Music through the lens: memories of the last two decades


The full exhibit for Leon Morris’ “Homage” can be seen until Sunday at the New Orleans Healing Center. 

Bess Turner, Staff Reporter

“As soon as I arrived here, I just immediately connected with the place,” award-winning photojournalist Leon Morris said. His book, “Homage,” which will be released shortly, contains 30 years of passionate music photography, including documentation of the 20 years surrounding Hurricane Katrina that he spent in New Orleans. The New Orleans Healing Center will also be hosting Morris’ work until the end of the month.

Morris grew up in Australia and started his photography career in London, where he contributed to publications such as “The Guardian” and “The Observer.” His deep love of music, however, soon drew him to New Orleans.

“I found it extraordinary in so many ways, the talent and extraordinary musicianship that is in this town,” Morris said. “All of a sudden the historical interest I had in music started to make a lot of sense.”

Morris traveled to New Orleans for the first time in 1994 on the recommendation of a colleague, unknowingly beginning an annual trip that would span decades. Morris now considers New Orleans his cultural anchor.

“Music has always been critically important in my life,” Morris said. “And being able to come back, at least on an annual basis, gave me a sort of central anchor point to allow me to live the rest of my life knowing that there was this constant sort of cultural connection that I could tap back into.”

In New Orleans, as in Australia, Morris brings with him a very particular style of photography. His ultimate goal, to remove the photographer from the work as much as possible, and to honestly display the point of view of the subject, has been showcased in photographs of subjects from Ray Charles to Dr. John.

“It’s impossible to get rid of the relationship of the photographer and the subject,” Morris said. “As far as possible, my approach to photography is to reduce the distance between the subject and the photographer and to represent their views as honestly and as realistically as possible.”

Morris’ 30-year “Homage” project is a love letter to New Orleans music and culture. 

“Really that’s what it’s about to me, is trying to expose as many people as possible to the fact that New Orleans is this incredibly important part of our collective cultural history,” Morris said. “Being able to go back and explain that and be excited about it again and again and again is something that gives me a lot of joy.”

You can see “Homage New Orleans” until Sunday at the New Orleans Healing Center on St. Claude Avenue.

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