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free pin on Orders over $50 – Code: pin50

New on the Journal – Painter Maddie Stratton →

Free Tote on orders over $100 – Code: Tote100 →

Website by the fine folks at Alright Studio →

Demand New Outcomes

Grateful for the photography of Michael Tucker →

  • Journal

Focus: Yves Elizalde

An interview with the French-Quarter-raised and Mexican-American photographer.

Photo: Yves Elizalde

An interview with the French-Quarter-raised and Mexican-American photographer.

Yves Elizalde is a New Orleanian through and through. Raised in the French Quarter – and in some ways, raised by the Quarter – his photography evokes that eccentricity. Below, we talk with him about his unique upbringing and his evolving art and lifestyle.

So — what's your story? And what was it like growing up in the Quarter?

Born at Charity Hospital 1991. My first years of life were in the French Quarter. My parents had moved from Mexico City to New Orleans to become educators (they taught at New Orleans public schools). My father stopped teaching to become a street artist in the French Quarter (he was a spray paint artist). From a very young age, I would go and help him to sell his work to both tourists and locals. Then I started to paint for a bit as well, but I stopped because I didn’t like people watching me while I painted. My mother would take long walks with me after work and school around the Quarter — she would walk and I had my soccer ball. With time, I got to meet the community of artists that worked and lived in the French Quarter.

I remember walking to get my catfish po-boy down the street and hanging out with my father’s friend Numbers — he was a portrait artist from New York that had moved to New Orleans. He would always let me sit on the chair that the person he paints sits on. We would talk and laugh. He was smooth, had a lot of style, and was a humble man...one of my favorite people growing up. When I was seven, he painted a portrait of me — it was very special. A few months later he passed away; I still think of him now.

The French Quarter was its own world, I was exposed to a lot of things quickly. I’m now grateful for that. The Quarter had a lot of characters and amazing artists that lived there when I was growing up. My parents were loved by many of them.

“I remember walking to get my catfish po-boy down the street and hanging out with my father’s friend Numbers — he was a portrait artist from New York that had moved to New Orleans. He would always let me sit on the chair that the person he paints sits on.”

How do you spend your time these days?

Right now, I’m spending a lot of my days studying and working. I am studying how we think. I am in a stage of my life that I’m reflecting a lot and processing at the same time. I am also developing a vocabulary to understand my feelings.

When did you start taking photos? How has that evolved?

Photography started for me when I was 12 looking through my mother’s photos — that was the moment I knew it existed. They were photos of different stages of her life and of the family. They were mostly black and white; they were strong and beautiful. I learned a lot about who my family was through those photos. Then my father would always invite me to watch films with him a lot. So the combinations of the two sparked a curiosity in photography. I didn’t get a camera until I was 14, but I was excited when I did. My stepfather gifted it to me; he too was a great photographer. So everyone around me inspires me indirectly and I thank and love all of them for that.

Do you travel often? How does that influence your photography?

Traveling is something that I have been blessed to experience. At a young age, I began taking trips to Mexico with my mother because all of her family lived there, including my father’s family. I would spend entire summers there. It was beautiful and challenging — and although my first language was Spanish, it was still a very different way of life. It seems a bit more real there.

I also had the opportunity to travel to Eastern Europe. Funny thing is — I didn’t have a camera at all. I saved those memories in my head and through writing. Recently, I took a trip to the dentist in Mexico (because it’s a lot cheaper there). While I was there, I found a point-and-shoot for a couple bucks and had a roll of film with me. I explored and made some of portraits of the people that lived in Nuevo Laredo, which is one of the most dangerous places in Mexico. I love that roll because of what it stands for. Even in that situation, my mouth completely numb and walking through Cartel-land, I still managed to talk with people and find beauty; the passion and soul of the people there.

“Even in that situation, my mouth completely numb and walking through Cartel-land, I still managed to talk with people and find beauty; the passion and soul of the people there.”

What’s your favorite thing about life in New Orleans?

One of the things I love about this place: the expression “baby” — how a grown man can call another man “baby” because it’s a way of life. In other cultures, there are similar sayings. We have that vibe though, that’s why people come here — they want that vibe to live in them. You have to earn it though, like anything else.

What’s your photography process like?

My process is all over the place. I keep it alive, it’s a feeling. Right now, I always keep a camera with me. I usually stay away from digital cameras because I already have an iPhone and that’s enough digital life for me. I also don’t believe that digital is the future. Having many different cameras and seeing how they are designed and work is an experience in itself. The way I see it, these cameras aren’t from the past — they were ahead of their time. One day I'm using a point and shoot with black and white film, the next day a polaroid. Then it's a 35mm with a 28mm lens, color film and flash. Each one will add a different personality to the image. It's like when you choose an outfit; it depends on how you feel. Some wear a different outfit every day, some wear the same thing every day.

“The way I see it, these cameras aren’t from the past — they were ahead of their time.”

What pulls you in to shoot a certain subject?

Characteristics of life — that’s what pulls me in to take a photo. It can be a person, animal, object, moment, or anything with character.

How are you involved with projects outside of photography?

Well, for the past 4 years I've been dedicated to opening my family’s first restaurant in the city, Casa Borrega. For the first couple years I didn’t have a life. Just waking up, going straight to the restaurant, leaving, and going to bed. It was a journey. I think in those early years, I kind of forgot who I was — I didn’t have time to think about what I like. After those couple years I slowed down and started feeling more. That's when I started to make time for other things. And it felt weird for a while, but now it doesn’t. I've finally made time to spend with friends and I am blessed that my friends are creative because that awoke that side of me again.

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