New Orleans: Elegance and Decadence

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From the combined standpoint of critical acclaim, sales, popularity, and influence, New Orleans: Elegance and Decadence is perhaps Richard Sexton’s most successful title to date. Released in 1993, Elegance and Decadence has had multiple hardcover printings and a new edition was published in 2003 and then re-issued in 2012. There are now about 90,000 books in print, making this title one of the most successful photographic books ever about New Orleans.

New Orleans: Elegance and Decadence is an ambitious photo-essay focusing on the historic architecture and neighborhoods of New Orleans, the effects of the passage of time on this historic urban landscape, and the lifestyles and trappings of some of the city’s more eccentric, creative, and impassioned residents. With a distinctive embossed cloth spine and a dust jacket-less binding, New Orleans: Elegance and Decadence is presented as a photo album of the city. The only continuous narrative is the one told by the photographic images, with extended and insightful captions by co-author Randolph Delehanty. The photo essay is comprised of four broad themes: URBAN FABRIC, INWARD VIEWS, VERDANT ENCLAVES, and CULTURAL REVELRY.

Many photo essays have focused on the characterization of place. Within this genre, New Orleans: Elegance and Decadence has been successful and enduring.