Interpretation of the Ninth Ward.
Interpretation of the Ninth Ward.

I keep saying that all art is autobiographical.

I began to think about that when a younger colleague in Australia started to worry that I had enhanced a couple of my second line pictures. I said I didn’t care because these pictures are about my intent. My vision. And, I used that phrase… “all art is autobiographical.”

How exactly are my pictures of a second line parade, or Mardi Gras Indians or brass bands, autobiographical? In short, they aren’t. My life, my family, and whatever culture I have, is very different from the people in the pictures. And, that’s okay. After all, everybody is different. As the song says, “You don’t know what it’s like to be me.” That cuts both ways.


The work. Hmmm. I suppose my pictures of second line parades, Mardi Gras Indians, local musicians, are really a kind of photojournalism. We live in a time of  “If there are no pictures, no videos of a thing, than it didn’t happen. That’s kin to the old questioning saying, “If a tree falls in the woods…”

In many ways, those of us out on the parade routes are taking pictures that are really bearing witness to what happened. Preserving that moment in time when the musicians, the benevolent associations, the indians and the crowds were on the streets. Celebrating. Singing. Dancing. For us, and the people who see our pictures, that one moment will always be there. Or, until current technology says it is. But, that’s a whole other story.

What does that say about me? My work? Is it simply just a vessel? If that’s so, that’s fine. I was raised and trained to be a photojournalist. Or, is there something more?

I starting tinkering with a picture I made two weeks ago. I made it on the way to some place else. Even though the subject is kind of funny, I didn’t show it to you because the light was all wrong for the content. It was bright and sunny. Sort of happy light. The subject was gloomy. For the record, I don’t know if the out-building blew over during a storm or somebody just did it for fun or out of maliciousness.


I decide to process it. And, I started to tinker with it. I really had no sense of direction or intention. I was just experimenting. At a certain point in the process it hit me. Like a bolt from the blue. I was making a picture that reminded me of my slide film pictures that I found when I finally was able to enter my house after the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina receded. The subject obviously wasn’t the same. But, all of that stylish post production induced funk looked just like some of my film. Not only did the water get to it, but the heat of summer baked weird color into it, and mold was starting to creep in. This is what one of those pieces of slide film would have looked like if I had scanned it and tried to work on it.

Now, that’s autobiographical.