"I pulled a few slides at random and held them to the light. Then a few more.
At first, I didn't understand what I was seeing.
Then I realized: these were taken by someone i never knew, my father when young.
— from the Introduction by Michael Tisserand
In the late 1950s, Jerry Tisserand roamed from Barcelona to Paris to Kentucky to New Orleans, keeping his camera close at hand. With the goal of taking photographs that “no one else has taken,” Tisserand captured, over a four-year period, a series of unique and vibrant scenes of everyday life: ancient cobblestone vistas, hidden backcountry roads, classic cars, young love, and brilliant revelers at Mardi Gras.
Then one day, he stopped as abruptly as he started. He put away both his camera and his photographs, never to return to them.
Sixty years later, his son, Michael Tisserand, keeping close to home due to COVID, began pulling out dusty boxes of forgotten family mementos. Inside one box, he found two grey steel cases, each containing tidy rows of Kodachrome slides. He pulled a few at random and held them, one at a time, to the light.
At first, he didn’t understand what he was seeing. Here was the work of a photographer with a curious eye and a unique perspective. An artist.
Then he realized the photos had been taken by someone he never knew—his father when young.
Today, Jerry Tisserand’s remarkable work adds a brief but vivid chapter to the history of American street photography, introducing an artist who documented “sights seen, strangers encountered, friends loved, passions felt,” as Michael Tisserand writes in his intimate introduction to My Father When Young.
For fans of both photography and Southern culture, My Father When Young is also a book for anyone who has pondered the nagging question: What did my parents’ lives look like before I was born?
"If Robert Frank and Diane Arbus had a kid brother, and they set him up with a little camera and all the rolls of film he wanted, the result might be a lot like My Father When Young. Jerry Tisserand’s photos from the late ‘50s hit us with a startling power, like a Kodachrome time capsule dropping on our front step. These pictures have beauty and comedy and mystery — the most puzzling thing of all being why Tisserand put away his camera at such a young age. Too bad, but at least we have these images documenting a time and some places long since vanished." — Ben Yagoda, author of About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made
"A wonderful family story. These images are equally remarkable from a photographic standpoint. Jerry Tisserand’s Bilora Bella had a typically minuscule and dark viewfinder through which to organize the world. Good capturing-the-moment “street photography,” as best exemplified by “Lady Godiva — New Orleans,” was a mighty task in 1959. I wish he had continued." — Douglas Baz, Photographer, Cajun Document: Acadiana, 1973 - 74
"Imagine finding all this from your dad. Or even someone else’s." — Roy Blount Jr.