By Kevin Shannahan
Dr. Richard Anthony Lewis, author of Robert W. Tebbs, Photographer to Architects: Louisiana Plantations in 1926, spoke to a full house at the opening reception for an exhibit of Robert Tebbs’ plantation photographs held at the Louisiana Sports Hall Of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum Friday, April 26.
Robert Tebbs was born in England in 1875 and came to America with his family in 1888. He served in the Spanish American War and started a successful career as a sports journalist and photographer before trying his hand at architectural photography, becoming one of the foremost architectural photographers of his era. In 1926, he photographed 97 plantation homes throughout Louisiana, quite a change from New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, one of his first commissions in 1913. Tebbs, with New Orleans architect Richard Koch acting as a guide, set out on his journey across our state. Many of the plantation homes were in precarious condition even then, and a number of them are no longer standing. Tebbs also photographed more than the larger, more well known plantation homes. His photographs are often the only record of what the smaller homes looked like. His interior shots of the often abandoned homes offer us a tantalizing glimpse into what they must have looked like in earlier times. Tebbs’ widow sold the entire set of photographs to the Louisiana State Museum in 1956. This is the first time they have been widely available for public view.
Dr. Richard Anthony Lewis, the evening’s presenter and author of the book on Robert Tebbs’ plantation photography, is the curator of visual arts at the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. The exhibit will be on display at the museum through Nov. 2. Come out and see an interesting aspect of our past, much of which only exists in those photographs.