So. I told you yesterday that I accidentally became a Southerner. I’m not sure how it happened. But, it did. Today, I thought that I would share with you some of the places I saw yesterday. There are a lot more pictures. I’ll show them to you over the course of the next week or so.
Yes. I have a fascination with the way trees are shaped by nature. A quick design lesson. Things in nature are divided by roughly thirds. You can easily see it in trees. Or, in your own body. It’s math.
I have no idea how long this building has been around. I think at one time it was painted a shade of green that around here is called Vieux Carre Green. You used to see it a lot in The French Quarter. But, the color was popular around the turn of the century. The last century, the one that turned in 1900. This building is still functional. Look at the electrical connections and meter.
Long time friends of Storyteller know this place. It is the Kenilworth Plantation house out on Bayou Road in St. Bernard Parish. For those of you who didn’t see it, it was built in 1759 or 1779 depending on who you talk to. It was built using the old peg system of assembly, rather than using nails. It was badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina, but has since been restored.
There is St. Bernard Parish and there is St. Bernard Catholic Church. The church was the original heart of the parish. Parishes are what we call counties in Louisiana. The church was established in 1785 to serve the colonists who came from the Canary Islands. Those people are called Los Islenos. The cemetery at which you are looking is part of the church. It is classically Southeastern Louisianan. The current church was built in 1852.
I wish I had more information on this building to give you. As weathered and beaten as it looks, it is still functional. The road that you are looking up is Bayou Road.
I’ve seen pictures of this place. I’ve hunted for it for years. But, I can find no reference to it on any of the historical sites I visit to make sure the stories and myths that I’ve been told bear some kind of resemblance to the truth.
All I know is that there are two signs on Haynes Boulevard in New Orleans East. They were entrances to a long abandoned drive-in movie theater. I’ll find out more and come back to you. I promise.
The South. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It means something to me.
I’m trying to figure out how it happened. I was born in Brooklyn, NY. I was raised in Southern California. I lived for a long time in Asia. But, a huge part of my professional life has been lived in the South. Virginia. North Carolina. Texas. Louisiana. And, I have to tell you it feels like home.
It really hit me yesterday. I was listening to the album from which “Your Southern Heart” comes. It’s an album by Roseanne Cash. Johnny’s daughter. It’s called “The River & The Thread.” We’ve been listening to it an awful lot around here. It’s about her life in the South. She wrote most of it. There are a few covers, but she does them in her way.
I also looking for pictures with a dear friend. My God daughter’s mom. She’s from Mississippi. I usually like to work alone or with somebody who is very used to my working style. But, yesterday was almost perfect. Between the stories and her accent and Roseanne’s music… I made a lot of very good pictures. I found one giant zone. I don’t do that often.
Nature helped. Rain. Sun. Heavy clouds. Bright clouds. A little warmth. Some humidity.
It felt like the South. It felt like home. Finally.
The door was locked. I walked around to the side of the abandoned house. The wall was missing. So I just boosted myself up towards the floor… until it broke and gave way. I jumped backwards and down. Back on the ground where I belong. I decided that I really didn’t need to be inside. So I took this picture.
If you look through the window to the window in the next room, you’ll notice it has old-fashioned 1920s era burglar bars. Like that’s going to do any good. When the wall is missing.
Yeah, yeah. I know. Be careful. Thank you for that.
I went to Hollygrove today. That’s one of the funkiest and worst neighborhoods in the city, Not because it always was, but because the storm swamped it. I went there to work. The work is the prayer I always say.
This one was for Maya Angelou. She meant something to me. But, I didn’t really know her. Not really. But, sort of.
I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I found this picture. It’ll do. Just fine.
This is about pictures. Not guns. Not bullets. But, we did have 17 or 18 shootings over the long Memorial Day weekend. “Only” four people died. “Only.” It wasn’t as horrible as the shootings were in Santa Barbara, California. But, still…
Anyway, we’ve had some really bad light. Not bad in a good way. Just plain old bad.
The strength of Southeast Louisiana light is found in the wildness of the weather. Heavy rain. Big, bold clouds. Lots of wind. Flooded streets. Broken stuff. Light bounces around all of those things and makes my pictures interesting. Even high humidity helps, by adding red droplets of water to the sky. At high noon the sky might photograph gray. But, those micro droplets make for dramatic sunsets.
Not in the last week or so. The temperatures have been high. High 80s and low 90s. But, not much humidity. That’s good if you are walking around. No rain at all. But, very dry for this time of year. Not so good if you live here. “Mushy” light. No shape in the clouds. No great sunsets or sunrises.
We were supposed to get thunderstorms today. Nothing. We are supposed to have rain for the rest of the week. We’ll see. So far… nothing.
So. I went looking through my collection of images from earlier this year. I managed to assemble a little essay. About driving and photographing. Drive by shootings. But, not the bad kind. The good kind.
In the past, whenever I’d publish these kinds of pictures I used to make a big deal about telling you not to do it. It isn’t safe. I’ve done it a lot and I have a sort of routine where I let the camera do everything automatically. All I do is sort of point the camera by placing it on the dashboard. I actually never really know what I’m shooting until afterwards. That’s okay. I don’t chimp while I’m working with both feet on the ground. But, I don’t want to fall into the trap of concentrating on the picture instead of driving.
The pictures. My technique. I told you how I take these pictures. Making them is not really complicated. I usually just clean them up a bit, darken them and that’s it. No need to help them. Nature mostly did that. Nature is much better at that than I am.
Wow! Who took that picture? That’s what I was thinking as I did what I call the final clean up edit of my Bayou Boogaloo take. The picture is an illustration of something that I preach constantly.
Look around. Don’t fall into the trap of tunnel vision.
My best example is photographing an amazing sunset. Take those pictures. That’s fine. That’s what caught your attention. But, don’t forget to turn around and see where that wonderful light is falling. Many of the pictures you see here, on Storyteller, were made that way. I was looking where the light fell and what it illuminated. It never fails. When I do that I’m amazed at what I see.
This picture isn’t exactly and example of that. But the sun was pretty low in the sky, which helped to create the golden look. And, it did create shadow that was very sharp, clear and easy to photograph.
You pass through a neighborhood and you think that after almost nine years things are finally starting to come together. Then, you turn the corner. The houses are abandoned. The grass, plants and weeds are overgrown. The streets are so potholed that they have reverted to dirt. There are still piles of junk lying around from some building being partially remediated and then forgotten.
That sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
Then you start thinking about it. If you look for this stuff as I do, passing through the same neighborhoods every month or so, you begin to see that more houses are habitable. More houses are being renovated, rehabbed and restored… even in some of what would have been the most forgotten neighborhoods. That ought to make you smile. It makes me smile.
The work. I played with the post production on Sunday evening. Traditionally, Sunday has been known as “Experimental Sunday.” For me, anyway. You know the rest. Lots of heavy photo manipulation going on here.
This is it from The Bayou Boogaloo. The last picture.
This is classic me. Making a picture on the way to some place else. We were walking back from the area where I made the pictures of Big Chief Juan Pardo dancing, singing and chanting.
If you are wondering where that was, look at that big brick building in the background. Look at that square shape in front of it to the bottom left of the building. That’s the stage.
That brick building is dead. It used to be The Lindy Boggs Hospital. During the storm this neighborhood took on about 15 feet of water. So did the hospital. The basement was completely flooded. That’s where a lot of major equipment was located. Everything was destroyed. By the time anybody could get inside the building, the top floors were destroyed as well. Hot summer. Humid summer. Broken windows. You can figure out the rest.
We are coming up on 9 years. There have been all sorts of big plans made for the building and the land. No developer seems to be able to raise the money needed to do anything with it. As you can see, the rest of the neighborhood has come back just fine. The hospital is a monument to Hurricane Katrina.
One of these days I’m going to have to sneak in and do a little Urbex. Of course, I would never cross a no trespassing line, fence or sign. No. Never.
They aren’t always on parading on the streets. Sometimes they sing, dance and chant from stage. When they do, they usually draw the largest crowd at whatever festival they happen to be playing. This is Big Chief Juan Pardo. When we were talking on Uptown Super Sunday, he was showing me his hand decorated club-like fan. He is very proud of it. He should be. Just like his feathered suit, it took a long time to make and decorate it.
This, by the way, is where we were going when I made the picture of the peaceful Bayou St. John that I posted yesterday. On one side of a bridge, a quiet Saturday afternoon. On the other side, 30,000 people listening to three bands, eating great food and growing the local art.