A Sojourn in Paradise
Jack Robinson in 1950s New Orleans
A celebration of the New Orleans life and early career of famed fashion photographer Jack Robinson
Jack Robinson made his name as a much-sought-after fashion and celebrity photographer during the 1960s and early 1970s, and his work is well documented in hundreds of pages of Vogue, the New York Times, and Life, as well as other publications. However, his personal life remains virtually unknown.
In this study of Robinson and his photography, Howard Philips Smith takes an in-depth look at Robinson’s early life in New Orleans, where he discovered his passion for painting, photography, and the Dixie Bohemian life of the French Quarter. A Sojourn in Paradise: Jack Robinson in 1950s New Orleans features more than one hundred photographs taken by the artist, accompanied by detailed commentary about Robinson’s life in New Orleans and excerpts from interviews with the people who knew him when he lived there.
Robinson’s photographs of New Orleans reveal the genesis of two unique and fascinating facets of the city’s history and culture: the creation of the first gay Carnival krewes who would make their own unique contribution to the rich cultural history of the city and the formation of the Orleans Gallery, one of the earliest centers of the contemporary art movement blossoming in 1950s America. This detailed study of Jack Robinson’s early life and photography illustrates the contributions of a gifted, gay artist whose quiet spirit and constant interior struggle found refuge in New Orleans, the city where he was able to find himself, for a time, free from society’s grip and open to exploring life on his own terms.
With A Sojourn in Paradise: Jack Robinson in 1950s New Orleans, Howard Philips Smith continues his exploration of gay life in that fabled city. Robinson’s moody photographs of prominent New Orleanians and his extensive recording of Carnival in that period are like treasures resurrected by Smith’s keen eye. He and curator Emily Oppenheimer have given us an invaluable collection of previously unseen New Orleans.- Henri Schindler, author of Mardi Gras New Orleans and the Mardi Gras Treasures series
In A Sojourn in Paradise, Howard Philips Smith permits us to see how time, place, and Jack Robinson’s vision coalesced to make a compelling photographic statement of an era. With Smith’s insightful text and Robinson’s portraits and cityscapes, the New Orleans of the 1950s comes to light in a new way. With the French Quarter as a major backdrop, artists, designers, and influencers share the stage that is Robinson’s viewfinder.- John H. Lawrence, director of museum programs, The Historic New Orleans Collection
Jack Robinson’s photographs of the New Orleans cultural scene in the postwar era, the subject of this significant new book by Howard Philips Smith, reflect Robinson’s notable talents as an artist and a photographer, as well as his unique position as an insider in both the city’s art world and its gay community. . . . Smith features many French Quarter characters in this book, noting that Robinson became part of a group of artists, writers, designers, musicians, preservationists, illustrators, restaurateurs, travel agents, and antiquarians. In addition to George Dunbar and Robert Helmer (founders of the Orleans Gallery), Smith refers to figures including Dusti Bongé, Jean Seidenberg, Katherine Choy, Lee Bailey, Leonard Parrish, Tilden Landry, Clay Shaw, Yvonne Fasnacht, Ella Brennan, Jack Beech, Bruce Butterworth, Claire Evangelista, and Elmo Delacroix Avet. Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams also appear in the book, as does noted New York art dealer Betty Parsons.- J. Richard Gruber, PhD, director emeritus of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, active independent curator, art historian, and author, most recently of Dusti Bongé, Art and Life: Biloxi, New Orleans, New York