Bob Compton Mardi Gras Indian Photographs to Benefit ARTDOCS
Limited Editions to Benefit Artists Without Health insurance


In celebration of Mardi Gras and to raise money for artists without health insurance, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery is pleased to offer two limited edition photographs by photographer Bob Compton.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the above (two) photographs will be donated to ARTDOCS, Artists Receiving Treatment Doctors Offering Crucial Services, a medical program for artists without health insurance.

Bob Compton is a cultural photographer who is literally woven into the fabric of New Orleans music and culture. With "an itchy curiosity and a passionate eye," he spent every waking hour exploring New Orleans' every nook and cranny including the annual rites of Mardi Gras and the Mardi Gras Indians, always with camera in hand, in search of that fleeting moment of beauty.

Compton developed friendships with giants of music and culture photography including Herman Leonard, Baron Wolman, and Michael P. Smith, all of who provided degrees of influence and mentorship.

His work has been shown in galleries in New Orleans, Santa Fe, and New York.

He is a regular contributor to the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, and ART DOCS which he has supported since its inception in 1999.

About the Mardi Gras Indians

Mardi Gras Indians are African-American Carnival revelers in New Orleans, Louisiana, who dress up for Mardi Gras in suits influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel.

According to tradition, the African Americans in New Orleans who first formed "Indian gangs" did so as a tribute to the Native American tribes in the area who took in runaway slaves in the pre-Civil War era. Mardi Gras Indians wear elaborate, hand made costumes which feature massive feather headdresses and intricate bead work.

Collectively, their organizations are called "tribes". Many of the tribes also parade on the Sunday nearest to Saint Joseph's Day on March 19 ("Super Sunday") and sometimes at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

There are about 38 tribes. They range in size from a half dozen to several dozen members. The tribes are largely independent, but a pair of umbrella organizations loosely coordinate the Uptown Indians and the Downtown Indians.

Mardi Gras Indians have been parading in New Orleans at least since the mid-19th century, possibly before. The tradition was said to have originated from an affinity between Africans and Indians as minorities within the dominant culture, and blacks' circumventing some of the worst racial segregation laws by representing themselves as Indians. There is also the story that the tradition began as an African American tribute to American Indians who helped runaway slaves. These slaves married into the tribes on occasion. An appearance in town of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in the 1880s was said to have drawn considerable attention and increased the interest in masking as Indians for Mardi Gras.

When Caribbean communities started to spring up in New Orleans, their culture was incorporated into the suits, dances and music made by the "Indians". In the late 19th century and early years of the 20th century, the tribes had a reputation for brawling with one another. This part of Mardi Gras Indian history is immortalized in James Sugar Boy Crawford's song, "Jock O Mo" (better known and often covered as "Iko Iko"),[1] based on their taunting chants. As the 20th century progressed, physical confrontation gave way to assertions of status by having better suits, songs, and dances. Generations ago when Mardi Gras Indians came through neighborhoods, people used to run away; now people run toward them for the colorful spectacle.

A tradition of male-only tribes ended in the late 20th-century as women began appearing in costume as well.

Generally each "Indian" makes his own suit, assisted by family and friends to sew elaborate bead and feather work-a chief's suit can weigh up to 150 pounds (68 kg) and cost up to U.S. $5,000-and traditionally a new suit is required each year.[2][3] Beads and materials were once reused from one year's suit on the next. On St. Joseph's night the Indians would come out and parade their suits one last time before taking them apart and burning anything they didn't reuse. In recent years, the suits have been acquired by museums and private collectors.

For more about the Mardi Gras Indians, please click here.

For more information about ARTDOCS, please click here.

Pictured above (left):

Bob Compton

Big Chief of the Red Hawk Hunters
Image size 20"x30", paper size of 24"x34"
Fine art giclee' pigment print on Moab Entrada Rag Bright Cotton Rag Paper
Limited edition of 12
$800 unframed, $1000 framed

Pictured above (right):

Bob Compton

Big Chief of the Golden Blades
Image size 20"x30", paper size of 24"x34"
Fine art giclee' pigment print on Moab Entrada Rag Bright Cotton Rag Paper
Limited edition of 12
$800 unframed, $1000 framed

"The Big Chief is the head of the indian tribe and has a stick that controls the Indians. When he hits the ground with the stick, they better get down and bow to the Chief."

To see the individual photographs, please click here.