One, One Thousand | Southern Photography


by Rick Olivier

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Project statement:

Art is the simple pursuit of questions one needs to answer. If the artist, in his pursuit, is intelligent, elegant, and persistent, the art will necessarily display these qualities. Artists who choose to look outside themselves for the universal truths of human existence are no less expressive than those who look within; every "documentary" image is, in some way, also a self-portrait.

As a native of South Louisiana I feel a special love for, and connection to, the entire culture surrounding "zydeco" music. In 1988 I began to make photographs of these musicians, the clubs in which they played, and the surrounding landscape. This decade-long project culminated in the publication of "Zydeco!" (University of Mississippi Press, 1999), which was honored with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book Of The Year Award.

I chose to make these photographs in the style of classic black and white silver gelatin media because it best expresses the continuity of tradition we find in the music. The stringent demands of archival silver processing and printing are mirrored in the musical devotion to craft and tradition we can still find in contemporary musicians like Geno Delafose and Nathan Williams. Digital media, for all its immediacy and efficiency, can never supplant the organic glow of a masterful silver print in much the same way that hip-hop, for all its poetic power, will never fully supersede the full-tilt driving boogie of a packed zydeco dance floor. But it takes a sensitive eye and ear to appreciate such nuance, a sensitivity we should nurture and preserve.

The zydeco culture of Acadiana has provided me with the richest raw material an artist could ever hope to find. In these small town nightclubs and bars I discovered a warmth, passion, and visual delight that never failed to inspire me. I hope this work will one day be a part of America's cultural iconography.


Bio and contact:

Rick Olivier has been photographing the music and culture of New Orleans and South Louisiana since his high school days in the 1970's. A native of White Castle, Louisiana, his earliest professional achievement was winning two Louisiana Press Association awards for Feature Photography at the age of 16. He moved to New Orleans in 1982 and established himself as an acute observer of the local music scene with photography and writing for Wavelength Magazine, using the nom de plume "rico". By 1985 he had branched out into album covers, corporate annuals, advertising, and editorial assignments for national and regional magazines, which he continues to accept.

Olivier's book, "Zydeco!" (University of Mississippi Press, 1999) won the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book Of The Year Award and stands as the definitive pictorial record of Louisiana's exciting Creole dance music scene.

His music photographs have appeared on more than one hundred LP and CD covers and his portraits have twice graced the cover of the New York Times Magazine. Rick Olivier owns and operates Rick Olivier Photography / City Park Studio out of a former corner grocery store converted into a 1500 square foot studio in Mid-City New Orleans. His music can be heard in the Creole String Beans, a band known for their dedication to golden-era New Orleans r&b and South Louisiana swamp pop.


Rick Olivier is a New Orleans, LA, based photographer.
To view more of his work, please visit his website:
You can contact Rick Olivier by e-mail: