PHOTOGRAPHER, Toulouse Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 1992.
Tennessee Williams wrote some of my favourite plays, many of which were turned into award winning movies. A Streetcar Named Desire (set In the French Quarter of New Orleans), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Sweet Bird of Youth and Night of the Iguana are among my favourites and I never tire of watching them. Williams lived in New Orleans for over 40 years and resided at 722 Toulouse Street when he arrived in the city, as a 28-year-old, in 1938.
When I visit towns and cities, I like to go to places associated with musicians, artists, actors and authors. Toulouse Street, located in the French Quarter of New Orleans is one on a long list of locations I’ve made pilgrimages to over the years. I took this photograph on Toulouse Street. I cried out, ‘Hey man!’ and this was his reaction as I lifted the camera and took aim. One shot, one photographer’s laughing face and a grin from ear to ear on the other photographer’s face as I thought, that’ll be a good one – can’t wait to get it printed up in the darkroom.
I’ve trawled through New York’s Greenwich Village and stood or sat in wonder where the beat generation poets, 60s folk singers and rock stars through the ages have lived, performed and drank and drugged themselves into stupors. My Bob Dylan obsession could be described as akin to a time machine stalking throughout the Big Apple. My visits to the Hotel Chelsea are a treasure trove of associations that get my imagination into overdrive: Dylan Thomas, Leonard Cohen, Jim Morrison, Stanley Kubrick, Chet Baker, Joni Mitchell, Sid and Nancy, Dennis Hopper, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andy Warhol, and the beat goes on and on . . .
Nearer to home, when I go to Scarborough, I’ll stroll by the Victoria Hotel where Charles Laughton was born and think I must watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Private Lives of Henry VIII, Hobson’s Choice and Night of the Hunter again.
There have been disappointments as well as triumphs. In Memphis I managed to find out where the great blues singer, Furry Lewis used to live only to find his house had been knocked down – a car parking space now occupying the hallowed ground. In New York’s Coney Island I went in search of Woody Guthrie’s former house on Mermaid Avenue and visited the local museum for directions. I was met by blank faces that explained they didn’t know the great man had lived on Mermaid Avenue, but they would look into it and make sure that the mistake would be rectified, which they duly did.