Lionel Williams: A New Orleans Artist

All of the recent Birney Imes talk has had me digging into my New Orleans contacts. I forgot how much work I did down there (boxes and boxes of contact sheets never even scanned), and going through it all several years removed has allowed me to see this work in a whole new light, i.e. a new edit. I think when so deep and attached to work of this nature, it is incredibly hard to edit your own story and be able to step back and see it on a broad scale. Most of the work I have on my website from the series When Night Becomes Day feels obvious, and the scope of the story told seems narrow. Here is one story I re-discovered, this one's for you Birney.

Lionel Williams lived in the Desire neighborhood in New Orleans. Lionel was an artist and his murals gave the Desire area restaurants and bars a unique and local identity. His hand painted signs advertising favorites like po' boys and crawfish were not just a neighborhood fixture but continue a rich Southern tradition. Lionel had a reputation among neighbors and clients as being a bit of a hustler, on occasion he would be painting two murals in the same day for two different clients running back and forth between jobs charging a full day. Lionel drowned in the flood. Every friend and neighbor who I interviewed smiled and laughed to themselves when I mentioned his name.

These images were made inside Lionel's home and are a document of some of his paintings.