“Merry Christmas Y’all”: The Gleason Collection

December 20th, 2013 by Mark E. Martin

GleasonOverBRLAXmasDavid King Gleason Papers and Photographs, MSS 4520-2013

David King Gleason worked as a photographer in Baton Rouge from the 1950s through the 1990s. Like most photographers, Gleason made a living though studio portraiture and wedding photography in the early years of his career. Beginning in the early 1960s, he added to a new line of images – antebellum homes of the south.

In the late-1960s he published “Louisiana plantation homes, a portfolio,” which included twelve plates of plantation homes with text describing the homes and their history. Over the next fifteen years he expanded upon this theme ultimately having at least seventeen books published, each one covering the plantation homes of a particular area of Louisiana and farther afield.

Beginning in the 1980s Gleason took to the air to create a series of aerial photography books illustrating individual cities. His first was “Over New Orleans : aerial photographs” published in 1983. Over the next eleven years he added a revised “Over” New Orleans and new works for Boston, Miami, Baton Rouge, and Atlanta.

During this same eleven year period – 1983 to 1994 – he added to his plantation homes series with visits to Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. One volume, “Antebellum homes of the Gulf Coast,” covered more than one state.

On April 22, 1992, while shooting photographs in Atlanta for another book in the “Over . . . “ series, the helicopter Gleason was riding in crashed in Atlanta’s historic Grant Park neighborhood. He died in the crash.

Four years later his wife and heirs gave Gleason’s archive of photographic work to the LSU Libraries Special Collections. His widow, Josie Gleason, worked on organizing the collection for a number of years until her failing health prevented her visiting the archives. With her death in May 2013 the collection in its entirety became part LSU Libraries Special Collections.

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