Fonville Winans' Photographs of Louisiana

From "Big Shots" to Brides: The Portraits of Fonville Winans

Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame/NW Louisiana History
Fri, May 20, 2022 - Mon, May 20, 2024

A gifted, amiable, and inquisitive photographer, Theodore “Fonville” Winans (1911-1992) had an intuitive eye for composition and an innate ability to connect with his subjects, revealing both their personality and a sense of place. 

Winans drove the backroads and navigated the bayous of south Louisiana during the early 1930s. Along his travels, he documented many fascinating aspects of Louisiana culture including the Acadian fishing community of Grand Isle, the Crowley Rice Festival, an annual fox hunt in Feliciana Parish, the interior of a salt mine on Avery Island, and prisoners at Angola State Penitentiary.  

After getting married in 1936, Winans and his bride, Helen Collins, settled in Baton Rouge where he would raise a family and make splendid photographs for half a century. Initially, he worked as a state photographer specializing in portraits of elected officials during the tenure of Governor Earl Long. Then, in 1940, he opened his studio on Laurel Street and became a wedding and portrait photographer, known for the friendly thoroughness of his approach. Generations of Baton Rouge brides selected him to document their special day.

Winans achieved an engaging blend of intimacy and revelation not just in his wedding photographs, but in all of his work. And although color photography became more available and popular during his career, he mostly stuck with the familiarity of black and white. An alert and sensitive chronicler of his times, Fonville Winans created a magnificent and monochromatic record of a colorful and complex culture.

In 1994, the Louisiana State Museum acquired the most extensive collection of Fonville Winans photographs, along with camera equipment and memorabilia from Robert L. Winans, the photographer’s son, and Natalia, his daughter-in-law. This comprehensive exhibition includes more than 160 of Winans’ photographs of Louisiana bayous, politicians, citizens, celebrities, and brides, several videos about the photographer and his subjects, and photography equipment from his studio.

Bringing together some of photographer Theodore Fonville Winans' most striking portraits, From "Big Shots" to Brides: The Portraits of Fonville Winans includes a diverse array of portraits, many of which have ties to north and central Louisiana.