I took pictures of Big Al Taplet in February of 2002 at his folk art stand on Jackson Square in New Orleans. I was a recent college graduate and on the last leg of a month long cross country road trip. I didn’t know much, but I knew that environmental portrait situations don’t get much better than shooting Big Al on Jackson Square with early evening light.
I was shooting with a large Mamiya RB67 that I had purchased earlier on the trip. I shot a Polaroid of Big Al to test exposure. It was perfect…the lighting, the art in the background, and Al had heaps of character. I gave the Polaroid to Al and he was excited and immediately posted it up on a board that he had at his stand. Unfortunately, Al thought that this was the end of the shoot, and it took quite a bit of coaxing to shoot some film of him. I managed to get a roll off of 10 exposures.
I went through these pictures last week and saw that the name Big Al’s Place on one of the photos and googled him. I found this article among others. Turns out, he’s somewhat of a folk art legend. After Katrina, he was forced to move to Texas with his twin brother “Little Al”. Seems like there’s not much news on him since 2005, but I’m trying to track him down to send him some prints.