“New Orleans is my favourite city in the world,” says Edinburgh-based photographer Laura Meek, whose new photobook captures the colours, light and architecture of the Big Easy. “I love the variety and there is so much to photograph,” she adds, which explains why she chose to fill the self-published book with images taken during recent visits over the past couple of years.
Laura grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and spent a lot of time in New Orleans before moving to Jackson, Mississippi to study fine art photography. Since coming to Edinburgh in 2015, she feels she has developed an even deeper appreciation for the drama and diversity of New Orleans’ architecture, which combines European colonial influences with Victorian and more modern styles.
It’s really a celebration of the beauty in imperfection that is such a feature of this amazing city
Although the book focuses on buildings, it is not intended as a compendium of pristine architectural projects. “It’s really a celebration of the beauty in imperfection that is such a feature of this amazing city,” suggests Laura, whose work typically foregrounds the subtle details and contrasts that make everyday life so rich and diverse.
The photographs include wide shots of buildings along with more abstract compositions that give a sense of how colours and patina combine in unusual ways. Pictures of peeling paint, intricate ironwork and subtle shadows are compiled to recreate the experience of walking around the French Quarter. “On their own the images might appear incidental,” Laura points out, “but when they’re brought together in a book they give a real sense of the personality of New Orleans.”
One of Laura’s biggest challenges was choosing which images made the final cut. Starting out with almost 300 pictures, she printed postcard-sized copies of some of her favourites to see how they looked together. “I work in a tangible way as much as possible, so I’d much rather see the photographs on a table or a wall than on a screen,” she says.
The final printed book features more than 120 photographs arranged either individually or alongside other complementary images. Some of the spreads feature colour swatches or full-page blocks of colour that reference the dominant hues in a specific image. The design emphasises how the city’s buildings often juxtapose colours in ways that seem odd but somehow work in context.
I work in a tangible way as much as possible, so I’d much rather see the photographs on a table or a wall than on a screen
Laura says her aim with the book is to give people who don’t know New Orleans a unique and personal perspective on her favourite city, while demonstrating that there is hidden beauty even in the places we think we know very well. She wishes she’d taken more photographs, as every time she returns to Scotland she thinks back to the buildings she didn’t manage to capture. For now, though, she is excited to have produced a printed volume that encapsulates her love for New Orleans as well as her personal approach to her craft. “I’ve never made a book before so this is a real milestone for me,” she adds. “Seeing more than a hundred pages of my work in this format is something I’m really proud of.”