View down Dauphine Street at Canal Street,
accession number 1979.325.5181,
The Historic New Orleans Collection
Charles L. Franck was a commercial photographer in New Orleans whose individual career and successors covered all but the first decade of the 20th century. In 1955, his studio was purchased by Alfred L. Bertacci Sr., who continued to operate within the same scope of assignments as Franck had done.
Tens of thousands of photographs and negatives from the Franck and Franck-Bertacci studios, held at The Historic New Orleans Collection, chronicle the face and growth of Louisiana, and New Orleans in particular, during the 20th century. The change of the city through its photographed character focuses on the major industries (the port, construction, transportation) during a period of racial integration, labor disputes and urban growth. As the Franck Collection approaches the present day, the photographs of major building projects (the Louisiana Superdome, bridges across the Mississippi River, nuclear power plants and petrochemical complexes) touch in issues of suburban and exurban expansion, and environmental concerns.
The construction and real estate trades furnished the lion’s share of the studio’s projects. But other types of photography marked the vibrancy of a large and diversified practice: accident scene photography admissible in court cases; copy work of many types; portraiture; and aerial views.
Sprinkled throughout are images of social gatherings, private parties, religious ceremonies and public events such as Mardi Gras. Many of the company’s photographs from the second half of the 20th century reveal changes to a New Orleans skyline that had remained nearly static since the construction of the Hibernia Bank Building. Charles Franck had photographed the building of this structure, topped with a reproduction miniature Roman temple, completed in 1921.
From mundane to dramatic and routine to historical, the negatives and prints of the Charles L. Franck and Franck-Bertacci Collections open a window to the architecture and urban landscape of New Orleans and its surroundings during the second half of the 20th century.