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Dr. Sarah Wilkerson Freeman curates historic photo exhibition in New Orleans

Oct. 27, 2008 -- Arkansas State University history professor Dr. Sarah Wilkerson Freeman has curated and launched “Portraits of Canal Street,” an exhibition of more than 50 historic photographs by fashion and portrait photographer Jack Robinson at theThis Jack Robinson photograph hangs in "Portraits of Canal Street" at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, 500 Canal, New Orleans, La. Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, 500 Canal Street, New Orleans, La. The official opening reception for the show is Thursday, Oct. 30, from 5-7 p.m. The exhibition runs through Sunday, January 18, 2009. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

This multi-part installation hangs in the Sheraton’s windows on Canal Street, giving viewers the sense of walking back in time. More photographs hang in the hotel’s atrium and lobby. The photographs depict New Orleans street scenes circa 1950, taken by Mississippi-born Jack Robinson, who became an internationally recognized fashion and portrait photographer for Vogue magazine. He attended Tulane University in New Orleans from 1945-1948, and he worked in New York from 1965-1972. He lived in Memphis, Tenn., from 1972 until his death in 1997, when hundreds of his photographic negatives of mid-century New Orleans were discovered.

Dr. Wilkerson Freeman, a well-respected Southern historian and curator, received exclusive access to Robinson’s materials from the Jack Robinson Archive and Gallery in Memphis, and she helped to restore and identify the 50-year old photographs. She then assembled a world premiere of Robinson’s work. That show, “Capturing Southern Bohemia: Jack Robinson’s New Orleans photographs 1950-1955,” was mounted at the Newcomb Art Gallery in April, 2006, and was the first exhibition held there when the gallery reopened after Hurricane Katrina.

The photographs from “Capturing Southern Bohemia” are joined by Freeman’s 21-piece “Portraits of Canal Street” exhibition for the exclusive Sheraton New Orleans Hotel show. Freeman’s interest in Southern photography helped to bring Robinson’s work to light and to reveal his affinity for the culture and history of New Orleans. Freeman believes the collection will play an important part in the cultural rebirth of New Orleans. “Robinson’s portrayal of old New Orleans may help guide the current renewal of the cultural history of the ‘new’ New Orleans,” states Freeman.

The images in Robinson’s photographs depict a time and place that is lost forever, yet strangely timeless.  Robinson learned his trade in the light of New Orleans streets and was fascinated by the personalities of the Crescent City. A majority of Robinson’s New Orleans photographs share the same backdrop as the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel. The preeminent fashion house of Robinson’s day, Godchaux's, stood at the corner of Canal and Chartres Streets and housed the Charles Dolce ad agency, where Robinson once worked as a graphic artist and watched the daily choreography of Crescent City life.

These photographs also yield a rare view into the regional modern art movement of early 1950s New Orleans. “Portraits of Canal Street” also supports Prospect.1 New Orleans, the largest biennial of international contemporary art ever organized in the U.S. Prospect.1 New Orleans opens to the public on Saturday, Nov. 1, and includes venues like museums, historic buildings, and found sites throughout the city. For more information on Prospect.1 New Orleans, visit

In showcasing the city through contemporary art installations, Prospect.1 New Orleans seeks to base an entirely new category of tourism for the city on the growing American interest in contemporary art, as well as the worldwide love for New Orleans For more information on the Sheraton Hotel New Orleans exhibition of “Portraits of Canal Street," contact Liz Goliwas Bodet, Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, at (504) 583-5550. To order copies of the photographs featured in the exhibit, contact Bryant Galleries (


 (information courtesy of Sheraton Hotel New Orleans; photo courtesy of Jack Robinson Archives._

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