For more than forty years, Syndey Byrd documented Louisiana’s unique cultural rituals and iconic music scene. Her legacy includes over 50,000 images, and an exhibition drawn from her archive will be presented at Jazz Fest. Curated by Jenny Bagert and Sienna Pinderhughes, the exhibition will be on view in the grandstand from April 24 – May 3, 2015.
New Orleans Heart and Soul: The Legacy of Syndey Byrd
Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on July 3, 1944, Syndey was crowned the local Miss Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) before earning a B.A. in painting at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Upon graduation, she moved to New York City to work in interior design. After five years of life in New York, she embarked on a two-year journey across the United States and Canada by car before ultimately moving to New Orleans in the mid-1970s.
However, it was a chance meeting with Ernst Haas (1921-1986), the noted Austrian photojournalist and pioneer of color photography that transformed Byrd’s photographic practices and perspective. Haas’s decade-long mentorship with Syndey helped unite her aesthetics and documentary approach, creating a world of seductive color and graceful intimacy that embodies the joie de vivre of New Orleans’ culture.
From the mid-1970s to the present, New Orleans has served as Byrd’s adoptive emotional and creative home. Although her work has been exhibited internationally and featured as the subject of numerous books, magazines, and documentary films, one of the artist’s proudest moments is being crowned “Queen for Life” in 2009 by the Backsteppers, a photographer-based Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
As both participant and witness to the cultural rituals and practices that define New Orleans, Byrd’s passion and commitment are readily demonstrated in the way she has documented and reimagined New Orleans for generations to come.
For more information about the Syndey Byrd Archive please contact the
New Orleans Musicians’ Assistance Foundation.
504-415-3514 | office@NOMAF.org
Members of the Olympia Brass Band
(left to right) Fred Lonzo, Richard “King” Matthews, Harold Dejan
New Orleans, 1981
Professor Longhair at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
New Orleans, 1980
The Funeral of Professor Longhair (Henry Roeland Byrd)
New Orleans, 1980
Joseph “Big Joe” Williams & Roosevelt Sykes
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, c. 1980