Even though this is a picture of a second line parade — The Young Men Olympian Junior Benevolent Association to be exact — it is more about my evolving working style. It’s how I like to work these days. In the middle of things. Up close. And, personal. It might not look quite that way, but I took this picture with a 16mm lens. Or, similar to a 24mm if the camera’s sensor is APS-C sized.
So. I’m close. I’m part of the parade.
That’s it. As Robert Capa said, “If the picture isn’t good enough, you weren’t close enough.”
That’s what we call them in New Orleans. As in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Yes. There is a street named Desire. There is a neighborhood named Desire. And, once upon a time there was a street car line that ran through the French Quarter, through the Bywater and towards the lake in the 9th Ward. Ain’t der no mo’. Every now and then the tracks reappear when some of the pavement breaks away from what is usually cobblestones underneath it.
This one is a red street car as opposed to a green streetcar. Aside from running on different routes, the red street cars take advantage of new technology. They are air-conditioned. The green ones are not. During our summers that matters. Especially, since New Orleans is not Disneyland. Tourists love riding these streetcars. It’s a great way to see a large part of the city. Streetcars look like they belong in some Disney-like place. That’s also great. But, they are real live public transportation. Commuters use them. To get to work. To make groceries. To get places if they don’t have a car. I use them. I walk two blocks from home, hop on one, get off on Canal Street and walk to the Quarter. No search for parking. No paying for parking. In the heat of summer, air conditioning really matters to people who live here. I suppose that it does to our tourists who can’t imagine living here all year round.
The history of streetcars. Ahh… that’s long and involved. Let me just say this, when I arrived in New Orleans there were no streetcars on Canal Street. At one time maybe eight or ten lines converged on Canal Street. The tracks were all torn up and replaced with buses. Then somebody got the bright idea, “We need a street car line on Canal Street.” Again. So, one was built there at about ten times the cost of the original lines. Not long after, Hurricane Katrina arrived and flooded Canal Street and the car barns and motive power sheds that we just newly completed. So. While the tracks remained, everything else was rebuilt. Again. I think the Feds helped this time. I don’t remember.
This picture. Dusk. One of my usual drive-bys. Or, drive-throughs. I helped it out from a color standpoint. I made it more intense and bluer. That’s how I saw it when I pressed the button. That’s how I made it.
Vaughn’s. A typical southern juke joint. Bar. Music Hall. Lounge. In fact, their official name is Vaughn’s Lounge. Or, it’s just a neighborhood bar. A dive. A place where on most nights, everybody knows your name. My kinda place. Free food is served during Saints games. Trumpet player Kermit Ruffins used to have a regular Thursday night gig here. He “retired” when he became a family man. He wanted to work earlier, but on Thursday night the place was packed with tourists. If you watched the television show Treme, you knew about this place even if you live in Nebraska. Not that I have anything against Nebraska. Or, Nebraskans. His starting time was 8:30pm. But, this is New Orleans. Nothing starts on time. The regulars didn’t mind. Nor, did the tourists. But, Kermit wanted to get home by around 10pm. Of course, Kermit was replaced by another local musician. But, it’s not the same.
Vaughn’s is located on the far downriver side of The Bywater. It’s an interesting neighborhood. Fun to photograph. It’s a former blue-collar neighborhood. A lot of importing and manufacturing went on here. Three streets away is a former Navy base. Banana boats from South America offloaded here. Coffee beans from all over South America were imported and roasted here. The folks who “Put Folgiers in Your Cup,” were located here. There is still some shipping and importing going on here. But, not much. Ships dock nearby. Freight trains rumble through the neighborhood along the river. As the big importers moved away and manufacturing slowed down the neighborhood slipped into decline.
But, not today.
The neighborhood is coming back, or has come back. The big buildings have be repurposed into condos or highly priced (Read that overpriced for the area) apartments. Or, they were torn down and turned into parking lots. There are probably more new restaurants being opened in the Bywater than any place in the city with the exception of Magazine or Freret Streets. Of course, a lot of those new restaurants are simply the product of turnover. You know. Here today. Gone in a week. Trendy food. A lot of Kale. Too much Kale.
This picture. If you’ve read me since the eBlogger days, you may have seen it. That’s about three years ago. But, the picture needed reworking. I’ve always seen it as being sort of soft and dreamy. Light and color glowing. Dusk light at its best. I think I came closer this time. I didn’t quite have those skills a few years ago. I’m still not sure I do. But, my work ethic is good. I’ll get there eventually.
Oh yeah. The guy in the picture? Not what you think. He runs the outdoor bar-b-que. If you could see just past the second truck, you’d see one of those half-trash can-looking things with a smoke stack on it. Typical for the South. It’s located on the sidewalk. Typical for New Orleans.
This is a spin on old advertising saying. “Parts is parts and pieces is pieces.” If I recall correctly, somebody was advertising fried chicken. This isn’t fried chicken.
This is the internal working of an old watch.
A few weeks ago I posted a picture of some of my dad’s old stuff on Instagram. Everybody who saw the picture seemed to like it from both an artistic and emotional perspective. So, I put that information away in my brain and let it stew. And stew. A week or so ago, I thought it might be fun to re-photograph some of those watch parts. So. I did.
I actually made a nice little series. I think I’ll explore this a little further. I’ll show the work to you as I finish it. I’m in no hurry. This work is really just for fun.
About yesterday and those more painterly exploration and experiments… I received a couple of well thought out comments across various social media.
The most interesting was from a long time online friend. She said that it didn’t matter about the technology. That we don’t care if an old-fashioned typewriter or the most modern computer was used to create a written piece. And, that it shouldn’t matter how we create visual art. After all, art is art. I’ve said this for a long time, especially when somebody makes a big deal of not using Photoshop to help them in post production. Generally, I say something like “Ansel Adams — the saint of nature photography — created an entire system of exposure, development and printing to make the picture say what he wanted to say.” She reminded me of that.
She also reminded me that just because you have the tools — the software in this case — it doesn’t mean that you have the mental or emotional tools to do it. She’s right again. Thank you.
One more thing. As you know, for the sake of online privacy, I rarely mention names. I won’t again. I do have to say this. When we reach a certain age, we start getting cemented in our ways. Locked in. Set in stone. A photograph is a photograph. A drawing is a drawing. A painting is a painting. Never shall the technologies mix. That hasn’t been true for years. But, still we try to put things in boxes. What a mind my friend has. I think she’s about 15 years older than me. And, look how she thinks. Beyond how an artist thinks. I’m in awe.
I wish I could say that I’m bored. That would be a great excuse. But, I’m not.
I am, however, trying to decide if I should license this painting software when its term expires.
Before I write much further, I agree with someone who replied and said she preferred the sharpness of photographs. I agree. Sometimes. But, my best work isn’t always sharp. For a long time, I made a living photographing stuff a low shutter speeds and small apertures just so the images would have a dream, painterly feel to it. Please see the original picture at the bottom for an example of that.
Besides, I think hyper-sharpness is a digital construct. We talk mega pixels, we talk sensors, we talk about lens qualities. That’s all great. Or, just stuff as the late Ernst Haas would say. What is important to me is the intent. The feel. The look.
Does this software help me to get there?
Or, can I do it on my own without the aid of painting manipulation software?
What do y’all think about these three pictures?
I’ll tell you something. If I could paint in real life I would.
Oh yeah. Algiers Point, down the neighborhood around The Crescent City Connection. In the pouring rain. At dusk.
These signs are all over New Orleans. I happen to stumble upon this one in Central City.
Nobody knew who or what was tacking them up in hard to reach places. It turns out that they are an installation art piece. There has been a lot of conversation about their meaning. Huh? What do you think love means?
Here’s the quote from a guy who calls himself, “John H”, as published in The local newspaper. He’s been tacking them up.
“You are talking about two friends that started with a simple dream and big hopes and put up 350 little signs across the metro area,” John H. wrote “… The signs are a do-it-yourself social experiment with great personal hopes for improving life in NOLA for everyone.”
One. They are illegal. But, how can you dislike them?
Two. They are being posted in places where a violent death took place. Sacred ground, in my book.
Since today is officially the first day of Autumn, I thought it might be a good to wrap up some of the junk I photographed over the summer. These are the odds and ends of about six rambles through the city at all different times, over many days. Some pictures were driven by the light at the time. Others, by the location. And still others, just by the fact that I was passing by. I suppose that I didn’t post them at the time because I liked other pictures. Or, some of these pictures just hadn’t marinated long enough. They are ready now.
I’ll discuss them underneath each picture. Okay.
This place is a long abandoned pump house in the Bywater. A neighborhood in the river side of the 9th Ward. I’ve never seen it without a chain ink fence around it, so I finally just included the fence. It’s the low storm light that makes the picture.
A light decisive moment. I wish I was just a little quicker. I was walking around this upper 9th Ward neighborhood when she pedaled down the street. The pink highlights are the thing.
Storm light again. The neighborhood is called the Irish Channel. It keeps expanding as realtors see fit. It’s really located in what could loosely be called The Lower Garden District. The boundaries keep expanding because the neighborhood is rapidly being redeveloped. Old housing stock is fairly inexpensive. It’s a great place for young couple and young families to start out if they want to live in New Orleans.
End of the summer in New Orleans. This upper 9th Ward neighborhood still has a way to grow. If we don’t have a cold — cold for us — winter, this growth will be twice as high next summer.
A neighborhood called Black Pearl. The name is a cross of a street name and a population name. It survived Hurricane Katrina intact, only to be hammered by a tornado — yes, a tornado — in Feb 2007. Yes. Nature hits us down here every that way it can.
Another example of summer growth. This time, in the 7th Ward.
The pictures. Yeah. There’s some heavy post production in some of them. Nothing at all in others. I mostly did what I felt at the time. Or, what the pictures showed me that they needed. Like that. Just like that.
A friend of mine, a musician to be precise, once said to me that he went out to listen to a brass band when they were touring. They happened to stop in Seattle, where he lives. He used one word to describe them.
Yes. That’s right. But, they are from New Orleans. New Orleans is chaotic. That’s part of our charm. Our music is chaotic. So’s our culture. Our food used to be. But, there are so many craft-chef-speciality cooks around these days, that a lot of our “new” food tastes like it’s from Brooklyn. Nothing wrong with that, if it is the food I ate when I was young. But, it’s not. I can tell you why in one word. No, two words. Hipsters. Kale. Oh, and we are big on food trucks. So big, in fact, that one restaurant closed its doors without notice. A new restaurant is going into that space. The old restaurant is morphing into a food truck. Oh goodie. Food. Cooked on trucks. I especially like the spice called exhaust fumes. Very tasty. Once, I thought food trucks were cool. Then, I remembered. Back in my pre-salad days I used to eat from them when I worked in a factory. We had no other choice. The food was cooked and grease and cooked quickly. I don’t want to go back there again.
Oh. That’s not a rant. That’s just me being me.
The pictures. New Birth Brass Band. I’m not sure who the guy is playing the trumpet with the 1990s fade, but all the other musicians looked to him for direction. I’ll find out. I tell you when I do. If I remember.
Famed war photographer, Robert Capa once said, “If the picture isn’t good enough you weren’t close enough.” An old friend pointed out that could mean different things. It could mean physically. Or, it could mean something a little more metaphysical. I think I have the physical part down cold. The metaphysical part, not so much.
I wish, I wish, I wish that I would have know that the queen and her court we preparing for the second line parade within the Eiffel Society. No, no, no. I wouldn’t have just invaded them. I would have reached out. Asked permission. Made a trade. Pictures for access. Something like that.
That’s where the pictures really are. They are in quiet moments away from the street. Away from the performance. Behind the curtain. The pictures made on the street are easy. Know your location. Find a good angle. Dance. Bob. Weave. Sounds like a sporting match. Like football. Basketball. In many ways, that’s exactly what photographing a second line parade feels like. The real story telling pictures are not found on the street. They are found far from the maddening crowd. Where they should be.
Two. See the bottom picture. Just like so much of the world… too much. Too many. Too noisy. No signal.
Once again. This work is from Sunday. The Goodfella’s Annual Parade. A parade that was divided into two section. The children’s division. And the Goodfellas, themselves. I’m dividing it into four sections. Yesterday, I showed you some scenes that caught my eye. Today, The ladies and children making their way down the ramp at The Eiffel Society. If the women don’t look all that happy, you trying walking down a ramp in high stiletto heals. Tomorrow, I’ll show you the brass bands. And, finally, on Wednesday I’ll show you the chaos of a great second line parade.