New Orleanians: Photographer’s Instagram is a window to NOLA’s past, present

Steve Burmester's Instagram page showcases images of New Orleans, carefully blended together showing a glimpse of the past and present in one glance.

by Mary Staes
May 22, 2019

By day, Steve Burmester works in construction, but by night, he’s putting together images of buildings from hundreds of years ago in the form of original digital artwork.

His Instagram page showcases images of New Orleans, carefully blended together showing a glimpse of the past and present in one glance.

Burmester says eight or nine years ago, he stumbled upon some older pictures, and that’s when the idea of blending the past and present happened.

“I did a few on Canal Street,” he said. “I did a couple of those blends and mixes, and then I put it away for a few years. A couple of years ago, I said, ‘You know what, that was really like a passion of mine, I want to go ahead and follow it.’”

Burmester said he finds the pictures in various places, including the New Orleans Historical Society, the Library of Congress and some from private collections. He narrows it down by picking out unique architecture, but also by showing the people of the day in both sides of the pictures.

Soon, Nola Photo Guild’s Instagram was posting his photos, and then, NOLA.com reposted one. Burmester said social media is integral to how he shares his work, but the pictures have also made connections for people in the city.

“It was a picture in front of Preservation Hall with the guy taking a picture of a band, so you see the photographer and the band,” he said. “A woman said it was her husband’s grandfather.”

Burmester takes his evenings and weekends to get photos of the present-day buildings himself.

“That’s the hardest part,” he said. “I’ll probably take 100, 150 pictures in one spot just to get the right angle of the picture. And still, because the cameras of the day and the lenses are totally different, you’ll never get it exact. But I use Photoshop to realign in a little bit, for the most part. There’s a few that I’ve taken that’s like, ‘Wow, in this exact spot is where somebody took this picture from 100 years ago.’ Sometimes I find the exact spot and I don’t have to do anything with it, they match perfectly.”

The editing process can take anywhere between 30 minutes or two days, it all just depends on the photo.

In a city that’s prone to flooding and hurricanes, Burmester’s work helps preserve a bit of history.

“Everything was built on what happened in the past and I really believe there’s a presence there. The presence of what’s in the past, there’s always influence,” he said. “I don’t know if you’re to astrology at all, I’m a Scorpio. New Orleans is kind of like a Scorpio. It’s kind of like, I don’t want to say dark, but mysterious, a little secretive, it’s got a little edge to it. I’ve got a ton of passion. The city is like that. For all of what people call flaws, it’s just part of what it is it makes it what it is. People take for granted to me, what New Orleans is. There is no other city, to me, like it in the country, for sure, but in the world.”

To buy prints of Burmester’s work or see more of his art, click here to visit his website.

Mary Staes is Digital Content Lead for Very Local. She works with our freelancers and crafts content for our social media platforms and website. Before Very Local, she worked with CBS affiliate WWL-TV as a web producer and weekend assignment editor for about 4 years. She has also handled broadcast coverage for 160 Marine Reserve training facilities while she served as an active duty Marine. As a native New Orleanian, she takes being "very local" to heart. She loves being intertwined with the culture and figuring out how there are less than two degrees of separation between us all, whether...

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