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Soul Survivor


Dancing on the tombstone.

Dancing on the tombstone.

So. One of you said yesterday’s picture was scary enough.

Ha!

This feels a little more scary to me. And, it’s within about five minutes walking distance from the house. The sign on the gate says plainly, “no dogs.” The dogs go there. No. They don’t do what you are thinking. I make sure of that. They just like to play hide and seek among the tombs. Sometimes, it seems as if they know who is buried in certain tombs. They also seem to have their favorites. Before you think we are the only rule breakers, they also have their favorite dog friends who they meet there. This is New Orleans. Dogs go to coffee shops. And, sit outside with their people.

The picture. More experiments. I’m getting quicker at doing them. I think, the speed mostly because my ability to predict what an image will look and my muscle memory is improving.

Working in the coal mine.

Working in the coal mine.

In case you are wondering why I’m going on about dogs, it’s National Dog Day.  There’s one now. She’s learning about old-fashioned UPI drum scanners. I’m pretty sure that she’s thinking, “Nine minutes to scan and transmit? Huh? I could do that now in a couple of seconds and still eat three biscuits.”

Any Other Day


What's a little water?

What’s a little water?

It still looks this way.

Nothing has been done to this building since Hurricane Katrina flooded the neighborhood. Eleven years ago.

That’s not to say the building was in good shape then. In fact, the entire corner had fallen on hard times well before the flood.

Luckily for Bohn Motors, a well-known local car dealer, they’ve been on the Westbank for years. This building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2011. It was built in 1926. Rhodes Funeral Home bought it in 2005 for future development. Two weeks later the storm flooded the city. Redevelopment was scheduled to start in summer 2012.

So far, nothing has happened.  Four years later.

This is the place the Rhodes family said is the crossroads of New Orleans. So much for the crossroads, I guess. Despite many signs to the contrary, maybe New Orleans hasn’t really recovered yet. After the storm damage was assessed, the Urban League said it would take about eight years for the city to recover. I’ve learned a little bit about project management in my career. The rule of thumb, when I learned it, was to plan for three times the predicted schedule time. Twenty four years. That sounds about right. We are less than half way through.

The picture. More experiments. More tinkering. More starts and stops. I wanted to make it really, really dark. But, the picture looked too evil. So, I went in the other direction. I think it works.

 

The End of Time


What remains today.

What remains today.

Out there where the swamps meet the lakes it looks like this.

Not exactly this way. I made this picture look this way. But, the trees are broken. Many are gone. The swamps are dead. The land is desolate. The way you might think that the end of time looks.

Some of this is storm damage. Hurricane Katrina made landfall just a few miles from here. But, it’s been 11 years ago. Nature has a way of healing things. Especially nature’s own things.

This is something different. Much worse. This is the result of land subsidence. This is the loss of our outlying land. And swamps. And, the merging of salt water with lake water. That brackish water is killing the plant life that isn’t used to it. That’s my simplistic and layman’s take on it. There are plenty of places to read more about it. One of the best is http://www.jrconline.org. It’s a science site. Not a political one. It doesn’t grind axes.

That said, this place does make for some striking pictures. I’ve photographed the area mostly in the warmer months. This year I want to work there in the winter months. Well, our winter. Which isn’t really that much of a winter. Even so, it should be truly desolate.

However.

Since I’m on an experimental journey, I thought I’d use a little heavy post production technique. Okay. A lot of photo manipulation. I thought that I would make it brighter and more punchy than my last few pictures. I have two reasons for this. One, the basic scene was blue and green. Converting it to something dark just looked sort of weird. And, not everything around here is bleak and muted. As I always say, let the picture teach you. I think if you rework a picture about 300 or 400 times, eventually the picture will take you to the place where it is supposed to be. I’m not sure that it is there yet, but it stopped me in my tracks while I was working on it.

What do you think? Am I on track? Or, off the rails?

Deserted Cities


Deserted cities.

Deserted cities.

“Upon this street where time has died. The golden treat you never tried. In times of old, in days gone by. If I could catch your dancing eye. It was on the way, On the road to dreams, yeah. Now my heart’s drowned in no love streams, yeah. The street is cold, its trees are gone. The story’s told the dark has won. Once we set sail to catch a star. We had to fail, it was too far. “

— Deserted Cities of the Heart,  Jack Bruce & Pete Brown/Cream 1968

I have no idea how this song got into my head. But, it seemed to fit the picture. Sorta. or, the picture fit the song. One or the other.

I’m getting into my storm mental zone. I didn’t mean to, but things have a way of happening. A lot of what I post this week will refer to Hurricane Katrina. In some way. All of the work will be heavily post produced.

Because.

When I started to work through my photo archives after I returned to New Orleans most of the slide film had been soaked. Much of it was unusable. Some was good enough to be scanned. But, upon enlargement they showed all kinds of weird stuff. Mold had eaten into the plastic. It caused strange colors and shapes. It really couldn’t be fixed. Or, retouched. I kept the scans, but tossed the film. You don’t want mold lingering in your house. In any way. Especially that mold.

Luckily.

The really good images. The keepers. The portfolio pictures… were scanned long before Hurricane Katrina even was a blip on the horizon. Like a couple of years before. And, as you’ve seen, the black and white negatives were fine.

This is not a scanned slide. This is a new digital image. But, I managed to come very close to what that damaged slide film looked like. All it took was a lot of tinkering. False starts. And, a couple of successes.

That’s how it goes.

 

It Never Ends


Drive back.

Drive back.

It’s raining again.

The weather guys said that Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas are getting another five inches of rain. That means the people who were flooded last week will get flooded again since the ground already has too much water in it. In many ways, it’s just a setback. I didn’t go upriver last weekend. But, from the pictures that I saw, the survivors have tossed their lives into the street and have started gutting and remediating their homes.

They have a few things going for them that we didn’t have after Katrina blew New Orleans apart. As somebody wrote in one of the local papers, “It seemed like half of New Orleans was in Baton Rouge this weekend.” People came from everywhere to help. People who wanted to help us after the storm, couldn’t. We were underwater. And, that’s the second thing they have going for them. Once the rain stopped and the flood waters receded, they could get to work on their property. My house marinated in hot water for six weeks. Sheesh. I went to Beijing, China, on assignment. I came back and still had to live in a motel.

And, so it goes.

The picture. I made this picture from something much simpler. The actual photograph is silhouetted telephone poles and farmland at sunset. I added what looks like rain. It came out of my brain, but it could have been real. Sometimes, around here, the rain falls in sheets. One side of the road is dry and clear. The other side is soaked with a downpour. I suppose if you like metaphors, you could say I was moving from stormy days to sunny days. Or, something like that.

A little housekeeping. I’m probably going to get a little weird this week. Today is exactly one week from the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall. Last week’s floods have brought up all sorts of memories. More than last year, when the 10 year anniversary was a really big deal.

Sorry about that.

I’ve made a very conscious decision not to photograph the floods of 2016. I also said last year that I was done mourning Hurricane Katrina. That I was not going to photograph the memorial second line parade. After thinking about it, I have no choice. I’ll be in the 9th Ward in a week. At the levee. Our memorial can speak for the people upriver.

A Sunday Test



Because I’m lazy, I’m trying something out that could be important in the future. I took the picture normally, imported it into my phone, did the post on the phone and posted it to Storyteller without ever leaving the comfort of my phone. 

After working through the process, I’ve found that it’s simple and fairly straightforward. But… You knew there is a but in there, didn’t you? There is one problem. I have fairly big hands. And, big fingers. iPhone keyboards are made for little hands and littler fingers. 

Oh well.

Oh, the picture. I made it in the 9th Ward near the river. The post production is yet another experiment. This time I muted things up a bit. It’s just a little slice of life in a neighborhood that most people don’t think about when they think about New Orleans.

Cease Fire


A good thought.

A good thought.

Cease Fire.

These signs started showing up a few years ago. They didn’t work. There are weekend news reports that read like a baseball box score. But, instead of hits, runs and errors it reads like shootings, muggings and murders. For a while, it seemed like the police had a handle on it. But, we are still short about 500 officers and they can’t be everywhere. Over the summer the body count started to rise. Even though experts disagree, a lot of people who live in inner cities believe that the lack of air conditioners and extreme heat have a lot to do with spiking crime rates. And, there are too many guns on the street. We aren’t taking about Second Amendment rights here. We are talking about criminals with guns.

That’s not the only point of this picture. I photograph what I see. Usually, I just make a few enhancements because I’m one of those people who believes that no picture comes out of the camera finished. That’s for the kind of work that I do. If I was shooting news or was a photojournalist it would be a whole other thing.

However.

I’m in an experimental mood. Part of it has to do with that summer heat I wrote about a couple of paragraphs above. I do have air conditioning so I prefer to stay indoors in the heat of day. Once my other work is finished I get to play.

This image is the result of that. I made it in Central City.

Central City is one of the last remaining ungentrified neighborhoods in New Orleans. But, that’s changing rapidly. It’s valuable real estate even though a lot of it is broken down because a lot of it is located above sea level. You know what that means. A good part of it is in walking distance to the Central Business District and to places like the Superdome.

That all sounds good. Right?

Nope. The home of jazz — Treme — has gone through a gentrification process. Long time families have been forced to move because the rented their homes. For years. They never had enough money to buy them. Their houses were sold out from under them. For a lot of money. Musicians and artists have left. They can’t afford it. I’m always amazed when I talk to some of the benevolent societies while I photograph a second line. Many of their members no longer live in the neighborhood. The very neighborhood they were organized to serve. Instead, they live upriver. Some live almost in Texas. They come home for the parade and drive back the same day.

That’s no good.

I fear the uniqueness that attracts people to the city will come to an end. The music will stop. The the color will turn gray. Luckily, and I say that with mixed emotions, the things that I photograph got very popular after the storm. People come from everywhere to see the Mardi Gras Indians Super Sundays. Or, for the really big second lines. And for just about every possible festival.

The picture. After all that I wrote does it matter? All I can say is that it started out like any normal picture. A good base exposure. Reasonable composition. Good shadow and highlight detail. Then I set out to destroy it. It appears that I succeeded. Heh!