The Southeastern Architectural Archive recently finalized the processing of the William C. Odiorne New Orleans Photographs. The collection consists of seventeen gelatin silver prints taken by William C. Odiorne during his years in New Orleans, 1919-1924.
The son of an Illinois storekeeper, William Cunningham Odiorne (1881-1978) was an itinerant photographer who lived briefly in New Orleans from 1919-1924. Prior to his arrival in the Crescent City, he established a succession of commercial studios in the Mississippi River towns of Barry and Quincy, Illinois and apprenticed with Chicago portraitist Eugene Raymond Hutchinson (1880-1957).1
The earliest printed mention of the photographer in New Orleans occurred in November 1919, when one of his society portraits was published in The Times-Picayune.2 Like Eugene Hutchinson, Odiorne surrounded himself with artists and writers. He befriended William Spratling and Lyle Saxon, and spent leisure time with Sherwood Anderson on Lake Pontchartrain.3 In 1921, Odiorne opened a gallery and photographic studio in the upper Pontalba building. A feature story from the period announced him as “a nationally known photographer, [who] makes a specialty of photographing children.”4 He exhibited his own images, as well as etchings by such California artists as Roi George Partridge (1888-1984) and Cleo Damianakes (1895-1979).
Odiorne left New Orleans for Paris in the spring of 1924. The following year, Spratling visited Paris accompanied by William Faulkner, whom he introduced to Odiorne. Friendship ensued and Odiorne took a number of photographs of the southern writer and read his manuscripts. Faulkner and Spratling included Odiorne – whom they referred to as “Cicero” – in their caricature book, Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles (1926),5 wherein the photographer’s visage appeared peeking from behind a copy of the journal Le Rire with Faulkner’s caption, “Odiorne of the Café du Dome and New Orleans.”
Odiorne continued his itinerant lifestyle. He lived in Paris until circa 1930, followed by moves to New York and Chicago, then ventured West, first to San Francisco and finally Los Angeles. In 1977, one year before his death, the Stephen White Gallery launched a one-person show devoted to his Parisian photographs. Interviewed by Los Angeles Times reporter Lynn Simross, the 95-year-old reminisced about his years in New Orleans, claiming it to be the only city he had ever lived where it could be said that he had social standing.
1“W.C. Odiorne.” Bulletin of Photography 18:458 (17 May 1916): p. 634.
2 “Bevy of Debutantes This Year.” The Times-Picayune (9 November 1919): p. 17.
3 Simross, Lynn. “Memories of a Bohemian in Paris.” The Los Angeles Times (14 April 1977), Part IV, pages 1,12.
4 “New Art Gallery Is Latest Thing in Vieux Carré.” The Times-Picayune (27 November 1921): p. 61.
5 Williamson, Joel. William Faulkner and Southern History. 1993, pp. 205; 215; p. 464 n109.
Images above: William C. Odiorne, photographer. Courtyard on Hospital Street [724 Governor Nicholls Street]; Unidentified Vieux Carré street. Both circa 1919-24. William C. Odiorne New Orleans Photographs, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.