Understanding Through Mardi Gras

Walking the route.
Walking the route.

Pictures. Mardi Gras.

First. I took a break. I did not photograph the Thursday night parades. It’s a big night with Muses on the streets. That didn’t matter. We did walk up the street to the route as the parades reached The Garden District and caught some beads. As a family. With a few neighbors. Everybody loved that. Including me.

These pictures are still work from Wednesday night and the two parades. I do make a lot of pictures when I work. I do shoot a lot. But not for the reasons some of you think. I work as if I was still shooting film. Normally.

But, when I work at night in questionable light with people who I do not know, I tend to back myself up because I’m used to delivering for a client. I’m not used to second chances. Or reshoots. If I blow it, the job is blown. Do that enough times and your career is blown.

Which brings me to this.

I’ve been at this a long, long time. I’ve been published a lot. Way more than I can count. It doesn’t matter. Or, I may not even know about in terms of actually seeing the work used. When you do agency work, you get sales accounting sheets, but you don’t actually see the work or how it was used.

If you ask somebody like me what matters, we’d all tell you that only the picture matters. But, the definition of a picture changes depending on when you first started taking pictures. For us old guys, a picture ain’t a picture unless it’s printed. Either as some kind of photograph and hung on the wall. Or, in some kind of publication. That latter is how I earn my keep.


Because the internet is a weird place. Nothing ever goes a way. The data lives for all time, no matter how many times you think that you deleted it. And,  it pops up at odd times. It’s that old cache thing and when at what point the information becomes searchable. But, because there is so much information poured on to the internet on a daily basis, most of it — including the good stuff — hides in plain sight. All noise, not enough signal, they say. But, that’s not my real point. That’s just some facts.

The real point is the pictures posted on the internet become transitory.

Worse, because technology changes, your pictures might become inaccessible. I read somewhere that this is the most photographed generation, ever. But, that in a decade most of the pictures won’t exist. Well, the data might. The ones and zeros might. But locating them, accessing them and assembling those ones and zeros would not be easy unless you keep up with the technology.

So, the most photographed generation might also become the most invisible generation.

And yet, the film that I made pictures on some 40 years ago is stable. It’s a plastic media that has not yet degraded. Oh, I suppose at some point well after I shuffle off this mortal coil, it will. But, until then I can always access it. I can always make a print from it even though that technology has changed. Yeah, sure. The way we make prints has changed if we want it to. We don’t have to go in a smelly darkroom and work removed from the rest of the household. We can scan, or have scanned, a negative. We can load the scan into our computers and work in the light with everybody around. But, you know what? I miss those darkrooms. I worked in them for more years than I worked on computers. And, I was a fairly early adopter of what was then, new technology.

Just some morning thoughts. As I try to wake up.

The pictures.

The first thing to always know about working on a scene is that sometimes the most difficult part of taking a picture is just getting there. Sometimes the motivation to get there gets harder and harder to gin up. For the reasons that I’ve outlined, I’ve lost most of that. If I could transport myself right into the middle of the scene that would be great. But… that ain’t happening.

The second thing to know is that for the general public, these pictures are Mardi Gras. That’s fine. But, remember what I wrote somewhere near the start of Carnival Season. Most of us who live here do the one event that matters to us, or is traditional to us. And, that’s Mardi Gras. Usually, too, there’s some family and friends thing in the mix too.

It’s hard to motivate myself to keep going out. On the other hand, I still have a couple of pictures to make. So, out I go today and tonight. Now, if the streets could magically get repaired and repaved… (Oh, spell check wants to turn repaved into removed. That sounds even better to me.)

I suppose the thing to take away from this is how you think about pictures. How you make a picture that is a little different from the norm. And, what it takes to make them. After all, the technology makes it easy. You don’t really have to know how to use the $2,000 camera you just bought.

Oh. That couch? That is as New Orleans as it comes. It probably happens where you live too. But, you might not notice it because it isn’t so “in your face.” New Orleans people dispose of stuff by putting it on the curb even when they know it is too big for the garbage disposal guys to put in  their truck. We know that if the thing — a couch in this instance — is in reasonable shape, it will be gone in minutes. Seriously. I kind of question the former couch owner’s taste. But, that’s a whole other thing. Or, dumping in the middle of a parade. But, what can you do?



  1. You are so right. The net is home to the ephemeral that won’t go away. The needle in the huge haystack seen by millions for 4 seconds.


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