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Legendary New Orleans Photographer Polo Silk Honored With Exhibit At The New Orleans Jazz Museum

Blogged by @thefineauthor

The New Orleans Jazz Museum is paying homage to beloved photographer Polo Silk with an exhibit honoring the cameraman who has captured some of the city’s most colorful moments.

The “NOLA Hip-Hop & Bounce Party: The Photography of Polo Silk” opened on Thursday, April 7th, and documents the over 30-year career of Silk, who has visually documented the immersive New Orleans culture from the frontlines, capturing hip-hop and bounce shows, the ever-evolving nightclub scene, second lines, and Black Masking Indian Super Sundays. 

The Big Easy staple, whose real name is Sthaddeus “Polo Silk” Terrell, wanted to make an impact by shining a different light on the city. Antenna published “Polo Silk presents POP THAT THANG!!!” in 2017, a collection of hundreds of his photographs spanning decades that showed his vintage imagery and rare photos of key figures and landmarks within the city.

“For a lot of years, we’ve been known as the murder capital. I want my photos to show that it’s not all that bad,” Silk said in a 2019 interview with Svge Magazine. 

His love for photography was sparked by his upbringing in Uptown. His grandmother, mother, and aunts adorned their home with photographs when he was growing up. He was also inspired by the many Jet and TIME magazines that were always accessible in his home. The imagery in the publications drew him in, leaving him anticipating the monthly issues to be released. He credits a photography class at the Boys & Girls Club with also helping to mold his craft. Because of the Polo Ralph Lauren gear he rocked as a kid and still wears today, he gained the nickname “Polo Silk,” and “The Picture Man” can also be heard in the crowd when he’s out with his famed Polaroid camera. 

Silk’s images from the mid-’80s up until now show people in a beautiful light embodying the immense Black culture that has always made New Orleans a cultural mecca. Silk has snapped shots of some of New Orleans’s most prominent stars throughout his career, including Soulja Slim, Magnolia Shorty, Cheeky Blakk, 5th Ward Weebie, Lil Wayne, Josephine Johnny, and Big Freedia.

“Most of this is not me. I’m a pretty good photographer, but as I tell people, most of this is about the people, the culture in the city,” Terrell shared.

The “NOLA Hip-Hop & Bounce Party” exhibit is curated by the Jazz Museum and Nicole Coleman of Southern University New Orleans’ Museum Studies Program. Fans can visit the museum and pay homage to Silk through the end of April. For those who cannot make it to Nola, enjoy Silk’s photography on his Instagram: @polonolaphotography.

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