Dig Baton Rouge

Poetry through a Lens

By Bill Arceneaux

It’s tough to put a label on someone as versatile as Patrick Melon is a challenge. Just call him an artist. Gifted shooting still or moving images, Melon – still a student at LSU – has made a name for himself already on the local art scene and is branching out beyond the city’s borders. He gave DIG an interview to talk about his career aspirations and the state of the city’s art scene.

DIG: How long have you been a photographer?

Patrick Melon: It’s interesting because while I’ve been shooting since I was a senior in high school I still don’t feel the need to call myself a photographer. I’m constantly learning new ways to shoot and attempting to learn about what other people are doing in order to create my own interpretation of what I see. I’m in a constant motion to try to find my own definitive photographic aesthetic.

I started shooting film when I was a sophomore at LSU developing black and white film in the darkroom on campus, and when I eventually moved up to shooting color 35 mm film I knew that’s how I wanted my pictures to be seen. I love the quality of the photos you get from film because it’s a look you just can’t achieve with a digital camera. It feels more archival and that it will last longer.

DIG: You did a short film about a New Orleans abandoned housing project turned into a community art exhibit called Strong Light. What is the difference, for you, between shooting video and taking pictures?

PM: The film I did with B Mike on Project Be was for me a marriage of everything I appreciate about the visual medium. I photographed and recorded video and I turned it into something beyond just a bit information, but an emotion that I wanted to share with people. The same is true with my photography. The only difference is that video has extra dimensions that allow you to control even further the mood and intent you wish to imbue upon your vision. Music, text, and creative editing allow you to extend what starts as a single static image. Photography will forever remain my basis and it is my understanding of this discipline that has allowed me to go even further into the realm of multimedia.

DIG: What is the state of the art scene in Southeast Louisiana?

PM: The art scene in Louisiana is undergoing a Renaissance right now and I am proud to say that I have had my hand in steering it in this direction. I’m seeing more and more art shows pop up around New Orleans and Baton Rouge and it’s beginning to get really popular with hip-hop crowds with event organizers inviting artists to do live paintings and other things of that nature. The artHASAHOME showcase that I started with my co-organizers Ebonie Matthews and Anamar Davila, both LSU students as well, for example has gained mass support and I feel the reason that’s happened is because people are yearning for cultural nourishment. We had the first one at my apartment in Baton Rouge and to my surprise it turned into a literal block party, but people really came out to see the artwork, and art was sold. The last one that we held in January had over 400 people in attendance. There are so many people here that possess the desire to express themselves and I think as time goes on and more and more people begin to host events designated to give credence to these artists on the rise the more we will see interest piqued in these creative endeavors.

“If anything, I know that I am driven to make something of myself. My mother and my sister and brother have been far too supportive of me for me to not have something for them to be proud of. So while I don’t know where exactly I’ll end up just yet, I know that in the bleakest of hours I’ll manage to make something happen for myself if no one else will.”

DIG: You are graduating from LSU soon. As an artist, what are your thoughts on opportunities (or lack thereof) for people fresh out of school, and are you at all worried?

PM: I have to be honest and say that I am worried about the lack of opportunities, but at the same time I’m not because I’ve always made my own opportunities. I found my inspiration for artHASAHOME when attending a house party/art show at an apartment in Chicago a few years ago and that same summer I created my second short film [ 8 ] that I shot, directed, and edited myself. The film was a self-reflective narrative that navigated through my thoughts and where I was at in my life at the time. It was really precious to me, so instead of going through film festivals or begging to have my film played somewhere I set up my own film festival where [ 8 ] premiered and I had a few of my peers show some of their film work as well. I was lucky enough to have had a man representing the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development be in attendance at the premiere and that landed me my first film contract to produce a documentary short about the ongoing coastal restoration efforts in the lower 9th ward. It’s the same with this book I’m trying to put together right now. I do it because I have the passion to do it and at the same time I know that someone is out there that will appreciate my efforts. If anything, I know that I am driven to make something of myself. My mother and my sister and brother have been far too supportive of me for me to not have something for them to be proud of. So while I don’t know where exactly I’ll end up just yet, I know that in the bleakest of hours I’ll manage to make something happen for myself if no one else will.

DIG: At this time, you are crowdfunding a photography book called “no flowers on sundays” through FundDat. How has the experience been thus far? Any challenges?

PM: I am overwhelmed at this point because within just two weeks I’ve nearly reached my goal that I need to fund the book. I’ve sold 19 books as of April 13 which is a very promising number as I’m looking to print a limited edition first run of just 50 books. I’m looking to raise $1500 and this money will go towards three things:

  • Getting the rest of the rolls of film developed that I’ve shot over the last couple years that still have not been processed
  • The cost of actually getting the book printed
  • The release event for the book this summer June 29th at wish boutique in the French Quarter, which will also be an exhibition of my photography from the book

I was originally planning on making a KickStarter project but once I heard about FundDat (through Facebook I believe) I immediately altered my plans to cater to helping out another young entrepreneur while pursuing my own goals. I’ve exchanged emails with Alex McConduit, creator of FundDat, and he seems like a really nice guy so I’m glad that I decided to go with his business. I was surprised to hear that he was even already familiar with my work due to my connection with B Mike. It’s really important that we continue to support our own growing communities with matters as small as the decision to choose a local crowdfunding platform such as FundDat over larger ones like Kickstarter, because in the long run we all benefit by helping each other grow.

DIG: What do you have coming up after the release of your book? How can people stay up to date on your work?

PM: We have begun planning for the next artHASAHOME showcase in Baton Rouge which will take place in July. We hope to get more financial backing behind this one so we can make it into an all day affair and perhaps get some bigger names in art or music involved. This way we can continue to make an impact in Baton Rouge and give artists a way to show what all they’ve been up to. I also have plans to expand on my film strong light. The 31 minute piece I produced seems to me only a small part of the greater story that is waiting to be told about the issues New Orleans is facing such as lack of adequate housing, homelessness, gentrification, and the forced migration of poor blacks out of the city, with art as a backdrop to unwind these stories.

People can keep up with me through these ways:

  • On my blog patrickmelon.tumblr.com where I am constantly posting new photography. There are also links to my video works on the site.
  • On my Instagram page @melontao where I also post pictures often and much more frequently
  • On my Facebook page. I can be found by just searching ‘Patrick Melon’

 

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