I photographed the 100th anniversary of the Zulu parade in 2009 while simultaneously working on another project. I never meant the material to turn into an exhibit, but I knew I had something special after I processed the black and white film from Mardi Gras morning.
A year later I made my goal of having a show hang in New Orleans during Mardi Gras a reality. I met with different galleries at the end of the summer showing an 11×14 silver gelatin set of fiber prints to various gallery owners/curators. I found a good match with the staff at the Darkroom and I committed myself to reprinting the set in 16×20 for a February show. They were particularly excited that I was still shooting film and using darkroom printing techniques.
The night the show opened we ended up having a moderate turnout due to a heated mayoral election, freezing temperatures and Mardi Gras had begun, not to mention the Super Bowl the following day. I sold a print the first night and many limited edition hand stitched books of the series that made the work more accessible beyond collectors. In Louisiana tradition we served Abita beer and two types of king cake. The weekend was a lot of fun and I learned a lot in the process of making a show happen. I owe a great deal of thanks to the my mom Susan, girlfriend Maria and the staff at the Darkroom, Charles, Danielle and Cameron, for their support, patience and energy.
Yesterday (Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010) the Zulu Krewe marched for the 101st time in their history and I’m sure it was a bonne Mardi Gras. Thanks to all the people involved with Zulu for their spirit and inspiring traditions.
‘Zulu at 100’ will hang at The Darkroom in New Orleans until April 1, 2010.
Ben Sklar, a Baton Rouge native, is a freelance photographer based in Austin, Texas specializing in editorial, documentary, and portrait photography.