A Sojourn in Paradise
Jack Robinson made his name as a much sought-after fashion and celebrity photographer during the 1960s and early 1970s, and his work is well documented in hundreds of pages of Vogue, New York Times, and Life, as well as other publications. However, his personal life remains virtually unknown.

In this study of Robinson and his early photography, Howard Philips Smith takes an in-depth look at Robinson’s early life in New Orleans, where he discovered his passion for painting, photography, and the Dixie Bohemian life of the French Quarter. A Sojourn in Paradise: Jack Robinson in 1950s New Orleans features 100 photographs taken by the artist and is organized into sections that include his photography, photos of the author, and photographic plates. The images are accompanied by detailed commentary about Robinson’s life in New Orleans and excerpts from interviews with the people who knew him when he lived there.

Robinson’s photographs of New Orleans reveal the genesis of two unique and fascinating facets of the city’s history and culture: the creation of the first gay Carnival krewes, who would make their own unique contribution to the rich cultural history of the city; and the formation of the Orleans Gallery, one of the earliest centers of the contemporary art movement blossoming in 1950s America. This detailed study of Jack Robinson’s early life and photography illustrates the contributions of a gifted, gay artist whose quiet spirit and constant interior struggle found refuge in New Orleans, the city where he was able to find himself, for a time, free from society’s grip and open to exploring life on his own terms.

University Press of Mississippi - 2020


The Cult of the Mask - A Novel
A group of down-and-out artists and subterraneans live a carefree life of excess and effervescence, sequestered away in Slaughterhouse Point. Across the river lurks the legendary French Quarter, but at the newly hatched Pelican Studios—a former plantation house and funeral parlor—a strange tale unfolds about growing up in the South and discovering a fantastical queer world in New Orleans during the early 1980s. Gay liberation is still in its infancy, but in the Crescent City dazzling discothèques and drag bars abound, as well as sleazy backrooms and preppy cocktail pubs, while Carnival explodes each year with its own brand of quenchless decadence. Two close friends, Razz and Joris, make a solemn vow to attend all the gay balls of the 1985 season, a near impossible task, for tickets are bestowed, not bought.

Gay Carnival exists in the shadows, yet for the queer community, it is the height of gay expression with a dozen or so krewes, or social clubs, vying for the ephemeral glory of one supreme night amid all the festive madness. However, the real theater lies not on the stages of extraordinary costume balls, but in the everyday escapades of those devoted to their own cult of the mask. Within this unique queer universe, their makeshift lives begin to unravel as the festival draws to its climax on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, and the spectre of a world-wide pandemic hovers menacingly on the horizon, poised to sow terrible destruction.

Library 729723 Editions - 2019


Unveiling the Muse
Many books have been published on the history of Carnival in New Orleans. Very few even mention Gay Carnival or the importance of the gay krewes as part of this grand history. Unveiling the Muse: The Lost History of Gay Carnival in New Orleans is the first book to document this phenomenon unique to the city of New Orleans. Author Howard Philips Smith has spent over twenty years compiling information on all the gay krewes and has at last brought this story to life in a full-color publication.

University Press of Mississippi - 2017


Southern Decadence in New Orleans
The Southern Decadence festival in New Orleans began in 1972 as an end-of-the-summer celebration of friendsgay and straight, black and whiteon the Sunday before Labor Day. Over the decades to follow, Decadence transformed itself into a mostly gay celebration lasting almost a full week, with parades and block parties, bead tosses and scantily clad revelers. The history of the event is a complex story of how the city itself could foster such a novel and completely original extravaganza, despite the onslaught of AIDS and the Religious Right. Howard Philips Smith (with Frank Perez) has brought together rare invitations, posters and interviews to do justice to an almost undocumentable phenomenon.

Louisiana State University Press - 2018


About the Author

Raised on a small farm in rural Southern Mississippi, Howard Philips Smith obtained multiple degrees in history, French and German. A Fulbright scholarship (1977) took him to France where he studied French literature and taught English in a French lycée in Bordeaux. After living in New Orleans during the 1980s, Smith moved to Los Angeles and completed his novel The Cult of the Mask, based on the gay community in New Orleans before the onslaught of AIDS. The research for this work was transformed into Unveiling the Muse and Southern Decadence. The University Press of Mississippi published his third New Orleans history entitled A Sojourn in Paradise: Jack Robinson in 1950s New Orleans in the summer of 2020.


Podcast: A Sojourn in Paradise: Jack Robinson in 1950s New Orleans
Isabel Machado
New Books Network - January 24, 2022

Recent Queer History Publications: Review Essay
Robert Azzarello
Louisiana History: Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association - Winter 2021

Podcast: The Reading Life: Howard Philips Smith
Susan Larson
New Orleans Public Radio - February 5, 2021

Podcast: David Spielman and Howard Philips Smith: New Photography Titles
Hosted by Britton Trice
Garden District Book Shop - August 17, 2020

Zoomcast: QUEER SOUTHS: Memory, Change, Love, and Marriage
Authors Morris Ardoin, Phillip Gordon, John F. Marszalek III, and Howard Philips Smith discuss their recent queer publications. Panel moderated by Jaime Harker.
University Press of Mississippi - June 2020

Podcast: Southern Decadence in New Orleans
Isabel Machado
New Books Network - June 11, 2020

A Sojourn in Paradise: Jack Robinson in 1950’s New Orleans by Howard Philips Smith
David Marshall James
August 7, 2020

A Sojourn in Paradise: Jack Robinson in 1950’s New Orleans by Howard Philips Smith
Scott Naugle
Clarion-Ledger/Hattiesburg American - August 7, 2020

“A Sojourn in Paradise: Jack Robinson in 1950s New Orleans” by Howard Philips Smith— New Orleans Life and the Early Career of Fashion Photographer Jack Robinson
Amos Lassen
Reviews by Amos Lassen - July 2020


Other Publications

Book Review: Julio Capó Jr. Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami before 1940. Jerry T. Watkins III. Queering the Redneck Riviera: Sexuality and the Rise of Florida Tourism.
(The American Historical Review, Volume 125, Issue 1, February 2020, Pages 271–273.)

Downtown Mardi Gras: New Carnival Practices in Post-Katrina New Orleans by Leslie A. Wade, Robin Roberts, and Frank de Caro
(Book Review: September 16, 2019)

My Gay New Orleans: 28 Personal Reminiscences on LGBT+ Life in New Orleans
Story: "Gilbertine Liveaudais"
(Edited by Frank Perez, Jeffrey Palmquist - 2015)

New Orleans Magazine
Story: "In the Kingdom of Queens" - January 2015

Arthur Hardy's Mardi Gras Guide
Various articles on Gay Carnival.

© 2023 howardphilipssmith