I wrote in an email to a friend of mine, that after a decade and two weeks of photographing night Mardi Gras parades, I finally figured out how to do it. He got so excited that he drove down to New Orleans from somewhere between Dallas, and Fort Worth, Texas to photograph a bit of Mardi Gras for one day. Of course, for him, Mardi Gras was just a sub text. He was really chasing a decisive moment. From what I could see on his camera’s LCD, he captured a lot of them. Oh yeah. This friend’s name? John Fulton. He’s the master of all things photographic at The Boy Scout publications. I think that he drove for about 18 hours to photograph for about a total of 12 hours.
Anyway, back to the original premise of my post and the title.
For the most part, parades of any kind are like a lot of the news you read or view. Recycled. The same content year, after year, after bloody year. It’s what drives newspaper photographers to find newer and greener pastures. There are often only so many ways to make a different picture of the same event. You either look for a decisive moment, or you move on to something else. As National Geographic’s Jim Richardson says, “if you want to take better pictures, stand in front of better stuff.”
So. This is my first year back to New Orleans after about a six-year exile in New Mexico after what we call, “the storm.” That’s Hurricane Katrina to the rest of the world. Yes. I know, I know. “Exile” to New Mexico? It’s a beautiful place, but I never really seemed to connect there. And, that after traveling there for probably 25 years. But, I was excited to cover as much of the carnival season as I could, even though I knew I might be making some of the same pictures I made years ago.
Once again, back to the topic. I got too much sleep last night. I’m verbose. 🙂
Since parades generally look the same, I started messing around with other ways to capture what parades are really about. What are they about at their most basic level? They are celebrations. They are about motion and light and energy. They are about connecting with something bigger than yourself. They are fun. So, I started working on that… of course, this little bit of inspiration came during the last two night parades of the carnival season. Proteus and Orpheus. But, that’s enough. It got me there. First, I stopped trying to be sharp. Not every picture has to razor-sharp. Then I got into the crowd as up close and personal as I could. Then I worked with only one lens, an 11-16mm f2.8 Tokina beauty that forced me to work very close in order to fill the frame. Then I changed every possible angle.
Some of the results are shown here, here and here.