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Clarence John Laughlin Collections: Home


Best known for the surreal photographs of architectural decay in his seminal work, Ghosts Along the Mississippi, Clarence John Laughlin considered himself, first and foremost, to be a book collector. Acquired in 1985 with support from the Friends of the LSU Libraries, the Clarence John Laughlin Book Collection mirrors the eclectic interests of its creator, measuring equal parts the arts, architecture, literature, fantasy, science and the metaphysical.
Clarence John Laughlin (1905-1985) was a New Orleans writer, photographer, and book collector.  His consistent preoccupation with the metaphysical fueled his imagination and creativity. His works always included both words and images, one informing the other.  He often wrote about his personal creative process, driven to share the transformative and heightened sense of reality he experienced. He took great interest in exploring the inner reality of subconscious thought, especially in relation to his work. “Laughlin distinguished between the terms ‘looking’ and ‘seeing.’  ‘Seeing’ was looking with understanding but with an inner eye.”
Laughlin eventually amassed an extensive library of over 33,000 books based on his ideas about “seeing” and alternative realities, meant to inform and enhance the creation of art. Naturally, Laughlin imprinted each of his books with a stamp that read, “From: The Laughlin Library of the Arts.” These materials can be found here.


Adapted from LSU Special Collections exhibition: Seeing and “The Eye of the Imagination:” Fantasy, Surrealism, and Horror in the Clarence John Laughlin Book Collection.
[1] A.J. Meek, Clarence John Laughlin: Prophet Without Honor (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007) p. 35.


Clarence John Laughlin smiling in his library surrounded by towering shelves packed with books

Clarence John Laughlin Collection – THNOC 1981 / portrait of Clarence in his home library / ca. 1981. The Historic New Orleans Collection, Gift of Mr. Stanton M. Frazar, acc. no. 1985.242.

photo of several rare books on fairy tales as seen from a book shelf. spines often seen with illustrated gold foil and leather bindings.

Rare books from the Clarence John Laughlin book collection.

image of rubber stamp from library book that reads,

Laughlin's library book stamp.

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