Legendary New Orleans photographer David Richmond dies at 69


Photographer David Richmond - COURTESY OF CHERYL GERBER
  • Photographer David Richmond

Photographer David Richmond was known for his portraits and chronicling New Orleans culture and was a familiar face around the city.

“He was a lost romantic,” says longtime friend Russell Rocke, who helped Richmond in his later years. “He was a workaholic who in the tradition of Clarence Laughlin was obsessive with his work. He loved New Orleans. He loved James Booker.”

Richmond died Jan. 13. He was 69.
Richmond was born in Texas and adopted by a family in New Orleans, where he grew up. He studied classical music at Oberlin College.

During a semester at New York University, he spent time with his childhood friend from New Orleans, D. Eric Bookhardt, Gambit’s longtime art reviewer, who then worked at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

“He was a talented pianist,” Bookhardt says. “He could play Chopin like nobody. On my final day, when I quit Museum of Modern Art, as I was leaving, he discovered the piano that had been installed on the fourth floor where I worked. I made my exit to David playing Chopin on a grand piano. It was a wonderful way to leave.”

In New Orleans, Richmond delved into photography, and learned from photographers including Laughlin, who held salons at his Pontalba apartment.

Richmond worked with many local publications as well as for local companies. He was instrumental in founding the New Orleans Photo Exchange. Richmond also was a recognizable figure around town, often dressed in a three-piece suit and fedora. He was a meticulous photographer.

“All photoshoots with David were aesthetic experiences,” Rocke says. “He had a bohemian lifestyle, working 20 hours in a row. He was famous for being an artist.”

His photographs appeared regularly in publications including The Vieux Carre Courier, Gambit, New Orleans Magazine, OffBeat and elsewhere.

“David Richmond was a brilliant photographer with a gift for capturing the unique personalities of the many New Orleanians whose likenesses appeared in Gambit over the years,” said Margo and Clancy DuBos. “He was instrumental in helping Gambit establish itself as an alternative voice — and eye — in New Orleans. His warmth and generosity imbued every portrait and every cityscape that he produced. David was a dear friend to all of us at Gambit, and we will always remember him with great admiration and affection.”

Photographer David Richmond - COURTESY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photographer David Richmond

Richmond also became an advocate for the work of New Orleans documentary photographer Michael P. Smith, who chronicled local musicians and social aid and pleasure club parades.

While not behind the lens, Richmond was a sort of jack-of-all-trades. He assisted Rocke, who owned and ran the Toulouse Theatre, which presented the musical One Mo’ Time and musicians including Booker. Rocke recalls that Richmond often could be found at the piano in the afternoon and late at night after shows.

Richmond lost most his photographs and equipment to floodwaters following Hurricane Katrina. He struggled with the aftermath of the disaster, and his health suffered.

“He may have been the final victim of Katrina,” Rocke says. “He was capsized by Katrina, and he never fully recovered.”

Richmond is survived by a brother and a sister, Rocke says.

Memorial services for Richmond have not been finalized. Rocke expects services to be held after Mardi Gras.

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