Mardi Gras photos from 1956: "Cowboy and Belle," by John Mizenko


mizenko-ham.jpgGalleria Mar Doré (disclosure: a project on which I'm an advisor) has just launched an online exhibition of rare vintage photos from Mardi Gras in New Orleans, taken in 1956 by an engineer who loved technology, photography, and the rich culture of midcentury Louisiana. His name was John Mizenko, and he was also an avid ham radio operator. That's him at left, with his radio gear. His call sign was W5KAC. His daughter Mar Doré found a box of these, like a time capsule, after he passed away.

"I discovered my father's slide collection tucked away in a cabinet inside metal slide trays loaded with carefully written notations," says Mar. "It was as though after all these years he'd left me a gift."

She had them digitally scanned at very high resolution, and is presenting them online and in limited-edition giclee prints (you can buy them for $339 each, and the printed versions truly are stunning). I've asked her for permission to display some of them here on Boing Boing during this holiday week. Maybe Mardi Gras and Christmas/Hannukah don't seem like they ought to go together, but hey, why not? Fun, food, loved ones, reckless abandon, music, lots of sparkly decorations: there's a lot in common.

Today, we'll start with the photo presented above: Children in Mardi Gras costume, 1956 New Orleans Mardi Gras. Cowboy costumes for "Carnival" were popular in the mid-fifties. After the jump, a scanned 1956 advertisement which ran in the Times-Picayune for this very costume, offered at the now-defunct Maison Blanche New Orleans department store.

Here's the online store where you can purchase reproductions. More about the exhibit here. Members of Mizenko's family have shared their rememberances of his life and work here.

Here is a snip from his daughter, Mar, who recovered the images and is presenting them (and offering prints):

My father's photographs of the Mardi Gras take me back to the New Orleans of my childhood. I've returned to New Orleans in order to explore the history of my father's photographs and the extraordinary places I visited with him as a child; my grandmothers house and my aunt's house on Joseph street, the horse races at the fairgrounds, beignets at Cafe Du Monde, oyster po′boys, and Magazine Street. I remember perching on a wood ladder when I was six, arms outstretched in eager anticipation, ready to catch my share of Mardi Gras loot. I am happy and proud to present this priceless collection of photographs by my father John Woodward Mizenko and the radiant memories they contain. His love for New Orleans is manifested in every frame. It has awakened me and brought me home. No wonder we loved him.