Capturing life’s moments with the art of photography

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 13, 2001


The photographs told a myriad of stories, tales of histories, of lives, of joys and sorrows. Black and white narratives of faces with their lines, smiles and eyes that revealed their pasts and future hopes, landscapes of treaded-on land that reamained long after its founders were gone and churches and old buidlings of years gone by, were all displayed across the table to tell the many chronicles of the past. That was the scene at the home of Coo Hachet, a LaPlace resident who was born and raised in the town, as she prepared her photographic treasures to be presented at a Mississippi photography display. Her collection was put on display for the public Friday at the Margaret Reed Crosby Mermorial Library and Cultural Center, 900 Goodyear Blvd., in Picayune, Miss. Hachet, who has been an amateur photographer for more than 50 years, spent the years between 1947 and 1954 vigorously pursuing her hobby and taking most of the pictures that will be on display through the rest of this month and February. Hachet, along with her husband, spent seven years taking “field trips” with two other couples and taking photographs and meeting other amateurs. After they took their pictures, they would return home to develop their film in a make-shift studio that had been a chicken coop during World War II. During the war, the government asked people to either have a “Victory Garden,” a vegetable garden or raise chickens, so Hachets father built a chicken coop. “It was a pretty fancy chicken coop, a beautiful chicken house. It had a beaded cypress ceiling, and when you tell peoople you have a chicken house like that, they almost flip their lids,” said Hachet. The family had 1,000 baby hens at a time that they would use at their restaurant, called Roussels, which is where The Place on Airline Highway now is. They also had 500 laying hens, and they sold the eggs for money. During the war, Hachet volunteered as a plane spotter. “About five of us would meet at a house, and when we spotted a plane wed tell which plane flew over and send the message on to someone else.” It was after the war that Hachet began taking pictures. When the war ended, Hachet used the building as her studio. “We had a studio with a sheet for a backdrop. We had a studio chair and lights. Wed read all about what the really good photographers were doing, what they used and how they did. Then wed do it.” “We taught ourselves. We read books and thats how we learned. We bought our chemicals. We bought our paper cutters. We set up a place to dry prints, dry negatives. All of this was done during the days of no air conditioning, too. We had a window stuffed with hay and we put an old fan in it to dry. It was better than nothing,” said Hachet. A section of the old chicken house served as the darkroom. The couple had two enlargers, and they used their hands to shade the pictures to lighten or darken them. They also used pencil or charcoal to scratch out blemishes on the photos. “That was the art of retouching back then,” said Hachet. Hachet said that after the war, she and her husband were looking for a hobby. Her mother had given her a Brownie, one of the first popular cameras that people used, and she decided to take up photography. She later got an Eastman Kodak and then went on to a Nikon. Her husband had his own camera and would go around to football games and take pictures of people he knew. He never photographed the game, just the people in the stands. “We always took pictures of the kids. Wed have bonfires. Wed take pictures at those. Weve taken pictures of churches, plantation homes like Oak Alley and San Francisco Plantation and swamps, but mostly people.” Her portraits, which are reminiscent of the paintings of Norman Rockwell, are her favorites. “I always try to put people in the photos if possible. It makes them more interesting,” she said. Hachet has also done a lot of traveling, all over Europe, to Japan, China, and Thailand, and here in her own country. She remembered a picture she took of a Jewish grave yard in Poland. “It was so unusual. They only had a little bit of ground to bury the Jewish people. They were almost buried one on top of the other.” The old chicken coop/photography studio and darkroom is now torn down, though the cow barn that stood behind it is still standing. The building, which housed chickens, then a studio, had also served as a wedding reception hall. Hachet has photos of the event. Hachet heard about the library in Picayune from a friend who is exhibiting her cross stitch work there. “I thought, How nice, and thought I could show them what I have.” Hachet brought her photographs in, and they agreed to exhibit her framed pictures along with two other photographers, who are professionals. For information on the exhibition, call the Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library and Cultural Center at (601) 798-5081.