Dogs in My Life:  The New Orleans Photographs of John Tibule Mendes

Edited by Bill Lavender with an introduction by John H. Lawrence

120 pages • $26.95 • ISBN: 9781608010059 • December 2009 • Add to Cart


Raised in New Orleans, John Tibule Mendes lived most of his life in a two-room house on Broad Street with his beloved mother and their dogs. Only after his death in 1965 was it discovered that this lonely and socially awkward man had spent much of his free time documenting beautiful and unusual scenes of early 20th century New Orleans. His glass-plate negatives, discovered after his death in the attic of his house and published here for the first time, capture subjects typically ignored by the photographers of the era. This collection is exceptional from both documentary and aesthetic perspectives, presenting what could accurately be classified as photographic folk art. The photographs in Dogs in My Life are complemented by excerpts from Mendes’s self-published autobiography of the same name. Mendes’s sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious voice adds another layer to these remarkable images. 


“The day-to-day activities of New Orleanians from nearly a century ago hold our attention because they present familiar things (e.g. Mardi Gras, children at play, street life) in ways that no longer seem familiar. Traditions endure, but surroundings change, and the ensemble of city life changes, too. People as well are different, and those differences may be measured either individually or socially by the yardstick of Mendes’s pictures.”
— John H. Lawrence 


Between 1916 and the mid-1930s, John Tibule Mendes (1888–1965) was a consistent and curious observer of life in New Orleans. His photographs are archived in The Historic New Orleans Collection.


Bill Lavender is a poet, editor, and teacher living in New Orleans. He is the publisher of Lavender Ink, a small press devoted to contemporary poetry. His poems have appeared in dozens of print and web journals and anthologies, and his essays and theoretical writings have been published in Contemporary Literature and Poetics Today, among others.

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