The New Orleans-based photographer and filmmaker Beau Patrick Coulon shares the underground scene and revolutionary movements in his new photobook Revel & Revolt, which he describes as a "straightforward-yet-personal visual documentation of protests, parades and the punk scene."
For New Orleans-based photographer and filmmaker Beau Patrick Coulon, 2020 was a year of producing a collection of photos and an essay that reflects his time spent in New Orleans, Louisiana. Released on April 12, Coulon shares his work with the world in the photobook Revel & Revolt.
Coulon describes his latest work as a "straightforward-yet-personal visual documentation of protests, parades and the punk scene" in New Orleans between 2013 and 2020. Coulon says his plan of publishing a book was always a goal—and because of the pandemic, those plans came to fruition.
"It wasn't until everything came to a grinding halt during the pandemic that I could sit and sift through my archive and assemble something that I felt reflected the moment's needs. I mean, everyone I was talking to was just going through it, ya know? Isolated, discouraged, alienated and perhaps spending too much time online," Coulon said. "I wanted to bring people together, and I didn't want to do it digitally. I wanted to make something you could hold in your hands. Pages that you could feel and that were filled with images illustrating the interwoven joys and struggles of this vibrant community here in southern Louisiana, specifically New Orleans."
Revel & Revolt features imagery from the protests of the murder of Alton Sterling and later on Philando Castile, the 2016 election regarding the alt-right and white supremacy issues, the Women's March and other events Coulon captured. In his book, he explains the emotions behind planning his photo exhibit, but ultimately putting it on hold after the back-to-back murders of Sterling and Castile. In the essay, he writes: "I was there to show solidarity, not to take pictures of others' suffering. When asked, I replied that I believed this brutality had to stop; I was there to support Alton's community and offer any help I could. By nightfall, there was a strange shift: locals were approaching us saying it was really important that we were there, that everybody, regardless of race or geography, needed to care about this, and to show up—for Alton and for justice."
Despite the struggle of documenting significant movements, amidst the chaos, he caught the beauty of celebrating life, music and culture through the photos surrounding Mardi Gras and the underground punk scene.
"There's a lot of cross-over in these subcultures. Obviously, many punks are antifascists and are involved in activism, which has a lot to do with how I show up at various demonstrations," Coulon said. "Most of the parades I show in this book are more from the underground side of Mardi Gras culture. They're very much DIY events. They happen to share a very similar ebullient, often aggressive, energy and visual element that I think is beautiful, and I try to document it as best I can."
Over several years, Coulon has learned the ins and outs of documenting in crowded places and learning that three shots are all he needs.
"There's a photo in the book from a Torture Garden show that took place in a pretty low-key dive bar, and I remember there was another photographer there who had a big zoom lens on an expensive DSLR with a huge flash that lit up the whole room and blinded you every time she took a shot. It was so distracting. She must've shot 200 photos," Coulon said. "Eventually, the punks started dancing a bit too chaotically; perhaps someone bumped her lens, or she fried her batteries, I don't know, but she finally stopped with the incessant flash photography. I was then able to move around with my little 35mm to get a shot; I snapped maybe 3 photos and then enjoyed the rest of the show. I doubt anyone even noticed me, but I got a great picture. And really that's all you need. I find that, in most situations, if you can't get your shot in 3 tries, you're not going to get it, and you need to just put your camera away and stop taking up space."
Coulon's Revel & Revolt photobook is a reflection of the community he's become involved with. He says focusing on the people who deserve to feel seen and heard is what the book honors.
"The work in Revel & Revolt is reflective of a particular community during the recent past chunk of time, which was, as you know, rife with division, social struggle, police brutality, and racism. And these are all issues that persist," Coulon continues. "I think the work relates affirmatively; rather than documenting all the ugly red-faced bigots out there, I chose to focus on those who deserve solidarity and celebration."
Coulon's work is a reminder of history repeating itself and acknowledging the work that needs to be done, but still choosing to celebrate life.
Revel & Revolt is available now via Burn Barrel Press. You can purchase the photobook here.