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.


  1. I don’t think I would have been interested in the ‘happy light’ version, but I am intrigued with this one. Your post-Katrina story adds another level of interest, and I can feel for you and your loss of work with that disaster.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Somebody I know and trust — one of the fathers of modern color photography — was asked what he would do if something like Hurricane Katrina had destroyed his archives. His reply? “Take more pictures.” That happened ten years ago. Almost 11 now, as wee head into another hurricane season. I pretty much put Katrina mourning to bed last year with my ten year anniversary work through the last couple of weeks of August. I’m far more productive than I was ten years ago. And, my best work had already been scanned and traveled with me during my own evacuation time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for that. Not as prepared as you might think. Mostly a strange kind of luck. NOW, I’m prepared. Images in clouds, my home network is a series of portable HDs. Prior to the first day of storm season (June 1), they all get packed into a small Anvil case and are ready to travel. Me? Pictures are who I am. I have no choice to look forward. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Agreed. I believe most of our work is certainly autobiographical, in that it’s derived from something intentional. But, then there’s all that brain processing stuff that goes on just below our consciousness. As your experience relates, I also believe we build a bridge to that “deeper” side of us when we exercise our creativity. Cool image, I need to remind myself to try new things, to move outside my comfort zone.


    1. Oh, it is. Once upon a time I studied a huge amount of visual intelligence theory. The trick is matching our experience to other’s experience. That’s when you are truly successful. As far as the rest goes, I once wrote a 216p dissertation on this stuff works within us by comparing two very subsets of people and how they made meaning of a set of pictures. Everybody was happy with what I wrote. Then I happened upon this… Reporter: “What do your songs mean? John Lennon: “Whatever you want them to mean.”


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