Louis Mendes is a quintessential street photographer best known for his Speed Graphic camera, blocked hat and consistent suave style dubbed “Shaft with a camera.” Mendes is a staple in New York City to tourists and natives alike. He’s been photographed thousands of times cradling his Speed Graphic as if he were the Statue of Liberty holding her tabula ansata. Portraits of Louis Mendes have won awards internationally and grace the walls of galleries world-wide.
Louis Mendes was born in a working-class family in Jamaica, Queens New York in 1940 . He was a young child when his elder sister handed him a camera to begin documenting family events. Later Mendes would study at the RCA Institute of Technology. After stints of working in retail including Macy’s on 34th street, a young Louis Mendes would turn to photography and never look back.
Since the 1970’s Mendes has traveled around New York and the United States photographing people in festivals, parades, on beaches and most notably New Orleans, Coney Island and the Staten Island Ferry. He continues to photograph countless newlyweds, families, graduates, revelers and other photographers; with his 1940’s Speed Graphic camera made by Graflex loaded with instant film in large or medium format. His work is spread out across the world. His instant portraits have become everything from lost to priceless family heirlooms sort after by international collectors. Louis Mendes continues to be asked to photograph people from all walks of life, including celebrities recently Spike Lee, Denzel Washington and many more. In the past he’s photographed legends from Cab Calloway, Tito Puente to Gordon Parks.
With some help from his students and fans alike Louis Mendes has become social media’s photography icon. A fan page on Facebook where photographers are proud to showcase their photos of him with comments that have made it into the New York Times. This online phenomenon continues with several blogs, photo sharing websites including groups on Flickr battling for best group dedicated to him. All this and Mendes doesn’t use a digital camera much less a computer. Mendes credits his students, supporters and the work of Mr. Ortiz. RayOrtizMultiMEDIA spearheads his marketing efforts, internet strategies and licensing ventures.
Louis Mendes is recognized by noted and award-winning journalists and authors such as David Gonzalez for his New York Times articles: “Have Camera, Will Travel” published April 1, 1995 in the ABOUT NEW YORK section. Also “A Camera and Eye, Both One of a Kind” published January 3, 2010 in the NEW YORK REGION section. Kerri Macdonald for his installment in the New York Times LENS blog “Must See: He Kept His Speed Graphic” posted January 5, 2010. Moreover Mendes is featured in “One Hundred Jobs” by Ron Howell photographed by Ozier Muhammad published in 2000. Mendes was also cited for his flash techniques in “Photographic Lighting Simplified” by Susan McCartney published 2003.
Louis Mendes resides in Harlem, New York and has two daughters and looks forward to photographing you.