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In the Spring


Softly in the spring.

Spring is about change. Rebirth. Change.

Maybe.

All I know is that I’m going to make some changes. Some to me. Some to my shooting style. At least for what I am loosely calling the spring series. As you know, my general style is bright, high color, contrasty and fairly graphic. When I photograph something like flowers, I usually frame them very tightly. Then I work them in post production. That’s what I started out doing with this first spring series. Something happened. The wind blew and I moved to keep up with the picture and I found this kind of strange crop. I don’t normally chimp, but I wanted to see if the picture I thought I made was really the picture I made. It was.

It is more about the space in between than the flower, itself.

Aha.

Something a little different for me.

I set out to TRY to make more of them. I failed way more than I succeeded, but so it goes.

I’m staying off the streets for physical reasons. But, if the truth be told, I really am tired of photographing events like second lines, Mardi Gras Indians and even Mardi Gras itself. I think I’ve done what I can with those subjects.

If I was really, really deep into the culture I would see the little changes and different years suits would be a big deal to me. If I could find different angles for Mardi Gras that might help. But, I don’t know enough people to say, “hey, let me up on your balcony or on your roof.” The other day I realized I don’t very many people in the city. At least very well. Just call me an iconoclast. That’s why I live in a “compound,” behind a fence.

I’ve been sort of casting about for a quiet project. This might be it. The light has to be right. The scene has to be right. And, I have to be right.

Make no mistake. I’m not staying with this forever. I’m not a nature guy. I’m really not a flower guy. I just like what I like. Remember, I’m the guy who, when you ask what kind of flower is in the picture, I reply “a yellow one.” I’m really just clearing my mind for the next personal project. Whatever that might be.

I’m going to dispense with the photo technique for a while, except to say that for this series, it’s all in how I saw the image. There is minimal post production. If anything, I tune pictures down a bit. I want them to be soft and gauzy. If I wasn’t such a wimp, I’d actually do that in the camera.

You know how that goes.

Leaving 


Change. In the air. 

Spring came. Leaves fell. Seed pods fell. Pollen escaped from the pods. Allergies blew up. It’s bad. Real bad. Everybody is walking around sneezing, sniffling and coughing. Then the stuffy head stupids arrived. 

Nothing helps.

We hope for rain. It’s due later today. Maybe it will knock down the seed pods and clean the pollen out of the air. Or not.

The picture. It was made on a dog walk. Post production made it what you see. The color isn’t additive. It’s subtractive. 

And, Finally


Wildman John.

It’s not that I’m out of pictures of Super Sunday. It’s because I’ve used my take for a week. I may be boring you. And, the culture is hard to understand. Especially if you don’t live in New Orleans. Even though it doesn’t look it, there is a lot of ritual. A lot of protocol. A lot of ceremony.

So.

I thought that I would conclude with a little portfolio of pictures about one man who I’ve been knowing (as they say around here) for about five years. Wildman John. His suits are always very, very good. But, I think he out did himself with this one. Whew. He understands his culture. He sings. He dances. He walks up and down the street, greeting people along the way. Then he walks the parade route. As big as his suit looks, it is smallish and more traditional. Some Indians make suits that are about twice this size and have massive three-dimensional  components to them.

The pictures. Follow him around a bit over the course of the late morning and try to find the moment. Or, at least try to piece together enough pictures to tell a little story.

Pretty, pretty.

A Day Too Late


Wildman John takes a stage.

Art.

Let’s start with this. From Bob Dylan. A brand new interview about music, art and the nature of things. It’s here on his website  https://bobdylan.com/news/qa-with-bill-flanagan/  should you want to read the entire piece.

Here’s just a bit, as it applies to my thoughts for today.

“I’m sure it has, there’s always some precedent – most everything is a knockoff of something else. You could have some monstrous vision, or a perplexing idea that you can’t quite get down, can’t handle the theme. But then you’ll see a newspaper clipping or a billboard sign, or a paragraph from an old Dickens novel, or you’ll hear some line from another song, or something you might overhear somebody say just might be something in your mind that you didn’t know you remembered. That will give you the point of approach and specific details. It’s like you’re sleepwalking, not searching or seeking; things are transmitted to you. It’s as if you were looking at something far off and now you’re standing in the middle of it. Once you get the idea, everything you see, read, taste or smell becomes an allusion to it. It’s the art of transforming things. You don’t really serve art, art serves you and it’s only an expression of life anyway; it’s not real life. It’s tricky, you have to have the right touch and integrity or you could end up with something stupid. Michelangelo’s statue of David is not the real David. Some people never get this and they’re left outside in the dark. Try to create something original, you’re in for a surprise.”

From me, the key phrase in all of the is, “art… is only an expression of life, it’s not real life.” The second telling phrase is, “it’s tricky, you have to have the right touch and integrity or you could end up with something stupid.”

We’ve talked a bit about art and photography here, on Storyteller, and at other places. Mostly, we’ve talked about the components of a particular picture. Just using the pictures from Super Sunday, let’s ask the question, whose art is it anyway? Using just the top picture, of Wildman John, whose art is it? To be sure, that pretty suit is his work. It came out of his head after referencing what he knows of history. But, by framing the picture in the way that I did, the photograph is my art. Besides, where else can you buy two beers for three dollars?

Same.

With the other pictures. Most of them are just seeing. Locating the subject within a particular scene. And, being a little patient. Or, by moving quickly. The baby was made by being patient and waiting for mama to turn in a certain way. Turkey Neck was made by seeing this guy standing there working his smart phone (what else?) and rushing to a point where I could line him up against the sign. Of course, these days I don’t rush anywhere very quickly. That might prove to be a good thing.

The rest of the pictures were made by my own stumbling around. Keep moving and you’re bound to see something. Dylan talks about some monstrous vision. Sure. I kind have it too when it comes to street events. Only for me, it’s simple. I want the participants to located in their neighborhoods. I want you to see them on their streets.  Even though I often make very tight portraits, those are a kind of desperation picture knowing that I haven’t made the pictures of my vision.

That’ll happen a lot. It’s the nature of the things. The beast. The game.

To be clear. That’s my vision. I don’t question anybody else’s dream. I’m not the arbiter of anything, except my own work.

By the Look of Things


Sitting, waiting.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

To me this picture makes a statement. A huge statement about New Orleans. And, perhaps the state of America. From a health perspective. Look at the details of the picture very carefully and you’ll see what I mean. Far be it from me to do any kind of shaming. I think we are what we are. Besides, on some days I can barely walk so who am I to complain?

At least I try. No matter how bad the pain is, I still manage to walk three miles a day. I try to eat well. I stretch… until the stretching doesn’t see to help. I think a lot of people in this picture — well four — have given up.

That wasn’t the intentional point of this picture. I just liked the moment. I didn’t really see all that was going on until I opened it up to work on it. At first it seemed funny. But, as I looked at it I began to think, “Wow, we are in really bad shape as a group of people.”

So. What are we going to do about it?

Oh yeah. And, those smartphones. I won’t say it. Again.

A New Orleans Thing


The surrounding crowd.

Super Sunday.

Uptown. A really big deal in the city. Bigger than people who are not involved in it, think. Just about one-third of Central City is pretty much cordoned off. If you are late to the scene, you have to walk in. If you are trying to get out, all I can say is good luck.

With the combined days of Super Sunday and St. Joseph’s Night, every place was especially jam-packed. That’s the bad news. Especially if you don’t like huge crowds. Or, are looking for a parking space. I arrived early to circumvent that. I parked where I always park. In between the cemeteries.

The good news is that Indians were everywhere. There are the usual locations where I wander to see them preparing.To set the scene in the neighborhood. Sometimes, they are hard to find. Not last Sunday. They were everywhere. As I was trying to leave in order to make my way downtown I kept stopping along the way to make more pictures.

Downtown, you ask?

Well, that Super Sunday is April 1. No, that’s not an April Fool’s joke. But, it was still St. Joseph’s Night. Downtown Indians came out too. In fact, there was even a retirement ceremony… that I couldn’t find. That’ll happen. These guys know the streets. Way better than I do.

I have more pictures. They are pretty quirky. That’s what I set out to do. Not only did I make pictures that way, but I curated that way as well. Sometimes, I get too conservative in the culling process. I solved that by listening to a little Grateful Dead while I was working.

Y’all know that for me, the beauty of the art is trying to make a little different picture. Sometimes, I succeed. Mostly, I don’t. I fall into the excitement of the moment. Not last Sunday. Since, it was my last Uptown Super Sunday, I found my zone early and stayed there. I hope that I made a few unique images. You’ll see as the week plays out.

In case you are wondering…

Knowing that I was done after last Sunday changed me emotionally and physically. I slowed way, way down. That put in me in the right place at the right time. I absorbed everything. Despite being a photographer who documents stuff, I still think the best place for me to remember is on the inside. In my mind. My heart. My soul.

That’s probably why I’m never in a hurry to post my work. If you looked at my Facebook and Twitter feeds, you’d think Super Sunday was breaking news event. Hmmm…

I think you should enjoy the moment — even for me, when the moment is pressing a button — and not be in a hurry to prove you were actually there. You know you where there. Isn’t that what matters? Your friends will eventually see your pictures.