Clarence John Laughlin

Dates1905 - 1985
BornLake Charles, Louisiana, United States
DiedNew Orleans, Louisiana, United States

My gradually evolved conviction [is] that the camera could be used as an instrument to explore the mind of man, the inner world where man lives both by symbols and emotions, and that in achieving this, the camera would have been used in such a way that it became a direct extension of the luminous and supersentient eye of the imagination--a third eye!

Clarence John Laughlin wrote passionately of the connection between photography and imagination in 1949. He made his first photograph in December 1930, keeping meticulous records of every exposure thereafter. During the last half of the decade, he made more than two thousand negatives of his beloved New Orleans French Quarter. For his first professional job, Laughlin worked as a Civil Service photographer with the United States Engineer's office, where he documented construction work. After a brief stint in New York working for the Vogue magazine studios, he became Assistant Photographer at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

In 1946 Laughlin returned to New Orleans. His architectural studies of antebellum plantation homes, published as Ghosts Along the Mississippi, brought him acclaim, and in the 1950s he focused on homes of the late 1800s, believing that architecture " the one art most completely involved with human lives." Laughlin's best-known work belongs to the series he titled "Poems of the Interior World," aligning his passion for literature with his lyrical, psychologically charged visual representations. He stopped photographing in 1967 because of crippling arthritis, and began to catalog his carefully documented 17,051-image collection.