Arthur P. Bedou, African-American Photographer (July 6,1882 – July 2,1966)

Arthur P.Bedou-

(July 6, 1882 – July 2, 1966) was an African-American photographer based out of New Orleans, who was for a time the personal photographer of Booker T. Washington and documented extensively the last decade of Washington's life.

Arthur P. Bedou(1880-1966)

He was an African-American photographer based out of New Orleans who was for a time the personal photographer of Booker T. Washington and documented his life extensively over the last decade of Washington’s life. He also documented campus life at the Tuskegee Institute and the city life of New Orleans, especially the city’s black residents. For nearly 70 years, he photographed leaders of his nation, as well as Creole families in New Orleans. Early in his career, in 1903, Bedou showed his work to Booker T. Washington, president of Tuskegee Institute. For the next decade, he worked as one of the official institute photographers. He traveled with Mr. Washington and was able to capture the essence of his public appearances and the nature of his work at Tuskegee.

Through his connections with Mr. Washington, Bedou earned projects at Fisk University and many other black colleges and universities. He served as official photographer for the National Medical Association, National Baptist Convention, and the National Negro Business League. Back home in New Orleans, he often did work for Xavier University, documented deportation of Marcus Garvey, and the cornerstone laying of Corpus Christi Church. In 1907, he achieved national recognition by winning the gold medal for photography from the Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition. In late 1944, Dillard University hosted the first public show of Bedou’s work.


One mystery yet to be solved regarding Elinor’s queenship has to do with a photo shoot that took place at her home. The photographer captured her in full regalia, including crown, scepter, long mantle, and in a first for a Carnival queen, a gown with a raised hemline. But the most intriguing aspect of this series of photographs, a collection now split between the Louisiana State Museum and the Historic New Orleans Collection, is the photographer’s signature in the center of the lower margin of each print: Bedou. The pencil inscription is a bit loopy and illegible and likely unfamiliar to nearly anyone looking at it with uninformed eyes. However, once recognition kicks in that this is the signature of Arthur P. Bedou, New Orleans’s most accomplished African American photographer, the unknown story of how these two individuals came together astounds. Bedou was the personal photographer for Booker T. Washington on his lecture tours. Did Elinor and her family know this when they invited Bedou to the family’s St. Charles Avenue home to photograph the queen of old-line Carnival? We may never know, but the series of photographs that he created of Elinor may be one of his most beautiful.

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