"In the time of your life, live....so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery
and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it."

William Saroyan
"The Time of Your Life"

After covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for the better part of three years I hit a wall. It was both emotional and creative. Photography didn't seem to have the magic it once did. I took a break from active shooting and taught for four quarters at Ohio University. When that was over, I floundered, seeking a new direction. I needed a new project, but there was no work to speak of, and I didn't do a freelance assignment for more than a year. Times were tough. But the once hapless New Orleans Saints were winning. They were even undefeated.

I tried to pick up an assignment when I came back to New Orleans in late November, but there were none to be had. While I could have gotten a pass for the games, I opted instead to watch at Vaughan's Lounge, my bar of choice just around the corner from our house in the Bywater. I have been going to Vaughan's for 15 years. It is not unlike the saloon in William Saroyan's 1939 play, "The Time of Your Life," to which the characters retreat to escape the cruel world outside. I've watched many games there, baseball, basketball, and football. But this was clearly special. There was a joy and camaraderie that I had never seen before. As the season progressed, the Saints kept winning: 10-0, 11-0, 12-0, 13-0. They finally lost a couple of games, perhaps relieving a little pressure, and finished the season 13-3, securing the number one seed in the NFC.

Then it came to me: I need to take portraits of Saints fans, or the Who Dat Nation, as they have become affectionately known, at Vaughan's. Instead of using a digital camera, I would use a 2 1/4 Hasselblad and shoot black and white film. Returning to New Orleans for the first playoff game January 16 against the Arizona Cardinals, I spent the entire afternoon posing people against the peeling exterior wall by the kitchen window. The results were remarkable. When the Saints won the NFC championship and went to their first-ever Super Bowl, I knew I had to return again and keep shooting. This gallery represents two afternoons of work and is a tribute to some of the most loyal fans in the world. Fans who stuck with their team through the worst of it when they were 1-15, and forced to wear paper bags over their heads.

Many thanks to all of my friends who helped out on this project. I had so many great portraits that it was very difficult to edit down to 20. Thanks to Cindy and Chris for everything and for not painting the wall; to Carol and Dee for periodic help with ids and promotion, and especially to Reggie Scanlan for loaning me his Hasselblad. Thanks, too, to all the Daves for their technical and creative input. But it wouldn't have been possible without the boyz in black and gold. Bless you boys, for a great season and a great Super Bowl win. It doesn't quite mean things are completely back to normal in New Orleans after Katrina, but maybe for just a little while, we can set aside all the stress and bickering and celebrate as one. Who Dat!

All photographs David Rae Morris. All rights reserved.