Neil Johnson, a native Shreveporter and one of Louisiana’s finest photographers, here presents a lovingly crafted portrait of his hometown and its companion city across the Red River. No one could have done it better. For longtime residents, Johnson’s words and photographs will carry the comfortable familiarity of a keepsake family album, yet one that also holds new discoveries waiting to be made. For visitors, the book will be a powerful introduction and guide.
As veteran Shreveport journalist Jim Montgomery points out in his informative Foreword to Shreveport and Bossier City, this is a multifaceted place, a place of contrasts: a part of Louisiana, yet with an unmistakable touch of Texas; possessed of a Sun Belt vitality, yet cherishing strong links to the traditions of the Old South. Neil Johnson manages to catch all of this in his camera.
The views are various as the place itself: a B-52 lumbering home to Barksdale Air Force Base and a clutch of thoroughbreds thundering to the wire at Louisiana Downs; the gentle, prolific beauty of the blossoms at the American Rose Center and the gleeful neon shout of the light-sculptured Texas Street Bridge; a night of theater at the Marjorie Lyons Playhouse and the real-life drama of a heart transplant at Willis-Knighton hospital; the busy cityscape of Texas Street and the serenity of moss-draped cypresses on beautiful Lake Bistineau; cotton fields that were first plowed by the earliest settlers and glittering riverboat casinos that arrived only yesterday; the neobaroque grandeur of the historic Strand Theater and the art deco playfulness of the Municipal Auditorium—where the “Louisiana Hayride” gave a young singer named Elvis Presley his start.
Johnson shows us the people at work—at General Motors, in the nearby oil fields and the pine forests—and at play: the Red River Revel and the Red River Rally, Holiday in Dixie and the Louisiana State Fair, Kwanzaa and even a North Louisiana version of Mardi Gras; high-school football, Shreveport Captains baseball, and the Independence Bowl. He shows us the churches and colleges; the hospitals, parks, museums; the pillared mansions on Fairfield Avenue and the restored shotgun houses of Shreveport Landmark.
In short, Neil Johnson gives us a place in its time; and a fascinating place and time they turn out to be.
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