“Rebirth” inspires a new direction for Atlanta photographer Richie Arpino

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Attendees taking in the monthly Castleberry ArtStoll over the weekend did a double take at the series of photographs tucked inside the back of the Big House Gallery downtown.

Atlanta photographer Richie Arpino‘s new photo series, “Rebirth,” shot in New Orleans’ flood-ravaged Ninth Ward 18 months after Hurricane Katrina is unlike anything the shutterbug has snapped before.

“For starters, they’re mannequins and they’re clothed!” cracked Arpino when we quizzed him about his latest work over the weekend.

The Buckhead salon owner is best known for the stylized black and white nudes he’s shot over the past decade.

“We just happened upon this musician village down there and I just started shooting,” Arpino explained. “It’s really unlike anything I’ve done before. The colors and the spirit were inspiring. Here were these people who had been through the worst disaster that could possibly be thrown at you and they not only survived it, they celebrated it. Everything was so colorful, it just came to life in front of you.”

The wacky, mannequin-manned musician village Arpino documented had one sobering sign that caught him off guard.

“It just read: ‘150 Feet’ and marked where the water had been in the building,” he recalled. “It brought home for me exactly how high the water had been and what these people had been through. For me, happening upon this scene was completely inspiring. It was an example of what the human spirit is capable of.”

Arpino has one regret.

He never got to meet the owners of the structure.

“I’m making it a goal to go back and meet them,” Arpino said. “And I’m going to give the owners a photo from the series as a way to say thank you.”

Arpino’s work provided an accent to the gorgeous colorful works of Atlanta painter L. Renay Kabus, whose latest series, “Re:Create” pulled patrons in off the  Peters Street sidewalk over the weekend.

In addition to Kabus’ fascinating abstract imagery, her talented son, Atlanta singer-songwriter Matt Kabus, was off in the corner strumming his acoustic guitar, attracting new fans who were busy signing up for his email list.

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