Art professor's New Orleans photo makes opening credits of new HBO series

"To the Ancestors, Guardians of the Flame Arts Society, Harrison Family Home, Upper 9th. Ward. Mardi Gras Morning." New Orleans 2007. (Photo by Lewis Watts)

Tune into Treme, the new HBO television series by David Simon (The Wire) about post-Katrina New Orleans, and in the opening credits you will see a photograph taken by UCSC associate professor of art Lewis Watts.

Watts said the producers of the show were likely referred to his photo from a curator or photographer based in New Orleans--where he has been taking photographs and gathering material for an upcoming book, "New Orleans Suite," since 1994.

The book is being written with UCSC American Studies professor Eric Porter (author of What Is This Thing Called Jazz?).

Watts has been working professionally as a photographer, archivist, and curator since 1974, focusing on communities in the neighborhoods of Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco.

He is co-author of the 2006 book, Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era, which features his restorations of salvaged photographs that portray musicians and patrons of the vibrant jazz scene in the Fillmore District during the 1940s and 50s (see Review magazine story).

Watts' digital works include photographs from the lower eastside of Manhattan, South-Central Los Angeles, and most notably, New Orleans--both before and after Hurricane Katrina.

"The image used in Treme was taken at the home of Cherise Harrison-Nelson, who is the daughter of Donald Harrison Sr., who was the Chief of Chiefs of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians," Watts noted.

"It shows the West African tradition of paying tribute to the ancestors by pouring a libation, and it is indicative of the broad cultural traditions that are prevalent in Louisiana," he added.

Watts joined the UCSC art faculty in 2001. More of his work can be found at: Lewis Watts and at SF MOMA--Lewis Watts.