Art in New Orleans

Clarence John Laughlin
Art Supplies & Tools
2002 -- Tree of Necklaces, Jean-Michel Othoniel
--- The 1970's ---
1970's -- Robert Indiana, LOVE, Red Blue
1979 -- Three Figures and Four Benches, George Segal
1975 -- Reclining Mother and Child, Henry Moore
1973 -- Four Lines Oblique, George Rickey
1971 -- Una Battaglia, Arnaldo Pomodoro
1979-80 -- Two Sitting Figures, Lynn Chadwick
--- The 1960's ---
1967 -- The Labors of Alexander, René Magritte
1965 -- River Form, Barbara Hepworth
--- The 1990's ---
1999 -- Claes Oldenburg, Safety Pin
1999 -- Restrained (Horse), Deborah Butterfield
1995 -- Spider, Louise Bourgeois
1991 -- Joel Shapiro, Untitled
--- The 1980's ---
1989 -- Rebus 3D-89-3, Ida Kohlmeyer
1987 -- Standing Man With Outstretched Arms, Stephen De Staebler
1983 -- Pablo Casals Obelisk, Arman
1949-57 -- Sacrifice III, Jacques Lipchitz
Ossip Zadkine, La Poetesse
Week 8 -- Hyams Fountain, 1921
Quick Review -- Weeks 1 -- 7
Week 9
Week 10 -- McFadden House -- 1920
Week 11 -- Reggie Bush Stadium
Week 11 -- Enrique Alferez -- City Park
Week 11 -- Enrique Alferez -- Fountain of the Winds
Week 12 -- Enrique Alferez -- Shushan Airport
Week 12 -- Enrique Alferez - marble chip and granite cast -- Molly Marine
Week 12 -- Story Land
Week 12 -- Blaine Kern -- Papier-mâché -- Mardi Gras Floats
Week 13 -- Hines Carousel -- Carved Wood
Week 13 -- New Orleans Museum of Art
Week 14 -- WPA in New Orleans
Week 15 -- Ida Kohlmeyer
Week 16 -- Review
Week 17 -- More Enrique Alfarez
Clark Mills -- Bronze Sculpture -- Andrew Jackson
Emmanuel Fremiet -- Joan of Arc
1897 - John McDonogh
Alexander Doyle - Margaret Haughery
Alexander Doyle -- Robert E. Lee
P.G.T. Beauregard
1860 - Henry Clay
Vietnam Veterans Monument
Louis Armstrong
Korean War Memorial
1910 - Jefferson Davis
1872 - Benjamin Franklin
1957 - Simon Boliva
World War II
World War I
Lin Emery
Woldenberg Park
Clarence John Laughlin
John Churchill Chase -- The Rummel Raider
André Breton -- Surrealist
Chalmette Monument
Liberty Monument
Arthur Q. Davis -- The Super Dome
1909 -- Antoine Bourdelle, Hercules the Archer
Wrought ironwork
Caroline Wogan Durieux
Daniel French -- Copper & Bronze -- The Ladies
Edgar Degas
Audubon Park
Abstract Expressionism
Art Nouveau (1880's -- 1920's)
Arts and Crafts Movement (1910 -- 1925)
Art Deco (1910 until 1939)
Baroque period
Contemporary Art
Figurative Style
German Expressionism
Kinetic Sculpture
Mobile (sculpture)
Modern Art
Murano glass
Negative space
New Deal
Nouveau Realism
Pop Art
WPA [Works Progress Administration]
Curruiculm Objectives/Suggested Activities
Bibliography and Suggested Reading
Church Statues
Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog (New Orleans)

Clarence John Laughlin (1905 - 2 January 1985) was a United States photographer, best known for his surrealist photographs of the U.S. South.

Laughlin was born in to a middle class family in Lake Charles, Louisiana. His rocky childhood, southern heritage, and interest in literature influenced his work greatly. His family lost everything in a failed rice growing venture in 1910, and were forced to relocate to New Orleans where Laughlin's father took on a factory job. Laughlin was an introverted child with few friends and a close relationship with his father, who cultivated and encouraged his lifelong love of literature. Laughlin was devastated when his father died 1918, and his grief was compounded by a Priest's false promise that God would save his ailing parent if he prayed hard enough. This left Laughlin with a deep suspicion of religion that surfaces frequently in his work. He dropped out of high school in 1920, after having barely completed his freshman year, he was self-educated and highly literate. His large vocabulary and love of language are evident in the elaborate and often pretentious captions he would later write to accompany his photographs. His early aspiration was to be a writer, and he wrote many poems and stories in the style of French symbolism. He tried for many years to publish his work, but was largely unsuccessful. He discovered photography when he was 25, and taught himself how to use a simple 2 1/2 by 2 1/4 view camera. He began working as a freelance architectural photographer, then moved on to be employed by such varied agencies as Vogue Magazine and the US government. He disliked the constraints of government work, and eventually split from Vogue after a conflict with then-editor Edward Steichen. Thereafter, he worked almost exclusively on personal projects utilizing a wide range of photographic styles and techniques, from straightforward geometric abstractions of architectural features to elaborately staged allegories utilizing models, costumes, and props.

His work contains many elements of surrealism, which was more common in European photography at the time. Many historians actually credit him as being the first true surrealist photographer in the United States. Laughlin’s images are often nostalgic, he was influenced by Eugene Atget and other historical purists who tried to capture a vanishing urban landscape.

Laughlin himself was something of a luddite, preferring older photographic equipment, and showing little interest in new technologies as they arrived. He was friends with Edward Weston and corresponded with many other prominent artists of his time.

His best known book, "Ghosts Along the Mississippi", was first published in 1948.

Laughlin died on January 2nd 1985, leaving behind a massive collection of books and images. He kept careful records to go along with the 17,000 negatives accompanied by extensive notes on how to print them. His work continues to be shown around the United States and Europe, and there are several books of his work currently in print.




A Vision of Dead Desire

Clarence John Laughlin was born near Lake Charles, LA in 1905.
He moved to New Orleans at a young age, and resided there until his death in 1985.

Known for:
Haunting, elegiac, and surrealist images of the ruins of New Orleans and the vanishing plantation South.

Most Popular Images:
"Enigma"; "Receding Rectangles"

Did you know ... ?
• Laughlin was a self-taught photographer.
•He was an avid bibliophile. At the time of his death, his personal library consisted of some 30,000 volumes.
• Laughlin felt that his photographs were incomplete if he failed to give them an appropriate title and caption; the captions sometimes ran to several type-written pages.

"Photography is one of the most authentic and integral modes of expression possible in this world in which we live."

"The physical object, to me, is merely a stepping stone to an inner world where the object, with the help of the subconscious drives and focuses perceptions, becomes transmuted into a symbol whose life is beyond the life of the objects we know..."

General Format:
Silver gelatin photographs of varying dimensions, usually 11" x 14".

How many photographs exist?
Laughlin printed in very small unnumbered editions (ten or less except for 2 or 3 images)

$1,500 - $15,000

How are the photographs printed and signed?
Usually signed au verso, sometimes au recto, often with Laughlin's own hand-written or
type-written captions, mounted on board, and lacquered.

A few vintage photographs are available. Vintage means that the print date is at or near the same time as the negative date.

Technical Information:
During the Great Depression, Laughlin taught himself the fundamentals of the medium using simple cameras and home-made enlarging equipment.


Ghosts Along the Mississippi
Haunter of Ruins

A Gallery for Fine Photography has a superlative selection of original photographs by
Clarence John Laughlin.

Price History:
1975: $25 - $100
1985: $600 - $1,000
1995: $1,500 - $7,500

External links


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Much information on this site courtesy of the New Orleans Museum of Art.