Big Al Taplet in front of his shop in New Orleans

ALFRED "BIG AL" TAPLET
Born 1934
Lives New Orleans, LA

Big Al decided his shoe shine stand in New Orleans needed some advertising, so he started painting signs, advertising his services. Soon, he found that people would come to get their shoes shined just to buy his signs, and an art career was born. You can still often find Al in Jackson Square, showing off his art and shining shoes with a hearty laugh and a great smile. Better yet, head to Big Al's Shoe Shine shop. The walls there are covered with paintings, and you'll get a better selection (and you can still get a shine if you'd like).
Al's brother tears down buildings for a living and supplies Al with the pieces of slate that he paints on, then drills holes in and attaches wire hangers. His works are colorful and he's got many a slogan showing why you should let him shine your shoes (everything from, "I'll make your soul like gold" to "Jesus says, 'Let Big Al shine your shoes'"). If you're lucky enough to visit the Crescent City drop in spend a little time with Big Al.

 

Annie Tolliver
Jimmie Lee Sudduth