Ali Coates has been a shutterbug for sometime. The lifelong local and force behind the Instagram account @nowneworleans bought her first camera with babysitting money and has been clicking away ever since. Talking to the New Orleans’ booster and blogger gave us the sense that she believes everyone in the city should be snapping photos of the beauty they move through every single day.
Coates spoke with us about how she began sharing her city on Instagram, noting that “there’s really no excuse not to be taking photos” when you live in a city as photogenic as New Orleans.
How did you get your start with photography?
I saved up babysitting money to get my very first SLR. Once I started shooting, I realized pretty quickly that I don’t like portraits of people. I prefer taking photos of landscapes and architecture…I noticed that other people, when they took photos of a place, liked to put themselves in the way of a very beautiful place. And I was always thinking “Get out of the view! Get out of the way!”
What are your favorite places and things to shoot in the city?
I love doors: pretty doors, colorful doors. My followers love to see porches and balconies. The prettiest houses are in the Garden District but the most energy and excitement is in the Quarter. Every block has so much to see.
What’s your process like for taking a photo?
I like to appreciate what i’m looking at first, before I ever take a photo. Then I look through the viewfinder and even then I take a second to just take it in before taking a photo. A lot of people just snap a photo and walk away.
After that, it’s usually just one shot. The shots on my Instagram are typically the first shot I took. I figure if I don’t like it on the camera in my viewfinder, I’m not going to like it when I get home.
What sort of reaction did you get to your photos once you started posting them?
It began more just as locals, people who were here who also appreciated the city the way I did. But more and more often, people tend to come from outside the city, whether they used to live here and had to move away or visited a lot. They come and they say “Oh, I miss that sandwich. I miss that feeling.” And that’s been really cool to interact with.
How have you found the local Instagram community?
The Instagram community locally is just great. I’ve met so many awesome, creative people. I’ve made friends on Instagram that have become really close friends. In fact, I just went on a summer trip with someone I met originally through Instagram…It’s a community of great people who are really supportive.
Why do you feel the need to share our city?
Everyday we see stories that may make us a little troubled or saddened. And that’s one of the reasons I love to share positive images of New Orleans. It’s not because its a fantasy. It’s not. Everything I shoot is actually there. I just want to highlight the beauty of our city for everybody.
New Orleans is one of the few places where I could blindfold someone, walk them out into the Quarter, take the blindfold off and have them know where they are thanks to the smells, the sights, the energy. They would have to know “Oh my gosh. I’m in New Orleans.” It’s one of only a handful of cities you could do that in.
We have a culture, a cuisine, a music…I mean it boggles the mind just how many different foods we have that no other city can lay claim to. And a huge majority of people who I’ve come across on Instagram appreciate it and appreciate seeing that.
More of Ali Coates’ work can be found at her Instagram (@nowneworleans) and her blog.