Akasha Rabut’s been making a name for herself as a documentarian of New Orleans culture.
She’s from California, but doesn’t look at the denizens of New Orleans like an outsider would — her photographs always have a sense of familiarity, a sense of intimacy that shows how well she knows and understands both the place and its people.
She’s photographed the city’s all-woman rebel motorcycle club, and has shot its urban cowboys.
And now, she’s in Vogue, alongside her photos of a New Orleans Mother’s Day second line parade.
If you’re not from the Gulf, you may not be familiar with the tradition — the parades are thought to be the descendants of West African circle dances; they always feature a brass band and a social club (the “main line”) who dance and march, followed by assorted members of their greater community, the “second line.”
Although tourists dollars have seen the parades appropriated — they were originally part of the benefits package of local clubs that served as an alternative to the insurance companies that refused to insure blacks — Rabut has found that lines in line with the parades’ community-centric origins still occur.
“The second line is like an informal fashion show,” Rabut told Vogue, “Everyone comes out to floss his or her best self. The clothing I see is generally sexy, loud and proud.”
Rabut’s been shooting Mother’s Day lines for the last seven years. “The atmosphere at the Mother’s Day second line is always positive,” she said. “You can’t walk down the street without getting at least five ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ shout-outs — even if you’re not a mom.”
Mothers and children often dress up in their best for the parades, and spectators line their stoops with refreshments, also dressed to impress.
“The music is loud, and everyone has a drink in hand and is dancing in the street. It’s truly one of the most entertaining second lines of the year,” Rabut said.
You don’t have to just take her word for it, though. Take a look at the rest of her photographs below, and see the magic that she saw.