Faux Teauxs: Amazing Photographs of Famous Cryptids at All of Your Favorite New Orleans Area Attractions!
This series explores the phenomenon of cryptozoology and its relationship to the “other” by depicting a famous cryptid or unexplained phenomena placed into a familiar New Orleans area cityscape or near a historic building, icon, or attraction.
The word “cryptid” is derived from the Greek “κρύπτω” meaning “hide” and is a term which is used in cryptozoology to refer to a creature whose existence has been suggested but lacks scientific support. Such entities include Chupacabra, Bigfoot, Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, Moth Man, Sea Serpents, the Jersey Devil, and many more.
The images were created using Photoshop to manipulate/combine the images. For each of the images, I used a stock photograph that I pulled up using a Google image search as the background. It was important to me to use ready-made photographs that were from specific, iconic, highly touristic vantage point in the New Orleans area. Each one of the background images from the series is a photograph that gets taken many thousands of times each day.
These iconic cityscapes are an integral part of the architectonic structure of New Orleanian identity. These are the buildings, places, and viewpoints that locals and tourists see throughout the city. These places are the experience of non-center that we relate to on a daily basis. “Faux Teauxs”, the name of the series is also a play on New Orleanian identity, and a carnivalesque absurdist pun (said out loud, “Faux Teauxs” = photos). Faux, of course, means “fake” in French, while the intentional replacement of the “tos” from photos with “Teauxs “is a local colloquialism. For example pennant flags supporting the LSU Tigers are printed to read “Geaux Tigers!” This sort of intentional coloquial misspelling is rampant in Southeast Louisiana.
Combined with these iconic New Orleans specific background images, are famous photographs of cryptids and unexplained phenomena. These images were found using Google image searches as well and are “ready-mades” too. I wanted these images to be highly recognizable and familiar to the public. For instance, the image of the Loch Ness Monster is the infamous “Surgeons Photograph” (a known hoax), the most common image of the elusive lake creature. The image of Bigfoot is a still from the famous “Patterson” Sasquatch video that has never been adequately explained. The Chupacabra image is from a famous photograph from rural Texas of one of the dead creatures (the carcass mysteriously disappeared before it could be tested by scientists). The same aura of mystery and deception surrounds all of the other photographs used in this series.
The ten pieces that make up this series are:
- UFO Observed Hovering Above St. Louis Cathedral
- Chupacabra Discovered Dead on Street Car Tracks
- Bigfoot Sighting Behind Shotgun Cottage
- Giant Squid Spotted in Lake Pontchartrain
- Crop Circle Phenomena in Swamp
- Living Dinosaur Behind Superdome
- Mutilated Cow Found Near Water Meter
- Sea Serpent Seen Swimming in Bayou St. John
- Yeti Encounter in Lafayette Cemetery
- Loch Ness Monster Photographed in Mississippi River
Cryptids and unexplained phenomena are the ultimate expression of the “Other”. Unknowable, legendary, terrifying, hidden, and elusive, they reside in a dark corner of the collective consciousness. All of the works in my “Faux Teauxs” series have been intentionally manipulated in several ways to emphasize this “otherness”. The images have been converted to black and white, the exposure and contrast have been intensified, and the images have been blurred and washed-out in order to make them intentionally vague.
My decision to combine “ready-made” photographs found using a Google image search was based on my interest in the Internet as a form of human collective consciousness. By using images found in this way, I have combined two non-existent, virtual originals in such a way that they become greater than the sum of their parts, creating an original from the swirl of images on the World Wide Web. This is similar to the phenomena of identity construction through a mixture of interactions between the center (self), and non-center (other) and adds another layer of depth to this series.
All of the cryptids and unexplained phenomena in this series are also specifically NOT local. There is no history of UFO, Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, Yeti, Chupacabra, Giant Squid, Dinosaur, or Sea Serpent sightings in New Orleans. Cattle Mutilations and Crop Circles are completely foreign to Southeast Louisiana as well. This area has a long history of completely different types of unexplained mythology including Loup Garou (the Cajun 100 day werewolf), Vampires, Voodoo Zombies, and (most extensively) Ghosts and Paranormal Hauntings. The cryptids and phenomena I chose to “transplant” into New Orleans cityscapes are totally foreign and “Other” in a locally specific way (as well as universally “Other”).
This virtual migration of cryptid creatures and phenomena into the cityscape of New Orleans also contains elements of the Carnivalesque for this very reason. The mythology of vampires, ghosts, and voodoo is well entrenched and accepted within the city. The imposition of creatures like Bigfoot and Nessy into our familiar environs overthrows and mocks the local mythological system. It introduces elements of the absurd and a “jolly relativity” into the notion of local mythology. For example, the ghost of Mary Laveau the voodoo queen is widely accepted as haunting the St. Louis Cemetery, why not the Yeti too? If vampires are believed to lurk in the abandoned mansions of the Garden District than Chupacabra can be crowned our new cryptid king. And why should aliens only visit Nevada and New Mexico? They’ll have a much better time in the French Quarter.
On a more serious note, I believe that cryptids are manifestations of collective fears and social tensions. It is no coincidence that sightings of El Chupacabra (the ferocious goat blood-sucker) coincide with the spread of the AIDS epidemic in Latin communities. Bigfoot sightings became prevalent in the last century as industrialization removed humanity even further from the natural world and separated us from our ape-like ancestors. UFOs, Crop Circle Phenomena, Cattle Mutilations, sightings of the Mothman, and all of the rest of cryptozoology take on a new psycho-social relevance when seen in this light.
-Artist Ryan S Ballard AKA Space Commander Chewbaccacabra
UFO Observed Hovering Above St. Louis Cathedral
Chupacabra Discovered Dead on Street Car Tracks
Bigfoot Sighting Behind Shotgun Cottage
Giant Squid Spotted in Lake Pontchartrain
Crop Circle Phenomena in Swamp
Living Dinosaur Behind Superdome
Mutilated Cow Found Near Water Meter
Sea Serpent Seen Swimming in Bayou St. John
Yeti Encounter in Lafayette Cemetery
Loch Ness Monster Photographed in Mississippi River
All Images Copyright Ryan S Ballard 2011 All Rights Reserved.