A Christmas rant. Just what you need.
Tonight is my favorite night of the season. In New Orleans, we hold an event called Caroling at Jackson Square. We usually go and join in with our fellow New Orleanians to sing Christmas carols. I make pictures. You get to see them and hopefully feel what I felt when I took them. Then we go to dinner. We eat something called a Reveillon Dinner. That’s a Creole holiday dinner that was traditionally served after midnight mass. It is truly something to which I look forward.
But, not tonight.
Crime has gotten progressively worse throughout the city. It has gotten especially violent in the French Quarter. In just the last week, there have been 25 violent assaults. People are gotten beaten to the point of hospitalization. They aren’t getting robbed. There is no score to settle. They are just being attacked by small gangs. Not that it should make a difference, but they aren’t out doing what people sometimes go the French Quarter to do. They haven’t been drinking. They haven’t been partying. They aren’t out too late. And, usually they are walking back to their hotels or cars on what I used to consider the safer streets of the Quarter in the early hours of the evening. Or, almost any time. Just this morning at 8am, a guy and his girlfriend were walking down Bourbon Street when he was shot. Enough.
Why is this happening? Why now? Criminals, some of them anyway, can read. Or at least, they can watch the local news on television. They know that the New Orleans Police Department is very severely understaffed. The NOPD is down some 300 to 400 police officers as I write. They are pretty much completely demoralized. For big events, the Louisiana State Troopers help out in the Quarter. They flood the area with at least 30 troopers. They’ll be around for the big college bowl games. They’ll be around for Mardi Gras and for New Year Eve. But, not tonight.
Yeah, yeah. I know. Right now police and civilian relations are not at their highest point. There have been questionable, to downright bad, legal calls There have been and big and ongoing protests. Two NYPD officers were killed as they sat in their car. RIP to them. This isn’t a political blog, so I choose not to comment beyond that. But, here in New Orleans, we generally all get along. Our police department works pretty well with us during what could be high stress moments, like Mardi Gras when the city is packed to the gills with tourists. But, short-staffed as they are, they can’t be everywhere in the Quarter. The bad guys know this.
I can’t put my family in risk. I can defend myself. I can maybe defend them. But, I don’t want to have to do that. The percentage for bad things happening just walking back to the car, or to catch the streetcar, is just too high right now. Yeah. I get it. You have to watch your back in all big cities. But, not like this. Not now.
The best I can do is show you a little sign tucked away in all the bright lights of Christmas. “Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas.”
My heart is very heavy today.
Ornaments. Glowing, Shining.
All at dusk. One of the best times for me to work. Although my Japanese agency says I should shoot under bright sunlight and blue skies. Huh? Let’s think about that for a minute. One, I really don’t do that. Two, and more importantly, those are the kinds of pictures that are so ubiquitous that if they aren’t just stolen and used for free, they are sold in subscription stock packages. Most photographers would be very lucky to make a net of 2 or 3 cents per image. Me too. It could be that the Japanese marketplace is so removed from the world that pictures like that still matter. But, doubt it. the Japanese marketplace drives technology. The internet further opened that market.
So. What to do about their request. Likely, I’ll just have to ignore it. There are cultural rules that must be adhered to when you deal with companies throughout Asia. Many years of experience help me to always respect that.
Let’s get back to what really matters. This picture. Same old thing. Wait for dusk. Shoot at whatever appropriate ISO, shutter speed and f-stop that picture needs and be done with it. The hardest part, as they say, is getting there. Or, in this case, finding the picture.
I almost passed by this place. At first, I thought it didn’t have enough decorations to make a big Christmas statement. Then I looked again. Somehow, my thinking changed instantly.
Yes. It’s a small picture. But, it’s filled with details. Many of them are in the background. Tropical plants. A pink flamingo. Colorful flowers. We live in a sub tropical place. Even though it feels sort of weird to have temperatures in the high 70s around Christmas, we should be grateful. We aren’t buried in ten feet of snow. The scenery isn’t bleak. I will say that last year, the weather was much colder. That is weird for Southeast Louisiana.
Anyway. I did a lot in post production. I want you to see what I felt. Bright colors. Glowing light. A happy place.
Music City. Jazz. Funk. Brass Bands.
Then, along comes Christmas. What else could there be in the French Quarter? Angels blowing trumpets against the dusky sky. Music. Brass instruments.
Toot, toot, toot.
The picture. You’re gonna get bored. F8 and be there. Press the button. Clean it up a little bit in post. That’s it. Oh. I’ve finally figured out that you can’t photograph these things head on. They have to be shot from an angle. You know, an angel at an angle. That give them some place to play. It allows the dusky light to let them glow a little. Then you might have a picture. You just might.
Oh, what can I say about these pictures? They speak for themselves.
I guess I can tell you not to give up. On anything. I tried to work in one neighborhood of the city and it wasn’t happening. The places that are normally lighted well for Christmas, weren’t. I don’t know why. I started to head back home, thinking to myself “maybe better luck tomorrow night.” I got a couple blocks from my house and I saw this place. I took these pictures. I’d like to take a bow and say that I did a good job. But, that ain’t so. The owners of this house did a great job. I just stumbled upon the scene and managed to get the exposures right.
The person taking a picture? I met a couple of women who traveled to New Orleans, one from Australia — originally from England — and her friend who still lives in England. They came this time of year because they read that New Orleans is a special place during Christmas Season. I’d have to agree with them on that one. I’ve been to a lot of places and there’s no place I’d rather be for the holidays. Besides, it’s home. Who doesn’t want to be home for Christmas?
One more thing. I’m getting very fascinated with the picture within a picture thing that’s going on with smartphones.
There’s Silent Night.
Then there’s New Orleans. Sometimes, we do tend to go a little overboard. It appears that this is one of those times. It is not unexpected. This is my go to house on Royal Street. In The French Quarter. In New Orleans. These folks dress their houses for every holiday. If you can’t find a well dressed house in the Quarter. Go here. Christmas. Mardi Gras. Easter. Halloween.
Come to think of it, the last time you saw this place was for Halloween.
There was a mermaid in the window.
Christmas. Red bows. Golden trim. Sparkling bulbs. Silver bells. Blue dusk.
Details. All of them.
They are part of the whole. Part of the photograph. Part of what we see and feel. Part of what makes us feel good about the holiday. Even for those who don’t believe as Christians do, there is a certain feeling about the season. It is inviting. Embracing. Joyous.
It is especially so in The French Quarter. It’s a feeling. A sense of time. Even with the Hawaiian shirt wearing dancing Santas on Bourbon Street. Even with temperatures predicted yo be in the big sixties on Christmas Day. Even without any snow. It’s just different. It feels good.
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