For me, a week without classes and a 450-mile drive home can only mean one thing: antique show. This past weekend, my mom and I continued the tradition and went to one of my favorite shows at a local high school. Sadly, the show has dwindled over the years…a sign of the times, I suppose. At the same time, however, it’s been easy to tell which dealers are in it for the long haul. For the past seven years or so, I’ve seen several of them set up temporary shop in the same booth spaces. It’s comforting; exciting too, as these dealers always peddle something different. This year, I fell in love with an emerald ring at the very first booth. The dealer selling it was (and always has been) a thin, tough older woman with a tall beehive hairdo. With limited funds, I just couldn’t jump on the ring. I had to see everything in the show first. Well, as the saying “you snooze, you lose” goes, I snoozed and lost. Happens all the time. Luckily, I didn’t snooze on my next find.
I moved a few booths down to another regular dealer. No matter where this woman goes, she dresses in dark, heavy Victorian garb, her face masked by an overbearing hat. At her booth, I saw two framed photographs propped against an overturned milk crate. I picked them up. I liked them. I put them down, only to pick them up again. I had to have them.
Beneath the first photo was the handwritten title “Lacy Balconies, Royal St.” The other photo was called “Pirate Alley.” In the bottom right corner of each was the signature “E. Delcroix, N.O. LA.”
Eugene A. Delcroix (often mistaken for “Delacroix”) was born in New Orleans in 1891. Delcroix photographed scenes from the French Quarter and Louisiana swamps. Tourists bought his art photographs as souvenirs. Despite the common market for his photographs, Delcroix was internationally known. Considered “a master of composition and light,” Delcroix exhibited his work in Tokyo and London. In 1938, he and Stanley Clisby Arthur wrote Patios, Stairways and Iron Lace Balconies of Old New Orleans. That same year, a portfolio of his work appeared in the April edition of Pencil Points magazine. Delcroix also served as president and judge of the Orleans Camera Club. He died on April 10, 1967. Today, several examples of Eugene Delcroix’s work can be accessed in the Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana Digital Library.
My photographs bear the classic characteristic of Delcroix’s work: soft focus. This effect was common among many pictorialists. As a result, the images appear romantic, dream-like, and painterly; trumping the concept of photography as mere documentation. I’m guessing these gelatin-silver prints were made around 1920.
Who knew that I’d drive home to buy souvenirs from New Orleans?