Biographical / Historical
Emile Waagenaar lives in the Netherlands, where he works as a commercial photographer. He is an enthusiastic aficionado of Cajun music and because he loves the music, which he discovered in the 1970s, in 1982 he began photographing musicians who play this regional style in New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana, Texas, etc. Over the years, at his own expense, he has made many trips from his home to the United States in order to seek out, befriend, and photograph Cajun musicians with their instruments—in their homes, businesses, and concert environments in the United States. Since he fears that this music is always at risk of disappearing as older musicians die and other popular music styles of the moment attract audiences away from traditional forms and styles, he has a missionary spirit in engaging in this project. He hopes not only to preserve visual records of some of the most important musicians and their environments, but to engender interest in Cajun music on the part of those who view his photographs. This project seems is one to which he devotes considerable time and passion and is the most personal of his photographic projects because it is self-assigned rather than deriving from economic necessity. His enthusiasm for this style of music led him to form his own Cajun band in the Netherlands. Many of his images can be viewed on his web site at http://www.emilecajun.web-log.nl/.
Waagenaar has had a number of exhibitions of his work on Cajun musicians in Europe and the United States, including the solo exhibit, "La Joie de la Musique," Sept. 9-Nov. 25, 2006 (La Musées de Lafayette, Louisiana). His work is discussed and critiqued by Johan von Gurp in the catalog Schatten van Breda's Museum (Breda, Netherlands, 2003).
Waagenaar's aims are both aesthetic and historical. He has tried to document the most important and innovative musicians, first among the generation of musicians who were the founders of Cajun music in the beginning of the 20th century. He writes, "After that I think it is important to have the second, third and fourth generation of these musicians. Every generation gives…Cajun music another drive, but the people I want to photograph must…respect the old traditional style and stay close to that. These days I use the Internet to find new musicians, but the best [way to] locate these people is talking with the musicians I already know…when I am in Louisiana. Mostly I give them a phone call and explain my intentions."