The expression “third time’s the charm” may not have had much meaning before to local photographer John Darre, but it certainly holds a special meaning now.
In 2006 and again in 2007, Darre applied to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation to display his photographs, which depict an array of iconic scenes of New Orleans. Both times, his application was denied.
“I thought, ‘Well, I tried twice,’ so I just let it go and figured it was just something that was not meant to be,” said Darre, who lives in Metairie.
But a family friend encouraged Darre to apply again for this year’s festival. So he did.
“The letters went out to all the applicants last January,” said Darre’s wife, Mary Fran. “When John got his letter and I opened it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I just stood there for a minute in shock. So I went outside to find John and holding the letter, I said, ‘You are not going to believe this, but you got accepted into the Jazz Fest.’ Of course, he didn’t believe me. So I said ‘John, I am not kidding you. You’re in.’ ”
“I looked at Mary Fran and her face was as white as a ghost,” Darre said. “She gave me the letter, I read it and I still cannot believe it.”
When the second weekend of Jazz Fest opens Thursday, May 1, Darre’s work can be found alongside that of other artists from near and far in Tent G in the Contemporary Arts area.
The images in Darre’s display, titled “The Mystical Series,” will include photographs of Mardi Gras Indians, members of the Krewe of Zulu and scenes from City Park, the Garden District, the French Quarter and Bayou St. John.
Using a digital process, Darre enhances the color and details of his photos by using tone mapping, a technique used in image processing and computer graphics to map one set of colors to another in order to approximate the appearance of high-dynamic-range images in a medium that has a more limited dynamic range.
“Every step of the process is digital,” Darre said. “I tone map each image I shoot to build up the contrast, then I enhance or mute the colors. It just depends on what I want the photo, the subject of the photo, to look like, what I want it to convey.
“After Hurricane Katrina, the photography business changed dramatically, and not for the better. Every photographer I know was struggling. I knew I had to do something different with my work, to reinvent myself. And that’s how I began learning about and using this digital process.”
A native New Orleanian who grew up near the intersection of Washington Avenue and South Prieur Street, Darre opened his photography studio in 1978, but his interest in art and photography began many years before.
“When I was 13, I worked for John Deutschman and Son float builders,” Darre said. “I learned not only about float building but about sculpture techniques and painting. It was a great experience and exposed me to a whole new world in terms of art.
“I was also a member of and then the president of my high school photography club at Redemptorist High School. I worked for a while for my brother Louis, who ran a commercial and industrial photography business. So as you see, my love of photography and art goes back many years.”
Darre and his wife, along with their three children — Elizabeth, Stephen and Kurt — will all have been at the Fair Grounds early Wednesday to set up his 10-by-10-foot space in Tent G. And when the gates to the 44th festival open, it will be “a dream come true” for the entire family.
“It is such an honor for me to be one of the artists selected to participate in this event,” Darre said. “New Orleans is the city where I grew up, and it is where I have made my living. I love this place, and I love the people. Being a part of the Jazz and Heritage Festival was one of the items on my bucket list, so being here really is a dream come true.”
Eva Jacob Barkoff writes about the people and events on the east bank of Jefferson Parish. She can be reached by calling (504) 430-8053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.