Frank Relle is a New Orleans-based photographer whose double-parlor gallery lies in the historic Miltenberger House, once the home of the Princess of Monaco — at 910 Royal Street — in the heart of the French Quarter. Relle’s nocturnal exploration of the city’s houses and landscapes result in his hauntingly beautiful photographs that have been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, National Geographic, The Southern Review, and The Oxford American. Relle is the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2007 International Photography Award, and was one of the Photo Lucida Critical Mass Top 50 Photographers in 2006 and 2011. We interviewed the native New Orleanian about his favorite places in the Quarter, including where to eat, drink, read, and shop. Here’s the inside scoop.
Shermans Travel: You take beautiful photos of New Orleans’ nightscapes. Where might people go to find the most interesting architecture in the French Quarter?
Frank Relle: The city of New Orleans is one of America’s greatest outdoor museums. The streets are lined with a treasure of architectural types and styles. My favorite area to explore is the lower Quarter; the residential streets between Dumaine and Esplanade have interesting finds on every block. As you walk the streets, keep your eye out for courtyard access that will lead you into the beautiful hidden gardens of the Quarter.
ST: What made you choose to host your gallery here? Why is this particular neighborhood of New Orleans so special?
FR: During college I waited tables in the French Quarter and discovered my love for being where everyone comes to explore and celebrate the culture and history of New Orleans. The place I found for my gallery, at 910 Royal St., is in the double-parlor of historic Miltenberger House, once the home of the Princess of Monaco. With antiques sourced from the city’s famed auction houses and hung over restored heart pine floors, my photographs find their native context: a place that lives its present in the past.
ST: Any common misconceptions about the Quarter?
FR: The French Quarter is full of contradictions, misconceptions, and mysteries. It’s one of the most visited places in the United States for good reason — and for bad — but if you look beyond the beer goggles and beads of Bourbon Street, your curiosity will be rewarded.
ST: Let’s talk about hidden gems: Tell us your favorite places to eat and drink in the French Quarter.
FR: The Napoleon House is great for Pimm’s Cup and a muffuletta; hit up Sylvain for great courtyard dining and an egg on top a burger. There’s The Palm Court for a jazz dinner, EAT for plate lunch specials, Bayona for their sweetbreads, Green Goddess for eclectic vegetarian and vegan; and when it comes to creative cocktails, I head to Bar Tonique or the courtyard at Cane & Table.
ST: How about bookstores, coffee shops, and boutiques?
FR: The bookstores in the French Quarter are the best, even better than the bars. There’s Faulkner House Books, Dauphine Street Books, Arcadian Books & Print, and Beckham’s Bookshop. Stroll to Spitfire Coffee or Café Envie for your caffeinated fix and then back to the bookstores.
ST: Aside from your own gallery, where should one shop for art in The French Quarter?
FR: Right on my block we have amazing galleries, such as Chris Roberts’ Antieau Gallery, Red Truck Gallery, and Haroun Gallery. And just down the street, check out Gallery Orange; for a historical view visit M.S. Rau Antiques and ask to view their painting collection. A Gallery for Fine Photography is the place I discovered I wanted to be a photographer — an astounding collection.