

On the one hand, this problem has been caused by folklorists and anthropologists who viewed media documents only as supplements to their written research data and as material for archives. Thus, such scholars often lacked the understanding of artistic or documentary excellence in film and video. Though anthropologists and folklorists such as Margaret Mead and Alan Lomax,1 among others, provide important exceptions, as a whole the purely academic approach to documentary media centered on preserving and interpreting traditional arts and cultures as data. Thus, scholars sometimes focus on getting "all" of a performer or process, be it blues singing or basket making, with less regard for how well it would fare before an audience. Similarly those in anthropological photography have used the camera as a "research method," rather than a. creative documentary tool (Collier, 1967). This approach has its values, however, a scholar who offers films, sound recordings and photographic series for public viewing must refine the image selection, provide interpretive comments, and generally improve production values. By presenting media-conscious folk documentary works to general audiences, the folklorist-anthropologist as producer therefore takes steps to encourage wider understanding of a folk culture or folk process.

On the other side of the media documentation "problem," media specialists have rarely understood the process or desirability of making folk cultural materials into refined media documents with appeal to the subject community, folklorists-anthropologists and a larger viewing public. Thus, the other part of the folk documentary question lies with those media artists and technicians who are concerned primarily with developing a polished and entertaining product and not the way in which the work relates to the cultural values and realities of a community. As Carl Heider has commented in his useful book Ethnographic Film, "A 'come-in-shooting-and-get-out fast' approach and an intuitive-aesthetic appreciation of behavior and people ... while they may well result in beautiful films . . . must be ethnographically shallow" (1976,6). The modern media, by their very nature, emphasize the quick production of images that tend to distort local meanings. Heider goes on to define "ethnographic film" by first defining "ethnography" as .. away of making a long term observation study on the spot" (ibid.) Thus, an ethnographic film or any other sort of in-depth media document sensitive to folk culture would involve this sort of research base as well as personal rapport between media producer and subjects that arises from the type of research depth and longevity of contact associated with anthropology and folklore fieldworkers. In marked contrast to the ethnographic approach, one Louisiana filmmaker preparing to shoot his first film on Cajuns remarked, "Though I don't know a Cajun family now, I'll go down there on weekends and really get to know them and the culture." On the other hand, in a recent video documentary on New Orleans piano traditions, the producer found that it took two and a half years to really get to know and work with his subjects. The result was a much deeper portrait of the artists, with cultural understanding implicit in the finished product.

There is a certain inevitability-and, in some cases desirability-that news and public affairs crews will give traditional culture "airtime" in presenting folk speech (Anglo accents, Cajun French), music (blues, gospel. Cajun music) and events (quilting bees, fais-do-do's, river baptisms). Nonetheless, producers of such programming must respect the subjects' right to privacy. People in some communities simply do not want themselves on the broadcast media, nor certain practices documented. When they are willingly portrayed, they deserve some degree of accuracy and thoroughness. On this latter point, Heider advises that ethnographic media should relate ". . . specific observed behavior to cultural norms" (ibid). Thus, when TV news presents the quaint old man by the bayou, they should show his work or lifestyle in a larger community context. Sometimes when a community's traditions have largely one plays the fiddle or lives in a log house anymore-the basic image is too often one of saccharine condescension rather than an interest in a particular older person's reliance on the arts or knowledge of an earlier era. One classic example of the failure of media producers to relate behavior to cultural norms is a production called "The Good Times are Killing Me" (1976). in which a video crew portrays Cajun culture through the private realm of obscene jokes told in an intimate {until the microphone and camera showed up) circle of women in a beauty parlor. The program also revealed its insensitivity to and lack of understanding of the larger cultural setting by suggesting that the chaos and wild behavior of Cajun Mardi Gras stood for the society as a whole.

Another principle of ethnographic media is what Heider calls "wholism," the showing of "whole bodies," "whole acts," and "whole people." For example, frame the complete body of someone dancing a buck and wing or show the complete sequence of a house visit in a rural Mardi Gras. Of course, the "talking head" approach to an interview can also be used effectively, or a complete sequence of a Mardi Gras event might require a creative reconstruction of several different sequences. However, the "spirit" of wholeness should be a counter to the tendency in the media to distort time, romanticize meaning, and focus only on the "beautiful."

The ideals, then, of documenting folk culture are to present "whole" people, acts, bodies or events in relation to cultural norms in a truthful way that will appeal to the subjects documented as well as to larger audiences-all the while maintaining professional production values. Meeting such standards, especially in film and video, is only possible if a great deal of time and cooperation are involved. Thus, a creative ethnographic media production usually involves the collaboration of someone very knowledgeable about the folk group or pertinent activities and a media specialist willing to understand the researcher's insight into the subject and capable of translating that into a professional booking and sounding finished product. A film or photo series that seeks straight forwardly to preserve a particular cultural process, such as making a dugout pirogue, might require less in the way of media production values, since it would be primarily for archival use or in a training setting. However, a broad overview film on musical style or a regional culture-intended to educate the outsider and make the locals more conscious of their heritage in a positive way-would require greater sophistication in editing, telling a "story," and holding an audience. Thus, an assessment of audiences from the most traditional local groups to national educational television audiences must be made. Because of the great costs of broadcast media production and the potential impact of such work in enhancing or degrading a cultural group, planning and thought are imperative in order to strike an appropriate balance between the aesthetic demands of the medium and a sensitivity to the cultural values of the subjects.

One of the more interesting perspectives on traditional culture in the media involves the situation in which members of the folk community themselves master the skills of the media form- for example, the Cajun French radio shows of the southwest prairies, the gospel sermons broadcast from a black Baptist church in Baton Rouge, or a hillbilly music radio jamboree in north Louisiana's Caldwell Parish. One anthropologist, Sol Worth, actually provided Navajo Indians with movie cameras to make films on subjects that interested them, ranging from sheep to sacred land. This is an extreme example involving an outside person deliberately giving a technology to a people in order to learn more about how they think. In Louisiana, photographer Mark Sindler carried out a project of more immediate benefit, showing Vietnamese men whom he was photographing how to use a-still camera and thus learn a potentially very useful skill. More commonly, people in folk communities use cameras every day to document their kin folk, their joys, and their sorrows. In French Louisiana, for example, photos of weddings and funerals are sometimes placed on a home altar. Women of households, generally charged with inculcating values of home life, are often the picture takers. Thus, a media technology and tradition can interact at a grassroots level to enhance local culture.


The medium of photography has always been important in researching, understanding and preserving folk culture. The technology is relatively simple and inexpensive, and it has been around for some time. Our society has a long tradition of people photographing people, which adds to the ease of camera acceptance in many field situations.

Four young African American boys standing outside their home, ca 1890. Photograph: George Mugnier. Louisiana State Museum.

Some of the earliest significant photography of folk cultures and peoples in Louisiana and elsewhere was done by professional photographers who made family and other portraits for a fee or travelled the countryside to create images to sell to the general public. George F. Mugnier (ca. 1857-1938) was especially adept at the latter, and today we are indebted to him for remarkable photographs of urban New Orleans and rural Louisiana at the turn of the century, including such items of special import to folk culture as dock workers, lumber camps and black folk house types. The full ethnographic importance of Mugnier's work cannot be evaluated until more of his photographs, located in a New York collection, are further examined and disseminated (personal communication, Stephen Duplantier). However, one published collection that utilized glass-plate negatives from the Louisiana State Museum's holdings is a useful beginning (1975).

Another early commercial photographer, recently recognized with the discovery of a large collection of glass negative plates in a barn near Hammond, was A. L. Blush. His photographs of people and places in the vicinity of the northern Florida Parishes were the subject of an excellent exhibit put together in 1982 by Joy Jackson of SLU's Center for Regional Studies, The Piney Woods People. Those researching Anglo-American folk music will especially be interested in the print here of a string band from the Hammond vicinity.

An exhibit similar to this, but focusing on the changing role of women in twentieth-century Louisiana, was assembled by Vaughn Baker at the USL Center for Louisiana Studies in 1980. The photographer, Eli Barnett, was more of a studio-based practitioner than Blush, but the types of rites de passage he recorded simply as a matter of business at his Crowley studio are a remarkable document of the people and the era.

Certainly one of the most widely known of the early commercial photographers in Louisiana was Eugene J. Bellocq (1873-1949). His portraits of New Orleans women of the night in Storyville have largely served to define our perceptions of the pre-Twenties era of legalized prostitution in the city (1970). For a complete overview of mid-nineteenth-century photography in New Orleans see Photography in New Orleans: The Early Years 1864-1865 (Denton and Tucker, 1982).

Houma Indians in Terrebonne Parish in the late thirties. Photograph: Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Watson Library, Cammie G. Henry Research Center, Caroline Dorman Collection.

The only early photographers who could be called "ethnographic" were John R. Swanton and David I. Bushnell. Their remarkable pictures of Louisiana Indians made under the auspices of the Bureau of American Ethnology between 1907-1916 are held at the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives. These pictures, some quite artfully done, others very staid images, still serve as a baseline for modern interest in the survival of Indian culture in the state (see essays by Gregory and deCaro\ this volume). Later, in the thirties, Indian photographs of note were also made by naturalist Caroline Dorman. The prints made by Dorman are now in the archives at NSU's Watson Library.

Another early "crusader with a camera" (Peterson. 1980) was nationally known photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston, who, while photographing New Orleans architecture during the twenties, also made images of people at their everyday activities in the streets. During this period New Orleans businessman, C. L. Franck also made photographs of people at work and play, including his portraits of Italian fruit vendors and Mardi Gras revelers. Examples of the work of both of these photographers can be found in the Historic New Orleans Collection. The largest body of Johnston's original prints are in the Library of Congress.

A major collection of early twentieth century photographs that has yet to be fully assessed is housed in the Louisiana Department of Agriculture. Between 1910 and the mid-Twenties, the U.S. Department of Agriculture carried out agricultural studies in the Delta region of northeast Louisiana. Based at an experiment station in Tallulah, the USDA research focused on the cotton crop. Although a large number of the project's photographs were made of experiments, crop-dusting equipment and numbered signs, there are also some striking images ol' black laborers, white crop dusters, folk architecture, farmsteads and country life. Of the nearly 7,000 glass negatives made by the hired photographers, 2,500 have been proof-printed. Not yet located is an associated film made during this period, which documented the entire project and included some footage on the folk culture of the black field hands. Given that northeast Louisiana's folklife has had relatively little attention to date, these negatives and the film (if found) may prove essential to understanding the evolution of folk culture in the Delta region.

St. Joseph altar in New Orleans, ca. 1941. Photo: Erol Barkemeyer, Louisiana State Library, WPA Collection.

Until recently, the most prolific period for documentary photography of folk culture in Louisiana was 1935-1943. During this time a nationwide Depression-era photographic project was undertaken by the U. S. Farm Security Administration (FSA) and. later, the Office of War Information. Often mistakenly called the WPA photographs, this remarkable photo collection project documented life throughout the country, particularly in rural farm and urban industrial settings. In the process, an unparalleled range of American folk culture was recorded by the cameras of many who later became well known as artists and photographers.2 Among the persons who came to Louisiana as a result of the FSA photo project were Russell Lee. Ben Shahn, Marion Post Wolcott, Dorothea Lange, Jack Delano, John Vachon, Carl Mydans and Arthur Rothstein.

Russell Lee's images included the earliest known photographs of Creole zydeco musicians, as well as people at Cajun dancehalls. He photographed Italian strawberry pickers at work and play near Hammond, sugar cane workers in Iberia Parish, Slavonian fishermen in Plaquemines Parish, urban scenes from New Orleans, and rural people involved in an FSA resettlement project at Transylvania, East Carroll Parish. Lee's south Louisiana photographs have added greatly to the historical understanding of Cajun culture in books, on record LP covers, and in exhibits.

The other major body of photographic work in Louisiana by the FSA was carried out by Marion Post Wolcott, one of the lesser known but very able photographers in the project. In particular, Wolcott photographed Isleno trappers and fishermen from the Delacroix Island community in St. Bernard Parish. Her many sequences of muskrat trapping, skinning, drying, and selling provide a complete documentation of this folk industry and the Spanish culture in the Thirties. Recently, these photographs have aided researchers seeking to rediscover and disseminate the Isleno heritage. Wolcott's work in rural north Louisiana, especially in the Natchitoches and Melrose area, was also significant in portraying Creoles of color, as well as rural blacks and whites. Like Russell Lee, she worked on the Transylvania Project.

Better known nationally than Lee and Wolcott, but playing a lesser role in Louisiana, were Dorothea Lange and Ben Shahn. Lange seems primarily to have made portraits of people in the New Orleans area with some images from north Louisiana, while Shahn made photographs of trappers in Plaquemines Parish.

The complete FSA photograph collection is housed in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress (see Appendix I for a more thorough description of this photographic resource). Images can be ordered at a nominal cost by negative number for use in exhibits and publications. To the present, they are an invaluable tool in folklife research nationwide. For example, for fieldwork in communities where FSA photographers took pictures, individuals and places in the photographs can serve as a starting point for oral history and for discussion of the culture today. These prints, when delivered back to the communities in which they were made, also establish the fieldworker as the positive link between the folk community and their own cultural resources.

In addition to the original prints at the Library of Congress, copy prints can also be located in sizeable numbers in Louisiana at the State Museum, the State Library, the Center for Louisiana Studies (USL) and the Historic New Orleans Collection. Beyond the collected photographs themselves, the style in which they were made-usually a quiet intensity of subject with high contrast-produced a stark image of America in a period of economic decay and social bleakness. This photographic aesthetic and its underlying messages have influenced the style of photo-documenting folk culture to the present.

Also important in this period are photographs made by LSU cultural geographer Lauren Post. Many of his pictures of people, landscapes, musicians, dance halls, work, Mardi Gras, etc., are found in the book Cajun Sketches from the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana (1962) (see also F. A. de Caro's article in this volume for more on Post). A lesser-known set of photographers during the late Thirties and early Forties whose work paralleled that of the FSA in Louisiana provided images to accompany the Federal Writers Project books, the New Orleans City Guide (1938), State Guide (1941) and Gumbo Ya-Ya (1945). A complete study of these persons is yet to be made, but clearly their work, some credited and much anonymous, is very worthwhile to folk cultural documentation and presentation. In this regard, see especially the photos in Gumbo Ya-Ya for samples of the work of Victor Harlow, as well as prints from City Guide photographer, Erol Barkmeyer.

In 1943, the head of the Farm Security Administration photographic project, Roy Emerson Stryker, joined the staff of Standard Oil of New Jersey to lead a photo documentary survey of the company's employees and work sites worldwide. Although this tended to restrict the subject matter on comparison to the FSA work he had overseen, the project produced some very striking images of Louisiana oilfield life. There are numerous shots of Baton Rouge, rural communities, and. most of all, people at work in the petrochemical industry and surrounding locales. The full range of images and their utility in documenting Louisiana cultures has yet to be assessed, but the collection, containing 15,000 photographs from Louisiana alone, is kept at the University of Louisville (Lemann, 1983).

Major individual photographers of Louisiana folk culture in the Forties and Fifties were Elemore Morgan and Fonville Winans.

Elemore Morgan (1903-1966) lived in Baton Rouge and travelled throughout the state from 1951 to 1961, making photographs for the early issues of Forests and People, published by the Louisiana Forestry Association. He recorded a good deal of folk tradition in the timber industry and the piney woods area of Louisiana. However, his major works, The Lower Mississippi Valley (1963) and The Face of Louisiana (1969), are more broadly based in their scope than the forestry series. In addition to the requisite plantations and bayou landscapes, they include shots of parish fairs, Chitimacha Indians, split rail fences, goat barbecues, graveyard scrapings and Cajun housewives. Perhaps his most interesting photographic collection from a folklife point of view is found in All This is Louisiana (1950). Accompanied by a highly romanticized and very dated text written by Frances Parkison Keyes, the photographs range from an Italian Saint Amico procession in Donaldsonville to black Baptist rituals surrounding the "Wise and Foolish Virgins" in St. Mary Parish. Morgan's photos are also found in cultural geographer Fred Kniffen's book Louisiana, Us Land and People (1968). Proof prints of Morgan's photos can be found at the State Library. Elemore Morgan. Jr., an excellent photographer in his own right (see below), curates and prints from his father's negative files.

Photo: Filipino family playing cards in their home in Manila Village, Barataria, 1939. Photograph: Fonville Winans,

Winans, who is still quite active in his Baton Rouge studio, made invaluable prints of Slavonian oystermen at locations now destroyed by hurricanes, and at Filipino-Chinese offshore shrimp-drying platforms, such as Manila Village in Barataria Bay. These also no longer exist. He also made photographs at Angola, documenting work crews in action. Winans' work accompanied books by regional romantic writer Harnett Kane (1944) and most recently got a new viewing in journalist William Faulkner Rushton's book, The Cajuns (1979).

It would be wrong to pass over this period of quite literal and powerful documentary photography and not briefly mention Clarence John Laughlin of New Orleans. Laughlin whose work has recently been rediscovered in Louisiana through exhibits at the New Orleans Museum of Art and Tulane, is perhaps best known for his book Ghosts Along the Mississippi (1948). Where most documentary photography strives to maintain a certain objectivity-though it is apparent in the social statements of the FSA and other photographers that this need not be a sole consideration or a limitation-Laughlin purposefully tries to take the subjective photograph. Using special techniques of superimposition, symbolic posed figures, and reflections, he has attempted to enshrine for posterity an eternal, yet surreal, nineteenth-century Louisiana in his portraits of plantations graveyards and New Orleans building facades. In one of his penetrating articles about Laughlin, S. Frederick Starr has noted:

Laughlin's Louisiana is subjective, not objective. It can be felt imagined, dreamt, but not touched. It can neither be destroyed by wreckers nor saved by rehabilitation. It is at once more permanent and more fragile than madiers deboutz construction or briek-between-posts columbage. Its sole reality is in the mind of the beholder. (1980)

Although Laughlin cannot be considered a documenter of Louisiana folklife (given his posed non-folk subjects and his orientation to the landscape of the inner mind), he projects such a strong sense of place that his work cannot be overlooked by those concerned with cultural tradition as a whole in the state.

It is not possible, or necessarily desirable, to cover all those who have wittingly or unwittingly used a camera to document folk traditions. Our focus here has been upon those who have assembled notable bodies of work in styles compatible with a contemporary interest in cultural awareness about folklife. Perhaps the first photographers to concern themselves strictly with Louisiana folk culture and its preservation through photographs were Smithsonian fieldworkers in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1960s, Ralph Rinzler and his friend Robert Yellin made field trips to Louisiana for the Newport Folk Festival and later the Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife. Yellin took photographs especially of Cajun and Creole musicians such as Dewey Balfa, the Landreneau Brothers, and Bois-Sec Ardoin. He also photographed people butchering hogs, picking cotton, grinding corn and playing the blues.

In 1975, the Smithsonian Folklife Program made a nationwide effort to locate performers for the Bicentennial Festival of American Folklife in the following year. Fieldworkers for this project in Louisiana included the author and Barry Ancelet. Both were asked to work in French Louisiana, and the former made photographs of Cajun and Creole musicians and craftsmen, fishermen and farmers at work and other activities reflective of the cultural traditions of the region. He was also active in 1976 photographing black Creole musicians and zydeco dance halls under a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and, in 1979, in the lower Delta region on behalf of the Jean Lafitte National Park.

Barry Ancelet, who now heads the folklore and folklife program of USL's Center for Louisiana Studies, began working extensively with photographer and painter Elemore Morgan, Jr., at the time of the 1975 Smithsonian field project. Morgan, who is a faculty member of USL, started to document Cajun and Creole musicians as they played far from Louisiana at folk festivals as well as back home on farms, driving school buses, working at sawmills and eating dinner. His style of photography, though not strictly ethnographic, is oriented toward a portraiture that projects interest in the musicians as individual per-sonalities. The culmination of this collaboration of a Cajun folklorist and a photographer is the book, The Makers of Cajun Music, published in 1984. Accompanying the photos of the musicians are lengthy quotations about their lives, their music, and the culture as a whole. Those interested in the photographs of Elemore Morgan, Jr., and Sr., may view many of their prints in large format on the walls of the Dupre Library at USL assembled in 1976 for an exhibit called "Louisiane Bien-Aimee."

Willie Mae Young and family working on a cornshuck chair seat near Jackson, LA, 1 980. Photograph: Rosan Jordan.

Other folklorists in the state, such as Susan Roach, working in north Louisiana, and Rosan Jordan of LSU, have used the camera extensively as a documentary tool in carrying art fieldwork with crafts makers. In recent years a cadre of young professional photographers has turned to Louisiana folk culture to produce an artistically and ethnographically impressive body of work. In so doing they have often become as intimately acquainted with the cultural phenomena they are documenting-and in some cases more so than anthropologists and folklorists. No person better exemplifies the close work with and commitment to a traditional community than Michael P. Smith of New Orleans. Smith, who began intensively photographing the Afro-American/Afro - Caribbean culture of the city in 1968, has used black-and-white prints and color slides to provide a definitive cross-section of activities from Spiritual Church possession trances and faith healing to social club marches, Mardi Gras Indian practice sessions and parades, jazz funerals, and the street life of the black community in general. Smith is a passionate advocate of the cultural richness of black New Orleans in the face of governmental, societal and cultural institutions that are ignorant of or insensitive to traditional community values or creativity. His comments on the nature of his photography, which he views as a community service rather than a personal art, are reflective of his clear sense of purpose.

My contact with the Spiritual Churches and Black Indians of New Orleans has brought me great inspiration. I found a poetic intelligence and profound cultural depth in the various religious and ethnic celebrations of these people-a complex retention of non-Western human awareness, a powerful and fascinating sensibility as insightful and emotionally fertile as any religious or artistic concept I've encountered. My awakening to the rich cultural ex-pressions and fellowships of the Afro-American community has given my work new direction.

The 1960's and 1970's were pivotal in the development of our nation. Great social, political, and media upheavals have occurred. Young people today rarely communicate in traditional ways, with language and consciousness familiar to the older generations. With these changes taking place, my photography has become more than individual self-expression. My work is intended to inspire a broader humanism, to show the richness and complexity of this period in the cultural history of New Orleans, and to further the rediscovery and protection of our invaluable cultural resources-the traditional fellowships which are so fundamental to the vitality of our human environment.

I've learned during these years that the streets of New Orleans are its cultural wetlands. Nearly all of New Orleans music and folklife are connected with and nourished by these unique religious traditions and public cultural celebrations. But great changes are taking place. Without help these tilings will die out. (n.d. 44-45)

Although Michael Smith does not have specific training as an anthropologist, he has stayed in the "field" for the last fifteen years to work with this complex community. The results are greater cultural depth and breadth of documentary understanding for a particular group through photographs than any other Louisiana photographer has achieved at this time.

Perhaps most like Smith in his ability to capture the pristine moment of a ritual and the complex survival of folk tradition in modern society is Mark Sindler. Sindler, who has a background in anthropology and journalism, has spent several years working and living with Indochinese in New Orleans. His black-and-white photographs reflect the friendship and rapport he established initially with Vietnamese in south Louisiana- especially in the New Orleans East apartment complexes where many reside-and later Laotians, Cambodians and other Indochinese immigrants. To those who assert that to work with Vietnamese culture is to spend time on something that is not truly a part of Louisiana folklife, one must ask what we would give now for equally comprehensive documentation of nineteenth -century immigrant groups such as Italians, Irish, and Germans, not to mention those of the colonial-slavery period. A more in-depth look at Sindler's work is provided in his own words in the short essay that follows this one.

Josie Procell and family, Sabine Parish. Photograph: Don Sepulvado.

Other practicing photographers who concentrate on folklife are Philip Gould, Don Sepuivado, Debbie Fleming Caffery and Greg Bowman. Gould, with a background in photojournalism, has photographed Cajun traditional culture for a number of years. His book and exhibit with bilingual captions and comments, Les Cadiens d' Asteur-Today's Cajuns (1980), is already a regional classic which has been a source of pride to many in French-speaking Louisiana. Don Sepulvado, from a north Louisiana Anglo-Hispanic family and based at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, has worked quietly for a number of years with anthropologists H. F. Gregory and the Natchitoches Folk Festival. He has widely photographed folk culture in north Louisiana, including black bluesmen, Tunica and Choctaw Indians, Anglo log-cabin dwellers, and Spanish curenderas. The latter are from the old Spanish communities in Sabine Parish.

Debbie Fleming Caffrey lives in Franklin, St. Mary Parish, where she has photographed sugar cane laborers for over a decade. Because many of her shots follow individuals over this time, she has been able to compile an intimate record of their work and lives. Some examples of her work are in the Louisiana State Museum collection (personal communication, Mary Louise Tucker).

Greg Bowman, perhaps least known of all to the public (by choice), has made insightful and warm photographs in color and black and white of the Houma Indians, with whom, as a Mennonite Church volunteer and researcher, he worked for federal tribal recognition for several years.

The above commentary on photography and photographers, concerned historically and in the present day with Louisiana folklife, is not meant to be exhaustive. Indeed, there are excellent photographers in Louisiana such as Stephanie Dinkins and C. C. Lockwood who devote only a portion of their work to folk cultural documentation, and many fine images have been made by persons who are simply in the right place at the right time. The ubiquity of the 35-mm single-lens-reflex camera (SLR) has made it possible for people to document and interpret all forms of the life around them. Sometimes this is annoying and an invasion of privacy. When thirty shutters click in mechanical syncopation as the head of a pig is severed at the Grande boucherie des Cajuns in St. Martinville, it is amusing to hear an older Cajun wryly remark "Ca c'est un media event!" However, the more disturbing image is of a cluster of photographers atop a crumbling brick burial vault in New Orleans trying to get an angle on a jazz funeral. The living standing disrespectfully on the dead to photograph a traditional way of death is far from an ideal situation. Unfortunately it reflects the intrusive quality associated with much photography and the media in general. Folklorist Barry Ancelet recalls that at a recent Mamou Mardi Gras the masked men on horseback felt so harassed at one point that they kicked at and cajoled the would-be ethnographer-photographers (personal communication). Thus, while it is relatively easy in Louisiana to snap away at the many public ritual and festival occasions, the value of such trigger-happy image making is sometimes dubious from the points of view of ethnic as well as folk-cultural documentation and preservation.

The ethics of folklife photography and media documentation in general are not simple. In many cases members of rural folk communities and enclaved urban people are quite honored to have the attention of someone from outside the community. As such, they are willing to be documented. Yet they may not fully understand until it is too late the implications of their picture used in a book, slide show, an exhibit or on page one of a newspaper. Thus, the folklife photographer needs to be a cultural advocate who carefully selects his images to represent the group well and to portray individuals who will not be affected adversely by the attendant publicity that may result. Clearly the photographer who has spent time with a folk community and made friends is also one more likely to know what is significant culturally and what sort of public image-making might be offensive or inaccurate. This sort of approach contrasts with the “quick and dirty” photojournalism that sometimes is found in even the most prestigious magazines and newspapers in the state or the nation.

Photography is one of the greatest tools that folklife doucmentors have. Unlike the broadcast media, it produces an artifact that can be handed to the subject. The photograph has the potential to become part of an individual’s positive reflection on his culture and traditions. There are many cases where finely taken and printed photographs are placed in positions of honor in the most humble shotgun house of a cane worker or in a fisherman’s levee-side mobile home, because the photographer who visited cared enough to provide a print. One special approach fieldworkers and photographers in general can also use is to carry a Polaroid-type camera. This way the photographer can provide an instant image in addition to carrying away a negative which must be refined later into a print. Obviously, for archival and public presentation purposes the negatives and prints from the more sophisticated process are needed, but to keep the relationship between photographer and “subjects-folk communities-friends” in focus, the instant print can be invaluable.

Finally for anthropologists, folklorists and other fieldworkers who are not primarily photographers, the camera can still be a great asset in fieldwork for assembling kinship charts or remembering time sequences on crafts processes by way of contact sheets. Cameras are relatively unobtrusive compared to other recording devices and, as pointed out initially, are items of technology that folk communities have come to use themselves.

Thus, the fieldworker can aid the folk informant by taking and providing family pictures and other images of significance. In so doing one gains access to a community, learns what and who are significant and how significance is presented visually.

Fortunately, we have a goodly number of photographers in our state who have consciously and unconsciously adhered to some of the principles outlined here. As such we have a strong tradition of photo documentation of folk culture as exemplified in collections assembled at the State Library, the State Museum, The Historic New Orleans Collection, the Jefferson Parish Library and the Morgan City Library, as well as in the archives of UNO, USL, SLU, NSU, Tulane and LSU.

Records and the Radio

It is not necessary here to give extensive coverage to records and radio as documentary media because Stephen Tucker's article later in this section covers these areas. However, because he concentrates largely on the historic evolution of the commercial process of such documentation of folk music, a few comments are in order.

Revon Reed's radio show broadcasting live Cajun music from Fred's Lounge in Mamou in 1966. Photograph: Robert Yellin. Smithsonian Institution.

Like photographs, records allow traditional behavior to be recorded and rendered in an artifact form; that is, one can take music and/ other sounds and put them on a record to create a lasting presence for what would otherwise be ephemeral. This process and the resultant product have profound implications for oral cultures. The most elaborate creations of oral folk cultures are often those that have dimensions of sight and sound, but lack of permanent physical presence found in "high" culture -like a cathedral, a painting, a book, or a symphony hall. The sound recording documenters, in giving material shape to performing traditions of a folk group, play a special role in validating folk culture. The historians, who traditionally rely exclusively on documents, the archaeologists who focus only on artifacts, or the students of literature, who limit themselves to written texts, often consciously or unconsciously subscribe to the notion that the creative processes of cultures in general are less valid as expression than the material products of specific major civilizations. Admittedly these attitudes are not held by all researchers; and there are very important cultural, aesthetic, and philosophical messages encoded into man's material culture products. However, much traditional culture that is performed is still reckoned by the standards of elite and popular material creations as less "good"3 What an LP of traditional music can do (with a cover photograph, liner notes, text and tune transcriptions) is to provide a documentary artifact on behalf of an oral culture.

Initially national record companies sold folk music back to the folk communities in the Twenties and Thirties because it would sell. In seeking broader markets the companies often altered and eventually ignored the folk traditions to serve their commercial interests. In the last twenty years, however, concerned record companies and cultural documenters have in a small way reversed the mass culture trends by reissuing the finest of the early commercial folk recordings. Even more significant to the cultural "survivors" of today, such companies have also recorded contemporary traditional music in Louisiana from Cajun to Creole and blues to hillbilly. Records, which sold steadily to even poor rural communities at the depth of the Depression, still have great appeal in traditional communities and households as tangible representatives and reproductions of traditional verbal and musical arts.

Like photography, field recording to make records requires a good knowledge of the culture and individual performers to select suitable times, places, and performances to record as well as to work effectively with the musicians. The most sophisticated recording studios and equipment that technology has to offer cannot make up for a nervous performance by an uncomfortable performer recorded by a person unfamiliar with hillbilly fiddle styles, Cajun vocal techniques and miking an accordion. At the same time, the culturally aware fieldworker also has the responsibility of mastering, within reason, the recording technology available. In so doing, he can give the traditional performance its best realization possible from both musical and audio quality standpoints.

Small, lightweight, high-quality cassette machines such as the recent Sony TCD-5-M are becoming increasingly available and less expensive. Thus the revolution in photographic equipment (putting documentary technology, unsophisticated as it may sometimes be in the hands of tradition bearers) should be, paralleled in recorded sound. The thought of a son listening to his father playing accordion on a Walkman is an impressive one. Already many traditional musicians record their own performances on cassette. For example, among Isleno décima singers in St. Bernard Parish, the author often has had to listen to an hour's worth of rough cassette tapes made by a singer, before he can request his own recording of songs for purposes of an LP. Like the placing of photographs on a home altar, the selection of tunes or narratives for a personal cassette tape by a traditional musician or storyteller can reveal folk aesthetic choices for a better understanding of tradition. More important, the recording technology gives traditional performers one more way of holding on to and passing on their art to the next generation.

Radio is often allied with records in any discussion of the media that traditionally have had great appeal within folk communities in Louisiana and the United States as a whole. As a broadcast medium, radio, like television, has a certain democracy to it in that it can reach everywhere. Anyone who can buy a radio or TV can have the programming-for better or worse. For better, from a folk cultural point of view, would be programming of traditional music. This began with live radio broadcasts, most often of hillbilly music, in the 1920's. In Louisiana the most famous of these was the old "Louisiana Hayride," which began in 1048 (see the essay by Tucker). Even today many local stations program folk culture on a commercial basic; for example, Cajun music shows are widespread in southwest Louisiana. Anyone interested in these programs should consult the media-oriented cultural tabloid of French Louisiana, Louisiane, or turn their AM car radios on when driving in the region.

Relative access to radio air time on the part of folk communicates can be quite telling. To continue the example of French Louisiana, the zydeco music of black Creoles was often thought of (by radio managers) as "too black sounding" to be played on the Cajun music shows. At the same time this music was also considered "too French" to be played on black stations featuring soul and gospel and other black popular musics. Yet for the past two years, with a resurgence of Creole identity and their increasing access to the media, there has been a zydeco heard regularly on KEUN-AM in Eunice, Louisiana. KJBC 770 AM in Lafayette is operated by black Creoles, and in addition to playing a good deal of black pop music, it plays zydeco and local rhythm and blues, and provides some news broadcasts in Creole.

In the last decade, noncommercial public radio stations have sprung up around the United States as part of the National Public Radio network (NPR). Sadly, in many places, these stations have been very neglectful of regional music and local traditional culture in their programming. They have often chosen instead to focus exclusively on classical music and national news. It is ironic, too, that these public radio stations often play traditional music from the southeastern mountains or the Mississippi Delta (often as played by revivalists rather than authentic performers) sent to them by the national network programmers, rather than accepting the local traditional styles. At some of the Louisiana NPR outlets the first lengthy and in-depth airing of Louisiana French Cajun and Creole music was not done until a program recorded locally by the network, "Bon Cher Camarade : Cajun and Creole Music of Southwest Louisiana," was circulated back to Louisiana from National Public Radio headquarters in Washington. Lately, however, there have been encouraging signs of the traditional music and culture of Louisiana returning to the airwaves. For example, KRVS-FM, the NPR station in Lafayette, is increasingly using knowledgeable local announcers to broadcast Cajun music. The excellent radio station WWOZ-FM in New Orleans, devoted to blues, old time jazz, and other traditional musics of Louisiana and the Gulf South, began broadcasting in 1980. Until then, no New Orleans station, NPR or commercial, was giving significant broadcast time to the musics that had made the city and the region world-famous.

Promotional card for Always for Pleasure. Photograph: Flower Films.

Use of radio for documenting and disseminating folk culture need not be limited to music programs. For example, Glenn Pitre of Cut Off in Lafourche Parish has used the high quality Nagra tape recorder to make field recordings of French storytellers for distribution to radio stations in south Louisiana. Unfortunately, north Louisiana radio stations, commercial and non-commercial , have not yet been as active in bringing traditional music and stories of the region to listeners. The exception would be some local barn dance jamborees aired live.

Radio technology, like that of the still camera, is relatively simple and inexpensive. Its cultural preservation effect in rebroadcasting traditional music and other aspects of culture is powerful and subtle, not to mention entertaining. It also allows local production and consumption of local culture to a large degree. As such, radio is a medium folk artists and folk culture advocates alike should utilize more often.

Film and Video

If photography, recordings and radio are inexpensive and often controllable by a single producer who is also the camera operator, sound recordist, or announcer, film and video works usually require large budgets, complex technology, and sizeable crews to produce broadcast or archival quality folk cultural documentation. Further, the dissemination of films and video programs on commercial or public television places a special burden on the documenter to determine what such a potentially large and uninitiated audience should see or could understand of folk traditions. There are parallels here to the commercial record industry in the alteration of traditional culture by commercial film and video productions. Louisiana folk culture has been represented in skewed ways in film productions, from the romantic, idyllic Evangeline (1929) with Dolores Del Rio (who. by the way, was the model for the statue on the town square in St. Martinville) to the violent, stereo typical Southern Comfort (1981), which was a sort of Cajun version of Deliverance. Because of the great costs involved as well as the over-centralization of the film and television industries of New York and Los Angeles, commercial productions of this type never have had the regional base or cultural understanding of the local record companies and radio stations. Where records and radio have been more likely to play to the local folk audience, film and TV have taken Louisiana culture, often in distorted form, to a vast national audience. Thus, one thinks of the shallow Hollywood version of Louisiana life and culture as portrayed in a James Bond film using New Orleans as a backdrop (Live and Let Die, 1973) or a television movie about Cajuns who speak English with fake European French accents and cruise along a Gulf Coast that looks oddly like the southern California shoreline (Dangerous Voyage, 1980). This is not to say that all commercial movies about Louisiana are bad. King Creole (1958) featuring Elvis Presley, aside from being shot in a dramatic style somewhat like cinema noir, showed a good deal of the French Quarter as it was in the Fifties-not overrun with tourists and replete with yelling street vendors plying their trade.

Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker document alligator skinning, Plaquemines Parish. Photo: Michael P. Smith. Copyright. The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Perhaps the best examples of a commercial film approach to Louisiana folk culture have been the locally produced works of Glen Pitre. Pitre is a Cajun from Cut Off with an Ivy League education. Beyond his previously mentioned radio work, he is primarily a filmmaker. His two major films to date, Yellow Fever (1979) and $8.50 a Barrel(1980) mingle oral history with reenactments of the events. The first deals with one family's situation in a turn-of-the-century epidemic on Bayou Lafourche. The second is a mixture of interviews and recreation of the 1948 shrimp strikes in the same region. Though Pitre's films have great popularity on lower Bayou Lafourche-since they were made locally, in French, and are acted by natives- they also have dimensions that transcend the filmmaker's interests in providing people with creative filmmaking about their own culture. This is especially true about the technically superior $8.50. The film presents two old men on the bayou, each telling about the shrimp strikes-one from the strikers' point of view and one from the strikebreakers' point of view. They disagree as to what happened and why, while their comments are intercut with the acting out of the historical situation by their descendants. Thus, the film is not just a documentary; it also calls upon people to recreate their own history-a history with conflicting interpretations. So this film, ostensibly about Cajun life on Lafourche in the late Thirties, also serves as an example of history as myth. It shows the questionable nature of absolute truth, as two elders tell different versions of it with confidence. In some respects Glen Pitre's films remind one more of the ethnographic fiction work Louisiana Story by Robert Flaherty than of cultural documentation. Pitre is candid about his goals: "I don't try to make films to study or document the Cajun lifestyle or culture, I make them to entertain people and make living as a filmmaker ... making movies about Cajuns for Cajuns has the effect of preserving the culture because it provides a new medium of expression that was not available before" (personal communication). In addition to planning a "Cajun Western" in the near future, Pitre is currently completing a documentary of French Louisiana work traditions called Travailler.

"'It's the song of Acadie!' she cried." A scene from Evangeline. United Artists.

The summary of films on Louisiana folk culture other than Pitre's should begin with further mention of the work of the late Robert Flaherty, the filmmaker best known for his epic works Nanook of the North(1922) and Man of Aran (1934). As Karl Heider has noted, "He tried to func-tion in a world of commercial film, but his films were too ethnographic for that, and his ethnography was too naive and self-invented to give him access to academia" (1976, 21). Robert Flaherty concluded his career with the sparkling photography, scored lyrical renditions of Cajun folk music, and "happy-ever-after" ending of Louisiana Story (1948). The film is still a classic and should be seen by all Louisianaians. Like Longfellow's Evangeline, it had (and has) great appeal to Cajun audiences, who flocked to the Abbeville premier of the film in Louisiana (see photo at the front of this section). While Louisiana Story's style has stood up well, its content is less durable. The impact of the oil industry on Cajun society for good and ill is obviously more complex than the plot of Louisiana Story The plot can be summarized as follows: Cajuns live happily in the swamp, hunting and fishing; oil company barge comes and creates havoc by drilling and causing explosions; after disrupting paradise, oil company's exploration appears doomed to failure; Cajun boy resorts to traditional magic to reverse the fortunes of the high technology; oil is successfully pumped and the well is capped; the company leaves and the Cajun family lives happily ever after on the oil lease dividends.

After Louisiana Story and the allied work. Pirogue Maker, a documentary of the boat craft tradition, there was not much of note made in film or video for some time on Louisiana traditional culture. The film/video listings provided later in this volume give summaries of all the items that could be located for this guide. Among these, and m any others not listed, are a number of travelogue-type films that basically show New Orleanians and Cajuns partying at Mardi Gras and at south Louisiana festivals. Most of these lack depth of cultural understanding or do not look at traditional folk culture. Tulane-educated filmmaker Les Blank began to reverse this trend in the late Sixties with his romantic but affectionate portraits of Cajun and Creole life in southwest Louisiana such as Spend It All (1970). Drywood (1973), and Hot Pepper (1973). Blank's films have been criticized by Cajun folklorist Barry Ancelet as "shallow" and part of a filmmaking style, ...done by young Americans who seemed to be seeking a sort of "paradise lost" and thought to have found it in French-Louisiana. (1978,886) However, these films remain useful and entertaining documents of great French folk musicians, some of them now departed. Further, his film about ie, often focus on traditional performances, but usually lack explanatory titles, intepretive narra-tion, or study guides.

Reacting to some degree to Les Blank's film style was Stephen Duplantier, a New Orleans filmmaker whose initial major works were about food. His films Gumbo: The Mysteries at Cajun and Creole Cooking (1978) and Vivre Pour Manger (1980), a French version of Gumbo, have been quite popular with locals. Probably because these films share some of Blank's romanticism rather than their usually stronger cultural understanding, they have met with a mixed reaction from outside critics. Duplantier, who has also made short films about Cajun musicians D. L. Menard and Don Montoucet, has recently completed Zydeco, a film in video about rural Creole music and culture, in association with the author.

Some of the best films on French Louisiana have been made by French-speaking filmmakers from Canada and France, though some non-Americans are also guilty of oversimplifying Cajun life into Utopian joie de vivre stereotypes. That is definitely not the case with the four half-hour films made for Radio Canada by filmmaker Andre Gladu of Montreal, as part of a larger series of twenty-seven programs on the music of French North America. Entitled Le Son des Cajuns (1978), Gladu's Louisiana films deal sequentially with music and bar life, work activities and love of the land, Creole music and the reawakening of interest in French traditions, all in the context of the culture of south Louisiana. Another filmmaker, Jean Pierre Bruneau of France, made Dedans Le Sud De La Louisiana (1973), an entertaining performance catalogue of well-and-lesser-known Cajun and Creole musicians.

Always for Pleasure (1978), is more successful than the earlier Cajun films as a folk cultural document. This is perhaps because Blank had lived in New Orleans and participated in the culture to a much greater degree than was possible for him in rural Cajun country. One problem uninitiated viewers have with Blank's works is that the films, perhaps the most ambitious folk cultural documentary works in the last few years, have been done in video. Video offers some special advantages over film for folklife documentation. For one thing, it is less expensive to shoot; thus one can reshoot scenes more readily. This is a great advantage where natural behavior is involved and there is a high ratio of footage needed to get a good take. Video also has simpler sound synchronization in the field setting. Most importantly it offers a "live" look that is excellent, especially for archival documentation of a crafts process. This "look" also promotes a kind of "you are there" feeling for the viewer. Some, however, associate this sort of impression with soap operas and sit-coms and assert that the "elegance" of film is more appropriate to cultural documentation. The biggest disadvantage of video is that high-quality editing equipment is hard to come by and very expensive in Louisiana. Film editing can be done at less expense and more equipment is generally available in Louisiana; film processing, though, is high. Video tape has the additional disadvantage of archival deterioration at a faster rate than film, though video discs can solve this problem if properly maintained. Many of the technical dif-ficulties of each medium are being resolved and advantages can shift in either direction depending upon one's orientation and needs. The overall fact remains that film and video are expensive and require crews of several technicians. Most problematic for ethnographic documentation, such media can be quite intrusive in their need for special lighting and cumbersome equipment as well as in their impact on normal behavior due to the mass media connotations of their products.

From recent Louisiana videographers, there has been good work by Stephenson Palfi, Eddie Kurtz and Andrew Kolker on This Cat Can Play Anything (1978) a documentary about jazz banjo player Emmanual Sayles, and Palfi's own more ambitious work on Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington, and Allen Toussaint, Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together (1982). Particularly in the latter work, Palfi has effectively interwoven documentation with entertainment and education. Piano Players is therefore an interesting combination of commercial sophistication and ethnographic reality (Spitzer, 1982).

Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker are also New Orleans-based videographers, and, like Palfi, they are not from New Orleans. As indicated above, some of Kolker's work was with Palfi. All three were part of the new New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC), which was something of a breeding ground for cultural documentors working in video during the Seventies. Alvarez and Kolker's major initial collaboration under the aegis of The Center for New American Media in New Orleans was the acclaimed Ends of the Earth (1982), a one-hour-plus (depending on the version) work about the political and cultural forces that have shaped Plaquemines Parish. To those interested in folk culture, the best footage here is undoubtedly that which deals with the Slavonian oystermen seen playing bocce which makes the viewer wish for a full work on this group. Alvarez and Kolker have also collaborated on a humorous short (seven-minute) work called alternately A New Orleans Lexicon and Yea You Rite, which focuses on the pronunciation and syntax of certain key words and phrases found in the unique dialect of the Crescent City. This video work, which will be expanded to a full thirty minutes, utilizes the philological commentary of folklorist George Reinecke to good effect. From a folklife documentation point of view, Alvarez and Kolker's most significant work is a thirty-minute video program about Isleno traditional culture in St. Bernard Parish entitled Mosquitos and High Water (La Mosca Yel Agna Alta), released in 1983.

Commercial television as a medium for folk culture has already been mentioned in large part at the outset. The high points are those programs that provide entertainment and edification for folk audiences interested in their own traditional culture. Perhaps the most widely known of such programs is the Cajun French show Passe Partout on KLFY-TV in Lafayette. Founded in 1955 with about 90 percent use of the French language and a devotion to music, news and weather in French, the program is currently about 40 percent in French (Bouillion. 1980). There have been a number of other shows on Lafayette television over the years such as "Aldus Roger and the Lafayette Playboys," "Marine" (with Happy Fats LeBlance), "Jambalaya", and the newest entry. "Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler" on KADN-TV. All are in a sense live documentaries of Cajun music in south Louisiana and an entertaining stimulus to continuation of the music tradition. Other commercial television programming in the state has at times included gospel music, old-time country, and traditional jazz. The addition of cable programming has made wider channel selection possible and. particularly in New Orleans, promises to open more opportunities for folk programming.

Some important programs have been produced by and aired on public television in Louisiana, especially WYES, Channel 12, in New Orleans. Independent of the state system, WYES has done important folklife documentation shows such as The Baratarians and Praise in His Name. On the WLPB network the most ambitious attempt at folk cultural programs was Louisiana Alive which aired in 1980 and 1981 and featured shows on Baton Rouge Blues, Creole storytellers and Cajun musicians, among others.4 Through its Lafayette affiliate, WLPB also does some French talk-show programming. However, it is important to note that programming in French, especially with an orientation toward European French culture, does not necessarily document, present, or encourage Louisiana French folklife or language. To the degree that such programs on public television or commercial outlets feature Cajun folk artists, cooks or community leaders, they are useful in cultural preservation.

The need for public television in Louisiana to have production crews working with individuals that are sensitive and knowledgeable about the cultures of the state cannot be overemphasized. Our cultures are too important and, in some cases, too fragile in their maintenance of tradition or self-image to have programming about them done poorly. In this regard, programming that is trite, patronizing, stereotypical, boring or poorly researched is really worse than that which has a high content and interpretive quality but is not technically perfect.

This brings us back to the classic trade-off of the qualities of production versus content. Ideally a balance should be struck between the art of media form and the depth of folklife content. The uninformed folklife documentary is better left unmade for the damage it can do. It is hoped that the information here and elsewhere in this guide will further the cause of aesthetically pleasing, ethnographically correct and socially sensitive media documentation of folk culture in Louisiana.


1. At this writing Alan Lomax is currently working on a series of six films about traditional culture in the United States. As part of this effort he has filmed New Orleans Afro-American community parades and rituals as well as Cajun and Creole music for one or more films in the series.

2. The W.P.A. or Work Projects Administration did include a Federal Arts Project which put local writers to work documenting history, art, folklife, etc. in the states. One product of this effort was the American Guide Series. This series contains many fine photographs (see for example the Louisiana: A Guide to the State, 1941). F. A. deCaro's article on the history of folklife research in the state mentions the W.P.A. writers.

3. This is not to say that one cannot or should not document folk artifacts by way of camera, that artifact study and preservation are not important when dealing with folk culture.

4. Since this writing, WLPB has produced significant programs on the Louisiana Hayride.


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