Sometimes I’m asked to make a portrait. Hopefully, the asker knows what I do. And, what I don’t do. While I reasonably comfortable working in a studio and can light just about anything, that’s not what I do. There are guys who are really good at it. Some can turn a white background and the subject into art simply by their own creative lighting. That’s not me. I make what used to be called environmental portraits. I try to tell the viewer something about the subject’s life by including a lot of background information. I also don’t believe that the subject has to be looking into the lens to make a good portrait.
I know a lot of the various social aid and pleasure club members simply by being on the streets. I might not know all their names, but I know their faces. If nothing else, we nod and smile at each other. If there is more time we introduce ourselves and shake hands. I know this guy… a little. He asked if I could take his picture. I did. I gave him a business card. When he contacts me, I’ll give him a picture. I don’t make portraits for a living. It’s not part of my revenue stream. Giving him a picture helps to make my street red a little better. It helps to make a new friend. Most of the guys who photograph second lines on a regular basis do the same thing. By the way, we are forming our own social & pleasure club. The Backsteppers. That’s what we do. Isn’t it?
This parade is a big one. It is organized by The Black Men of Labor. Every sort of job is represented. There are lawyers. Doctors. Construction workers. Chefs. Police officers. It is also a Saturday parade. Very rare. In fact, for now, the only one. They moved it out of respect for the two other clubs and krews who are walking today, on Sunday. They still hold their Sunday place on the schedule. That’s the thing about New Orleans. We work things out. Maybe better than other cities.
This picture. He’s staring over my shoulder almost like he’s not trying to pose. But, he is. He’s holding his symbolic fan across his chest. That’s some fan, yes? The background is what makes the picture. Take a look at it. It’s chaos. A jumble of happy people. It’s information about the man.