Author: Michael Tisserand Category:

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“I pulled a few slides at random and held them to the light. Then a few more. At first, I didn’t understand what I was seeing. Then I realized: the photos had been taken by someone I never knew—my father when young.” – From the Introduction of My Father When Young.

 In the late 1950s, Jerry Tisserand roamed from Barcelona to Paris to Kentucky to New Orleans, keeping his camera close at hand. With the goal of taking photographs that “no one else has taken,” Tisserand captured, over a four-year period, a series of unique and vibrant scenes of everyday life: ancient cobblestone vistas, hidden backcountry roads, classic cars, young love, and brilliant revelers at Mardi Gras.

Then one day, he stopped as abruptly as he started. He put away both his camera and his photographs, never to return to them.

Sixty years later, sheltered in place during the COVID pandemic, award-winning author Michael Tisserand (Krazy, The Kingdom of Zydeco, Sugarcane Academy) pulled out a dusty box of forgotten family mementos. Inside, among other things, he found two grey steel cases, each containing tidy rows of Kodachrome slides, most of them unmarked. He pulled a few at random and held them, one at a time, to the light.

At first, he didn’t understand what he was seeing.  Here was the work of a photographer with a curious eye and a unique perspective. An artist.

Then he realized the photos had been taken by someone he never knew—his father when he was young.

Today, Jerry Tisserand’s remarkable work adds a brief but vivid chapter to the history of American street photography, introducing an artist who, for a fleeting time, documented “sights seen, strangers encountered, friends loved, passions felt,” as Michael Tisserand writes in his intimate introduction to My Father When Young.

For fans of both photography and Southern culture, My Father When Young is also a book for anyone who has pondered that nagging question: What did my parents’ lives look like before I was born?

“Imagine finding all this from your dad.” —Roy Blount, Jr.

Edited by Michael Tisserand, a New Orleans-based author whose most recent book, Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White, received the Eisner Award and was named a New York Times notable book. His previous books include The Kingdom of Zydeco, which received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for music writing, and the Hurricane Katrina memoir Sugarcane Academy. More information about Tisserand and his work can be found at MichaelTisserand.com