Capturing the Creole Belles | Baby Dolls of New Orleans

A Photo Essay depicting the emergence of a cultural phenomenon in New Orleans. The New Baby Doll group, the creole belles nods at their identity bending tradition as they prepare for the big chief to appear on Mardi Gras Morning.  What does it truly mean to mask as a baby doll in new orleans? 

The Creole Belles on Fat Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

The Creole Belles on Fat Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

“When I put on my Baby Doll dress that’s a day that I don’t have to have any titles or labels. I can be me without any apologies. The worries of the world, the labels, the stereotypes just fade away"...Alaina Harris, the chief baby doll of The Creole Belles mentions what masking means to her during the Mardi Gras season. Liberation, the feeling of diminished inhibitions, and clearing any personal pre-conceived notions. During this time, the baby doll women marvel at being themselves amongst their community of friends and family--the people that love and accept them. That acceptance is inherently fixed within the New Orleans foundation and culture. 

Interview: Baron Amato on living in new orleans and album Au natural

BARON Amato is New Orleans based spoken word artist, rapper, actor, and filmmaker. What can't he do? You can catch him preforming his sultry sounds at a Nola COUCHES event, or shutting down a Tribe Called Quest Tribute at Tipitina's. Needless to say, his talent speaks for itself--definitely an artist on the rise in New Orleans and beyond. Check out his  sounds on: baronamato.bandcamp.com

PHOTO BY: HAKEEM FRANK

PHOTO BY: HAKEEM FRANK

So Where did you get your influence for your primary album 'Au Natural'?

A couple years ago I was a couple pounds heavier and I get really sick. I was sick mentally and emotionally and I had to lose weight and my aunt and my mom pretty much coached me through healthy living. It was food and it was also about thought process. I was suicidal, and I was down bad and the whole concept of ‘Au Natural’ is there’s beauty in your life, and I’m just trying to tell people that-- mainly brown people’s lives, so just accept that.

Is this your first album?

No, the first album came out in 2009, I don’t talk about it.

Can I find any tracks from that album on the internet? If I lurk on instagram or something?

If you lurk you can find it. But I don’t recommend that you find it. It was just mixed badly. The ideas were great but the mixing was sub-par. This album I mixed myself, I taught myself how to mix in two years, it took a long time.

Why did you move to new Orleans?

I moved here in 2012, I got my degree in film at Alabama State, then I moved here for that. Now, I still do work in the film industry. I work on a show called SCREEN right now and I also act. I acted in a short film called Love Song. I was lead, we won 2nd place in the New Orleans film festival. 

PHOTO BY:VASHNI BALLESTE

PHOTO BY:VASHNI BALLESTE

That’s Dope! How has New Orleans been apart of your music, if at all... the feel, the mood, and the people... has that seeped into your art? 

New Orleans made me a butterfly. I was in my cocoon...and New Orleans made me a butterfly. The first person that saw me preform was Tank.

Tank and the Bangas?

Yes, I used to live at Inter-Recess, I don’t know if you were around when Inter-Recess was jumping off. Inter-recess was my brother’s recording studio. It was also a venue at one point where we held events and we had the first couches and Tank was at the first COUCHES. It was literally all these people in a living room, so Tank is here doing spoken word and I’m sitting here in awe. The poetry brings tears to your eyes. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I was a spoken word artist when I got here and I was like, I got to be like her! She’s influenced me, Brass Bands. I always describe New Orleans as like this mud seeping into your blood stream.

That’s really interesting. I know you did a show for the Tribe Called Quest Tribute...how was that? Who are some of your mainstream or secular rap influences? 

The Show was amazing we sold out Tipitina’s it was like 800 people. The band was tight, originaland they were just on it. I did some of my favorite songs. I did “Keep it Moving” which was one of my favorite Tribe songs.

Who did Bonita Applebaum...that’s my favorite!

I did, and the crowd rapped it too.

For sure, that’s awesome. 

As far as influences are concerned, there’s Marvin Gaye, Cee Lo Greem and then there’s Andre 3000, Common, anda lot of people say I come off or look like Mos Def. He’s dope, He’s just not on the list. I like him, but on the list of the tops of top is like marvin gaye and Cee-Lo. If you listen to some of my music you can hear the influences of some from them.

INTERVIEW: BLOGGER & PHOTOGRAPHER, AHMED ARASAH

New Orleans based photographer Ahmed Arasah is the blogger/photographer on the rise. whether he's shooting black beauty, new orleans street life, or scheduling conceptual shoots, his photographs are seamless and always convey compelling stories. check out how he started generating a tumblr following and his personal portfolio: ahmedarasah.tumblr.com.

Photo by Ahmed Arasah: Self Portrait New Orleans

Photo by Ahmed Arasah: Self Portrait New Orleans

When did you become a blogger?

I guess I really started right after high school. I felt like I was beginning a new chapter of my life. I wanted to start documenting the growth process.

When did you start blogging your photography?

It came from inspiration from when I was young.  I would see people that I looked up to documenting things. I guess I would give meaning to my photos by creating memories-- something to look back on when I get older.

How did you start generating a following on your blog, I know a lot of people reblog your photographs?

As far as the following goes, people tend to repost images that they like, not necessarily because I posted it. I don’t really necessarily think I have a following because there are just some things that get more reposted than others. It’s a matter of how good the content is that I put out than it actually is that people try to follow me. 

Photo by: Vashni Balleste

Photo by: Vashni Balleste

How much time do you spend blogging?

I really wish I spent more time. When it’s summer time, I think I’ll try to do something at least weekly. Now-a-days, its just whenever I get a chance. I’m trying to come up with more ways to be consistent.

Can you tell our readers about yourself and your blog aesthetic?

Im a student in New Orleans. The blog is really documenting my time. Most of my time has been in New Orleans so I guess documenting my transition from Dallas to New Orleans and how I’ve adapted to the city.

I can see that. It’s very New Orleans/female beauty. Hipster Black beauty. How do you choose your subjects?

I don’t really have any. I don’t really think too much about it unless it’s a set up photoshoot.

Can you name some of your favorite bloggers?

One of my favorite bloggers has been Levi Maestro what he does really is highlights different people and what they do. Doing what they love. That inspires me because I just wanna keep doing what I love. It’s an inspiration for me to keep going and creating. 

Photo by: Ahmed Arasah

Photo by: Ahmed Arasah

How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?

I wanna be more organized with my time. I feel like the more organized I am, the more I actually get done and not just thinking about doing things or thinking about accomplishing things, but I’ll actually accomplish those things. I feel like I always have ideas. But if I’m not writing them down or constantly looking at them, they just remain ideas.

What do you think is the best social media strategy for getting more visitors to a blog?

Keep pushing out content.

What do you find the most frustrating aspect about blogging?

Having enough content to put out.

What’s the best part of being a photographer?

Actually submitting the post. I feel like before I post I’m constantly looking at photos wondering is this good enough for me to post? I’m constantly going back and forth. But when I finally press submit I’m like it’s already out there. It is what it is. Once I get positive feed back, like a reblog or repost it feels satisfying.