Back in the day, it was a rite of passage for Louisiana politicians to visit the Baton Rouge studio of photographer Fonville Winans and have their portrait taken.
Some 20 of those portraits are included in Cyril Vetter’s book, “Fonville Winans’ Louisiana: Politics People & Places.” Many are also included in the current exhibit of Winans’ works at the Old State Capitol.
Published by LSU Press, the book includes a biography of Winans as well as historical sketches of his subjects. Published in 1995, the book has seen a resurgence with the opening of the exhibit.
Winans, who died in 1992 at age 81, was famous for his black-and-white images capturing south Louisiana people and places.
“Fonville was known for his landscapes, but in the latter part of his career, he was more well known for his portraiture,” Vetter says. “I’ve always been a fan of Fonville. I love his landscapes, which document a pre-industrial, pristine Louisiana … rich in so many resources. He put it on record so we’ll remember it.”
Vetter’s relationship with Winans, like many Baton Rougeans, was also personal. The famed photographer shot portraits of Vetter’s wife, Tuta, and daughters Gabrielle and Heather.
“Whenever I’d bring the girls in to have their portraits made, I’d see the amazing photos of the shrimp boats loaded down and the oystermen … it really connected with me,” says Vetter. “I grew up on the river … it’s a part of who I am.”
The book, he says, is a tribute to both Winans and Louisiana.
Since selling his television and radio stations, WVLA and 100.7 The Tiger, Vetter has had the time and resources to pursue his love of writing. He wrote a coffee-table book on the architecture of the late renowned architect A. Hays Town with photographer Phillip Gould.
With daughter Gabé, he wrote and produced “Deacon John’s Jump Blues,” a critically acclaimed and award-winning music CD, concert video and documentary film. Now the two are working to bring to the big screen “Dirtdobber Blues,” a fictionalized biography of longtime friend singer/songwriter/actor Charles “Butch” Hornsby.
A multimedia package complete with a 14-song CD, sheet music and photographs of his artwork was released in March 2011.
“These are projects of the heart,” says Vetter. “They are less driven by commerce than wanting to give back. For all its warts, this pace has been great to me.”
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