From Constellation Magazine Issue 3: The American South
What do I think about when I think about seasons in New Orleans?
Well, there’s too-hot-to-do-anything season, hurricane season, Mardi Gras season, and, of course, crawfish season.
Les Blank’s Always For Pleasure, a 1978 documentary about New Orleans traditions, features an interview with the cook at Frankie and Johnny’s, who outlines the proper way to dissect a crawfish: “You put it under your tongue with your teeth…you squeeze and pull out, then you suck the heads.”
This exceptionally visceral scene marked the beginning of my own fascination with crawfish culture. The crawfish boil functions as a return to the swamp: the murky water, the not knowing exactly what lies beneath the surface.
My friend, muse, and model for this shoot, Christ Moses, and I ventured outside the Crescent City to the banks of the Pearl River for a picnic built around the aforementioned crawfish—with a side of fresh Louisiana strawberries and Barq’s root beer.
I’m no crawfish expert, but I did have a perfectly worn-in vintage “Louisiana Mudbug” t-shirt for Christ to wear while I taught her the tricks of the crawfish trade that I’d learned from the Cajun cook. In the photographs, I sought to capture the specificity of the ritual, while also showcasing the almost prehistoric attributes of these strange, clawed creatures.
After our picnic, we ventured through the lush greenery and into the swamp. It’s an enchanting setting, with Spanish moss draped over the branches, cypress trees and their maze of roots, and overturned boats in the glimmering honey-hued water. I asked Christ to personify the swamp and its enigmatic beauty, like a Cajun Aphrodite. The deeper we went, the quieter it got. We shared the simultaneous fear and curiosity inherent in coming across a gator, gathered translucent snail shells, and basked in the glow of the dappled light shining through the flora. Thankfully, the alligators stayed at bay—and these photographs and memories are the fruits of our adventure. ★
A few days a year with my two Snow Queen's of Texas, my Texas Peach Pies, is all it takes to make everything feel right in the universe. No immediate responsibilities, adventuring, stolen afternoons by the lake, mezcal negronies and dancing to the blues at night.
Shooting more rolls of film than I have in months just capturing how these two beauties move through the world. One making jewelry and about to head West, the other running my favorite nudie mag, Peach Fuzz, opening a bakery AND getting married. Ellsworth Kelly's Austin, that we visited captured the kaleidescopic range of emotions thinking back to just a year ago when we met in Marfa and how far but also how close we've become in that time. Save a cold kiss for me till next time...
Joshua Tree with Rob in January. Driving to the Dollar Joint Ranch before it gets dark in the desert, listening to retellings of the Manson Family. Stopping for date shakes, the windmills signaling the half way point between here and there. Bluegrass and ribs at Pappy and Harriets. Relaxing with wine and bad tv.
Pillsbury cinnamon rolls for breakfast, instant coffee with too many grinds to drink. Driving out to Giant Rock, but its too crowded to feel like we're on Mars like before. Investigating caves and climbing the sparkling Quartz Mountain. Collecting crystal mementos.
Back to Yucca Valley for vintage and taking photos of old signs always and everywhere. A new store with a $200 hat and sweet dog. Checking out sun worn bowling alleys. Then heading back, with the traditional tiki stop in Palm Springs. The windmills flashing red against the blue night.
2 rolls of film, 11 outfits, and 4ish hours to complete one of my favorite lookbooks to date. Trips to Redlands are always a much welcome escape from Los Angeles, with its Orange Groves, Victorian Homes, converted country markets and sweeping vistas.
Rachel, Diana and I have collaborated on music videos and lookbooks before so we were all comfortable enough with each other to jump right into driving around, spotting a location, hopping out to shoot then moving on, and somehow wherever we went there was always the softest winter light coming through the orange trees and ending with an almost full moon visible above the hills.
Model, Diana Diaz
Styling, Rachel Gagliardi
Sometimes it's nice to lean into the 60s girl group aesthetic with fuzzy sweaters, pink berets and a dramatic cat eye, especially for a brand like Valfre that brings those elements into the modern day with oversized phone cases, bomber jackets with the female symbol and cherry red pants with a heart cut out at the knee. All set against the colorful signage and flora of Boyle Heights and ending with a walk across the iconic LA River.
Photographer: Emily Alben @coffeeandcherrypie emilyalben.com
Model: Susana Candelaria @sanacat