This year I spent Mardi Gras photographing the Skeleton Krewe. The Krewe was created by Christopher Kirsch, a New Orleans native and fine artist in the truest sense of the word. Click here to check out a preview of a book I made with the photos I shot that day and here to see more see images from 2013’s Le Krewe D’Etat parade.
I asked Christopher Kirsch what inspired him to create his own crew. Here is his response.” There is no one factor that inspired me to start my own Mardi Gras Marching Krewe but rather a series of events. First off it’s in my blood, my father and my father’s father both marched in the oldest Mardi Gras marching club, the Jefferson City Buzzards. The history of that club goes all the way back to 1890. I knew I couldn’t be a Buzzard but that’s another story…..I knew I had to start something on my own. As a child I was always fascinated by a photo that they would publish every Mardi Gras in the times picayune of several skeletons walking down Magazine Street, it’s an early photo before the streets were paved in New Orleans and as a child this picture fascinated me, always thinking to myself “that ain’t Mardi Gras that Halloween” Year after year they would publish this photo in their Mardi Gras supplement pull-out. It wasn’t until the 1990’s when Mardi Gras was dieing did I learn that skeletons are a common image in Mardi Gras in New Orleans as well as Carnival celebrations around the world, from Rio to Haiti and even Italy. Around that time I became to soak up any Carnival and Mardi Gras history I could from a Gambit article about the Black Bone Gangs or New Orleans, to a James Gill book called Lords of Misrule and several other books on the subject…. after reading about how Comus started as a street level procession I was determined to build something of my own to help save Mardi Gras….now this didn’t happen over night, it started slowly and has built slowly.I knew I wanted to be traditional, I knew it had to be Papier Mache just like the early heads of the giant walking heads of Comus and I knew I wouldn’t want to wear a head over and over again, every year it would have to be a new head, and I new nothing could be store bought and ready to wear (okay our gloves are store bought but that’s it) It started slowly, me by myself in 1999 and again in 2000 Then in 2001 my then girlfriend (now my wife) decided to make a head (a devil, also a traditional carnival image) some friends saw us that year and joined us in 2002, slowly we grew but I new I always wanted to maintain control and quality of the krewe. By 2003 we settled on a logo and went forward, we grew from 6 members in 2003 to about 40 now, some aren’t active due to little ones of having to relocate post-Katrina but I still consider most people that once marched with us members (there are only a few that I would never let march again – but I ask you don’t print that) in 2012 we had 24 active members, in 2013 we only had 17 due to illness of some a bad back of another and others not being able to get the day off. In 2000 I began costuming as a skeleton for the Le Krewe d”Etat parade, somewhere along the lines they noticed and by carnival 2005 we were asked to take part in their parade and pass out their Carnival Bulletin and their own Wooden Nickels, the only way to get these items is to obtain them from the Skeleton Krewe during the parade. We have proudly lead their procession since then, learning and growing along the way.We are made up of Artist, School Teachers, Liberians, Fire Fighters, Attorneys, professors and Office Workers and more. We range in age from the late 20s to the early 60s We spend about 6 plus weeks of heavy preparation to get ready for Carnival, from each member making their own head to spending time getting our trailer ready for Le Krewe d”Etat or making banners or ordering “throws”, we are broken up into committees to help organize everything. Some of us spend much more than 6 weeks on the Skeleton Krewe……..Our Krewe starts early on Mardi Gras morning, leaving a secret location before sunrise and heading down the traditional parade route down St Charles Ave. before heading into the French Quarter, each year we stop at St. Louis Cathedral and have a meal and meet and greet other Marching clubs, This year we toasted the Krewe of Bike-Us in years past we have met up with the Krewe of Grotesque and Outlandish Habiliments, the Krewe of the Golden Calf or the Krewe of Chartreuse and others. Part of our Carnival ritual has evolved into Battling the Christians (not very Christian Christians) I like how you have labeled them A Christian Hate Group. It has just sort of happened, this year was the first for the Blah Blah Blah banner but we are already planning on making more of those along with some nonsensical Christian banners….you’ll have to wait until 2014 to see what we come up with…..after we tire of the Christians we move on to the R Bar on Royal Street to meet up and watch the Society of Saint Anne, we slowly disband and start heading home around 2 in the afternoon or so. I would just like to mention that there is nothing else I ever want to do for Mardi Gras ever again.”