Jason Kruppa on contributing work to “Muses & Musicians” exhibition

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One of the many joys of covering New Orleans’ variety arts scene — whether it’s burlesque, drag, circus or sideshow — is running into the photographers who so beautifully capture the ambience of the shows. Burlesque photography in particular almost seems to be in the same kind of renaissance that burlesque itself has been enjoying, and the quality of the work — whether it’s in the mood, the action, the sensuality or the sheer exuberance of it all — has riven to the same kind of art form. (And, possibly, as under-appreciated as burlesque in the same context.)

Their loyalty to their subjects is one of the most fascinating relationships in the cultural scene here; both are masters of their craft and appreciate what they do for the other, but there’s a protectiveness at play here that borders on the spiritual. You don’t post their stuff without crediting them, you don’t mess with the original file, and you make sure you use the photos that make the performers look their best. They’re almost pathologically protective of one another. That reverence shows up in the work.

Some of my favorites while covering the scene include Roy Guste, JonGunnar Gylfrason, Jian Bastille and Michael Egbert, but one photographer in particular always captures my attention: Jason Kruppa. There’s a special kind of sophistication that Kruppa brings to his work that suggests an undeniable versatility and style that makes him a special photographer. (His shot of Trixie Minx for her “Cupid’s Cabaret” show, pictured above, earlier in 2016 was one for the ages.) So special, in fact, that his burlesque and other works are included in the upcoming “Muses & Musicians” exhibition that opens this weekend at the Claire Elizabeth Gallery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter.

The reception runs 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday (May 14). Kruppa’s works will be included with that of Garret Haab, Briana Catarino and Lela Brunet.

The exhibition examines the notion of the muse, something a photographer who shoots burlesque can relate to.

“In ‘Muses & Musicians,’ the viewer is presented with artistic representations of Muses — the personification of the arts and beauty in the female form, alongside those of Musicians — the disseminators of creativity in song,” says the exhibition’s description.

Kruppa’s work isn’t limited to burlesque performers; as the title suggests, he’s found plenty of inspiration in New Orleans as well. Kruppa was kind enough to share his artist’s statement, and some of his works, in this post:

Jason Kruppa is a self-taught, New Orleans-based photographer specializing in portraiture and conceptual photography. 
A substantial portion of these photos were made with “instant film.” Kruppa uses the unique characteristics of this medium to recall the techniques and effects of early photography.
The first series in Kruppa’s portfolio, “Transformations,” explores the transition from what we see in an individual to the person they become before the camera.  Images such as “The Traveler” and “The Dreamer” capture that flicker of the imagination when the artist’s subjects become something greater than themselves – archetypes connected to a longer timeline.
In his ongoing “NOLA Music Portrait” series, Kruppa reflects on the personalities that contribute to the culture and lifeblood of the city. From quiet moments in the studio to carefully composed on-stage snapshots, Kruppa’s soulful portraits capture the broad range of musicians in New Orleans. Featured artists in the series include jazz luminary Delfeayo Marsalis, “Songbird of New Orleans,” Robin Barnes, Folk and Blues artist Luke Winslow-King, and the “Queen of Rare Groove,” DJ Soul Sister.
In addition to his personal portfolio, Kruppa also works in editorial, advertising and curatorial. His work has been featured in publications including: The New York Times, Town & Country, Les InRocktupibles (Paris), Travel & Leisure, EDGE Magazine (NYC), CUE (New Orleans), Scene Magazine (Louisiana), and St. Charles Avenue Magazine. Kruppa served as photo editor on the major biography “LENNON: The Man, The Myth, The Music,” published by Hyperion Press, and curated exhibits for the Louisiana Supreme Court from 2006-2011.

Fellow photographer Dave Rodrigue has watched Jason Kruppa work for a decade, and marvels at his focus on detail in getting the shot right.

“Over the past decade I’ve observed him perfect his lighting technique always with an eye for experimentation,” Rodrigue said. “Jason has some heavy-duty influences, such as (Richard) Avedon and (Robert) Mapplethorpe, and he has been able to use that inspiration to craft his own style. I believe his burlesque work comes from the personal relationships he’s developed with his subjects. He gets to know them as friends and that always lends to creativity.

“The subjects are comfortable,” Rodrigue said. “They trust him.”

Vote for the best in New Orleans burlesque and circus performers, performances for 2015

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(UPDATE: Voting has closed. Thanks for participating. Results will be posted Wednesday, Jan. 6.)

The year 2015 became a landmark year for New Orleans’ expansive burlesque and circus arts scene. Throughout the years, audiences were entertained by new productions from weekly shows all the way up to festivals and specialty productions. (We even saw not one but two Katrina-themed shows). As part of a look back at this banner year for a scene that promises to be discussed in the same breath as the city’s vibrant theater and comedy scenes.

I’ll take a more direct look in that year later in the week, building the coverage I wrapped up while at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. But first, here are some polls to consider in terms of your favorite performers and performances. One rule, and this will probably done on everyone’s word of honor: no ballot-stuffing. Please, one person, one vote, for each poll.

Let’s start with the biggest one: the performers, broken down by burlesque performers, circus and sideshow performers, and emcees. (Please note: The burlesque performers category was so obviously loaded down with talent, for this poll I wanted to A) Focus about the top 30 in my mind, and then let the readers add in any they feel are missing, and then B) Present a “finalist” poll later in the week. The other performers are in small enough categories to remain as is. That said, the burlesque performers category:

And now for the circus performers:

And now for the sideshow performers:

And now for the burlesque and circus show emcees:

Next up: annual productions, which include multiple-day festivals that have become magnets for national touring artists (and a lot of first-timers in 2015):

Next up, we’d like to look at the “specialty” shows in 2015 — shows that also happened once in the year (more or less) but at this point might be considered unique to 2015 (until further notice at least). Some have enjoyed encore/return performances, but the general idea is, they were special to this year:

Monthly burlesque and circus shows have proved to be extremely well attended throughout the year, and help keep interest alive in the scene on a regular basis. (If only they wouldn’t suffer from so much over-lapping bookings, but more on that later.) Here are the favorites:

Weekly shows also do a great show of providing a steady, virtually daily opportunity to enjoy the burlesque and circus scenes in New Orleans, from divey bars to Harrah’s New Orleans Casino:

So let the voting begin, and again, please, one vote per person. The results will be released at the beginning of the year (which is, like, really soon). And please feel free to share with your friends on social media with the hashtag #bestnolaburlesque.