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Editor’s Note: Claire Bangser is a New Orleans-based freelance photographer and short filmmaker, and founder of the Roots and Wings Creative. Her work – spanning commercial and editorial projects – is centered around telling human stories powerfully. In February 2014, she started the popular New Orleans street portrait project NOLAbeings. Since then, her work has been featured by a wide range of media, including National Geographic, The New York Times, TIME, Wired, Glamour, Vox, Amazon’s DP Review, Le Parisien Magazine and New Orleans Magazine. Claire leads trips every summer for National Geographic Student Expeditions, where she teaches filmmaking and photography to high school students abroad.


“My husband and I grew up five blocks apart. We didn’t know each other until we were juniors and seniors in high school. But we had all the same friends, did all the same things but on different nights. We eventually met through mutual friends at a drive-in party. You remember the drive-in movies? Well, we’d go there with as many kids as could go in the cars – teenagers – and then we just sat on the back of the cars and had parties. It was just something to do. We were going to the restroom – I was going one way, he was going the other way – and the girl I was with said ‘Oh, did you meet Joe?! Here’s Joe!’ So we met and we went out and we’ve been together ever since. We’ll be married 47 years in July.”

“What have you learned from 47 years of marriage?”

“Like the person that you marry. Don’t love ’em, like ’em. There’s a fine line between love and hate. You can love someone, but if you don’t like ’em and like what they do and how they act, you’re not going to love ’em. If you like ’em, you can love ’em. You can put up with everything. We’re just good friends. We do everything together. We’re now retired and we do everything together still!”


“I’m in a nerd-lesque troupe called Society of Sin. It’s like burlesque but with nerds. I’m just into super sci-fi stuff or comic book-y stuff, anything like that, or pop culture related. Two years ago I got into burlesque, so this was just… putting all my interests together! Our burlesque plays are super fun. Like we had a Harry Potter burlesque play this past October – we called it ‘Harry Potter and the Bed Chamber of Secrets.’ And we do Bob’s Burgers burlesque plays too.”


“What are you doing out here?”

“We’re catching stuff.”

“What do you like most about Mardi Gras?”

“When… we catch stuff…”


“This is my first season as a new sailor with the Sirens – we’re a marching krewe. And we make throws that are messages in bottles and they’re really really pretty. This year, I made 15 bottles and my messages were all the same. They said ‘A smooth sea never made a good sailor.’ That saying has been meaningful all my life. For me personally, it means that without challenges, you’re never going to be your full strength. Anytime I hit a bump and I want to give up on stuff and get angry at the world or angry at other people for things, I remember I’m in charge of my own happiness.”


“Back in the day, they didn’t have lights. They didn’t have no energy, no power. So they used the fire to show the floats and the king and the queens and stuff, so you could see them. That’s the tradition of the flambeaux. I’ve been coming out here [with the flambeaux] since I was 9 years old. I was carrying – you know how when they have a wreck and they have the flares? Well, they let the kids carry the flares. As I was coming up, I grew, got bigger, and started carrying the big ones. When I first started, I made $600 in one night. When I was 9 years old, oh they hated me. They didn’t want me to be with them because all the kids was getting all the money. You get tipped way better than the adults.”


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