in Mexico, Missouri on August 22 1911, Theodore Fonville Winans bought his
first camera, a Kodak 3A, on impulse and soon after won a local photographic
first arrived in Louisiana as a young construction worker and was captivated by
the exotic feet of the state.
"It was absolutely fascinating to me, it was like
being in the darkest Africa... alligators, palmettos and Spanish moss. I tell
you, it really grabbed a hold of me. To me it was pure adventure, I loved it."
In the late 1930,s Fonville
settled in Baton Rouge and began his career as a professional photographer. A
favorite destination , on his many excursions was the small fishing village of
Grande Isle, located south of New Orleans on the Gulf of Mexico.
It was here that he captured some of his most
enduring and acclaimed images. Over the next fifty years, from his studio at
667 Laurel Street, he was to photograph nearly every governor, as well as many
of Louisiana's most prominent citizens.
Fonville began his career as a professional
photographer in the late 1930's and for over fifty years traveled the highways
and byways of South Louisiana photographing the people and places that define
this unique and diverse culture. His many celebrated images have appeared in
numerous publications including a book on his life and work entitled
Fonville Winan's Politics, People, and Places. A PBS special, "The
Cruise of the Pintail", chronicled his journey through South Louisiana on a
small boat using a 16mm camera to record his travels.
His work has been honored with
exhibitions throughout the world, including; Los Angeles, London, Paris and
In 1990, The
Foundation for Historical Louisiana presented Fonville with its prestigious
preservation award for his enduring visual record of Louisiana's
his death in 1992, collector's have paid thousands for his vintage prints. His
entire collection is now archived in the Louisiana State University Libraries
Special Collections Department.
you have a personal remebrance of Fonville you'd care to share, please e-mail
it by clicking on Fonville
| Fonville was downright daring in his familiarity
with his subjects. He made people feel at ease, and his acumen with the camera
brings them to life today.
I met Fonville in
the late 1980's in the later years of his life - I was living down the street
from his studio in downtown Baton Rouge (I was at the time a TV
director/producer for LSU). He would walk by my apartment every evening, and
one day he stopped and struck up a conversation. He told me about his
photography, and we talked for a good while about it.
His studio was on the corner of 7th and Laurel, downstairs.
(Upstairs was once the Capitol Lodge Masonic Hall) It had a quaint look about
it, with big windows all around.
I went to his studio several times to see his
photographs, but was not able to find him in. I could see walls covered with
every sort of imaginable scene, cypress and pirouges, sugar cane and street
people - it impressed me as being a real studio and I tried to imagine this old
gent dashing around taking pictures. I am embarrassed to say it was a bit of a
stretch for me. Look at his self prortrait above, though, and ask yourself;
What was the stature of this man?
As we look through his eyes today at the
Louisiana of long ago, we see someone with a wonderful grasp of fleeting
moments, of significance sown in the wind.
As the years have gone by, and his legend has grown,
his portfolio remains an alluring memory of the most unusual American culture