Lucius Fontenot is a photographer in Lafayette, Louisiana. In the Cajun areas of Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a special celebration just like in New Orleans, but it has a completely different set of characteristics, way of costuming, and, of course, the Courir de Mardi Gras, a long walk through the woods chasing after ingredients (including a live chicken) in order to make a communal gumbo.
I grew up in Evangeline Parish where Mardi Gras is very different than the Carnival-style Mardi Gras of New Orleans. We have the Courir de Mardi Gras. It is a very old style of the pre-Lenten celebration. The wild costumes poke fun at the dress of the aristocracy, the church and academics. The Courir (run) takes place in the countryside of Acadiana, where the people of the Mardi Gras go house to house and beg for ingredients for a communal gumbo. The neighbors will donate rice, vegetables, sausage or money. In return, the crowd of Mardi Gras play music, dance and sing, horseplay, and generally act like fools for the entertainment of the kind neighbor.
But the big excitement comes when a live chicken is donated. The Mardi Gras can have the chicken but only if they can catch it. It's a point of pride to be the one that catches the chicken. At the end of the day the Mardi Gras returns to their starting point where they feast on gumbo and drunkenly dance away the last hours before Lent.
How did you interest in your medium begin and how did you arrive at your current style?
Growing up in rural Acadiana, there always were culturally and visually interesting things going on like boucheries and Cajun music jams and Mardi Gras. I grew up with all these things, but I didn't think they were a big deal. They were just part of my life. But when I started looking at them through a lens I came to see these beautiful, frozen moments that I didn't notice before. I could see why millions of tourists come to Louisiana. That my state and my Cajun culture was special. My art and photography have always been about Louisiana: its people, cultures, traditions and geography. I have always tried to capture the vibrance of Louisiana which is why I work to make my photographs compositionally strong and colorful.
How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?
I believe that when an artist makes art as personal as possible it becomes universal. The viewer understands the human condition without having to understand the particular subject of a work of art. And what is more personal than where you are from? It influences the way I think and feel and understand color. My art is a biography of my surroundings.
How do you choose your subjects?
I really just want to document and celebrate where I'm from. So, I'm a lucky. I just walk out of my door with my camera and go exploring. My artist statement is pretty simple: Louisiana is where I'm from. Louisiana is who I am. Louisiana is what I do.
Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?
My parents who taught me to love my culture and Alan Jones who was my adviser and painting professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette who helped me understand that a line is not always a contiguous one.
Do you feel creatively satisfied?
Yes. And no. I'm always striving to do better and create more.
Read more about Lucius and his week curating our Instagram account in this write-up by the Independent. Are you a visual artist or photographer from the South who is interested in curating a week? Get the info here.