For those of you who are new to Storyteller, I publish an occasional series called “What the dog saw.” It is based on our walks during the week. We actually are owned by six dogs. But, this dog, in particular, thinks that I belong to her. Even though all of the dogs go for walks, she goes on one extra walk a day with me. Just the two of us. That’s also how I discovered there is indeed a 6am and a 6pm.
I always say that walking is the best way to photograph the subjects you see on Storyteller. Walking with a dog who absolutely must check out everything we come across lets me see the details. Even better than a fast walk about the city. In that way these are her pictures too. Its likely she found them before I did.
It wasn’t always my favorite time of day. I used to quote Bart Simpson who was really quoting Ricky Ricardo, who said, “There’s a 5 o’clock in the morning? When did they start that?” For some reason, not the time change, I’m getting up earlier. Much earlier. I get to see skies like this. Especially when the dogs demand a walk.
Those dogs. Especially the one of who sees pictures for me, think they have to get up at the crack of dawn and walk. They like to go way down by the river and the railroad tracks. Meanwhile, I’m still half asleep. No coffee in me yet.
I believe my best pictures are made when I turn off my brain and don’t think. Early in the morning. No caffeine. Eyes half closed. Perfect for that. I don’t even have to do my routine. My ritual. I just get their leashes. Off we go. The dogs lead me. They know more than me. It seems. When I see something and start to point my camera at it, they stop. Camera down. They go. We’ve trained each other well.
Go outside. Take a look around. There’s no telling what you’ll see. Like these clouds. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen clouds quite like these. They look like corn rows. Cotton Balls. Maybe there are some faces hiding in there. Or, some animals. That’s up to you.
The picture. Yes. It’s a little disorienting. That happens when you shoot straight up. No angles. Imagine being me while I was doing it. I felt like I wanted to fall over. Especially while I made a vertical image of what’s normally photographed horizontally. Oh. I made the horizontal picture too. But, I like this one. Much better.
For those of you who have been around here for a little bit, you know that Sunday is often the day I post experiments. Could be in shooting style. Or, in post production. Or, in content.
In this case it is everything.
A few days ago, one of the post production apps — On1 — that I use a lot, released their newest software. It is not an update. It is built new, entirely from the ground up. It does a lot of new things, but its biggest selling point is that is a RAW image processor. We won’t need anything but their software to develop, process and finish a picture. Every photographer who uses On1 is excited about it.
The folks who develop the software have a history of releasing new versions well before their time. Half baked. Buggy. Needing a couple of upgrades before it is stable. They released what their marketing department calls “preview” software to all of us who pre-ordered it. That sounds fine.
It wasn’t. It’s not preview anything. It’s barely developmental software. At best it is beta test in sheep’s clothing. I never do beta testing. After all, one really bad bug can cause problems within the architecture of your computer.
If I had known this, I would have never downloaded it. So far, it’s been super slow as a processor and it’s crashed my computer to the point that only a hard reset — unplugging the computer from the power source — could get my machine going again. This has been the general consensus on many user boards. To be fair, some people had no problems using it. But, they seem to be in the minority.
That said, I did manage to do one simple test.
The one you are looking at. We are drifting back and forth between very cold air and slightly warmer air as we move closer to winter. Well, our version of winter. That creates a lot of condensation on just about everything. I made this picture through my studio window. I processed it entirely on the new On1 software. It took forever. Even when the bugs didn’t get in the way, it really slowed down my personal workflow. I have to believe it will get faster once the final release is made in mid-December.
Most of this image, especially the background, is wholly created using the software. In fact, after reviewing it, I’m certain the only the water drops are original to the picture. Of course, that opens a great debate. What is photographic art?
I’m not going there now. I will, if you’d like to talk about it.
Just a street in Mid City. Not far from the old laundry building. The buildings are sort of typical of some older houses that have been handed down from generation to generation. And, survived the storm. Survived bad weather. Hot weather. Humid weather.
So is each generation’s stuff. Typical. It survived. What were grandpa’s things was once papa’s. When he passed, it became his children’s. And, so on. It gets displayed. Proudly. On the street. In no particular order. It looks chaotic. But, it’s not. If you look closely, you’ll see that everything is in its place. Even if that place doesn’t make sense to you.
The pictures. They found me. I was leaving the laundry building and was just sort of looking around. This isn’t particularly hard. You just have to keep your opens open. You just have to see. Most importantly, you have to clear your mind. Turn your brain off. And, just photograph.
I promised you a few more details and pictures from this place. The General Laundry Cleaners and Dyers building. That’s its formal name.
It was built in 1929. By Owner Robert Chapoit, after his laundry first building was burned to the ground. In the 1960s, the American Can Company used it. The USPS wanted to tear it down in 1974 in order to add a parking lot to their postal facilities.
They were stopped cold by neighborhood residents.
Instead, it was added to the National Registry of Landmarks in 1974. It is now on a different list called “The New Orleans Nine.” A list of nine structures that are important to the history of the city that should be restored and maintained in some form. As of two years ago, the city council was still deciding what to do with it. It is one of six art deco buildings in the city. None is as colorful as this. Some have been rehabbed and repurposed into condos or work-live spaces.
That’s a brief history.
Obviously, it is still standing two years later. There is currently a huge redevelopment of the land that lies just upriver of the building. A greenway is now open on what was once dead railroad tracks. It stretches from The French Quarter to City Park. It opened the way for further new building and conversion of abandoned and broken buildings. This place is a block or so away from that land. I guess we’ll see what happens next.
The pictures. I just took them. I photographed what I saw. I’d like to work from the back as well. But, the scrap yard foreman says it’s unsafe. I need a hard-hat. Like many photographers and Boy Scouts, I’m always prepared. I got a hard hat from the trunk of my car. According to the foreman it still wasn’t safe. I suggested that he and his crew not go in the back of the building since they were dressed about like I was. He didn’t like that.
Even though you may not celebrate it as an official holiday, no matter where you live in the world, you have something to be thankful for. For me — in no particular order — it’s family, children, friends, dogs, art, music, photography, my own ability to make pictures, health, life itself and, and, and… I could never complete this list. Even if I could I don’t want to.
The picture. I like this corner. It’s located near my pre-storm neighborhood. I see ghosts when I look at it. I see second lines passing through. I see people playing basketball on the street. I see fish fries. Block parties. I see 6 or 7 feet of flood water. I see a neighborhood that always hung in there through good and bad. I see New Orleans. The real New Orleans. The more blue-collar New Orleans.
I’m thankful for that. All of it. Even the bad stuff. Remembering that means I’m alive. And, for that I am extremely thankful.
If you look closely, to the left, you’ll see a turned over plastic chair. That’s New Orleans too, he said with a huge grin.
I’ve written about, and published pictures of this place in past editions of Storyteller. I like to return to a lot of old places. I want to see how they are doing. I’m sorry to report, not so good. Despite being a National Landmark, this place is falling apart. Literally. See all those tiles? There are little piles of them lying on the banquette, er, sidewalk. Sidewalk to those of you who don’t live in New Orleans. I’ll show you a little more of this place in the next day or two. I photographed the front pretty well. It really the only section of the building that has been declared a landmark. The back-end — where the real work was done — has been turned into a metal recycling business.
The place? Oh yeah. It was a laundering factory. So. You dropped off your clothes off at some store front location throughout the city. It would be taken here to have the work done. It was returned to the store front business. You’d pick it up.
The factory was built in the late 1920s. All of the color you are seeing is the result of paint or dye being mixed into the concrete or tile while it was being made. That process is rare enough that this is the only building in New Orleans to be finished in that way. The tiles that are laying on the ground are pure color. Through and through.
The picture. Since I’m home, I went cruising. Looking for pictures. One of my favorite things to do. I picked the neighborhood because I had to run an errand nearby. That’s how I work. Sometimes.
With different eyes. This is the first picture I saw. I took it. I wasn’t going to publish it. Yet. But, in an exchange of emails with a dear friend of mine, she was talking about ordinary people. It struck me that this picture might just be part of the new normal. So, I thought…
Then, a Neil Young song came to me. This one.
“Two out of work models and a fashion slave. Try to dance away the Michelob night. The bartender poured herself another drink. While two drunks were watchin’ the fight. The champ went down and he got up again. Then he went out like a light. Fightin’ for the people.
But his timing wasn’t right. The high rollin’ people. Takin’ limos in the neon light. The Las Vegas people. They came to see a Las Vegas fight. Fightin’ for the people. There’s a man in the window with a big cigar. Says everything’s for sale. He had a house and a boat and a railroad car. The owner’s gotta go to jail. He acquired these things from a life of crime.
Now he’s sellin’ them to make bail. He was rippin’ off the people. Sellin’ guns to the underground. Livin’ off the people. Skimmin’ the top when there was no one around. Tryin’ to help the people. Lose their ass for a piece of ground. A patch o’ ground people.
He was dealin’ antiques in a hardware store. But he sure had a lot to hide. He had a back room full of the guns of war. And a ton ammunition besides. Yeah, he walked with a cane. Kept a bolt on the door with five pit bulls inside. Just a warnin’ to the people. In case they might try to break in at night.
Protection from the people. He’s sellin’ safety in the darkest night. Tryin’ to help the people. Get the drugs to the street all right. Tryin’ to help the people. Well, it’s hard to say where a man goes wrong. Might be here and it might be there. What starts out weak might get too strong. If you can’t tell foul from fair. But it’s hard to judge from an angry throng. Of hands stretched up in the air.
Vigilante people. Takin’ the law into their own hands. The conscientious people. Crackin’ down on the drug lord and his bands. Government people. Confiscatin’ all the dealer’s land. The patch o’ ground people. A new Rolls Royce, a company car. They were racin’ down the street. Each one was tryin’ to make it to the gate. Before employees manned the fleet.
The trucks full of products for the modern home. Were set to roll out into the street of ordinary people. Tryin’ to make their way to work. The downtown people. Some are saints and some are jerks. That’s me, everyday people.
Stoppin’ for a drink on their way to work. Alcoholic people, takin’ it one day at a time. Down on the assembly line. They keep puttin’ the same things out. The people today, they just ain’t buyin’. Nobody can figure it out. They try like hell to build a quality in. They’re workin’ hard without a doubt.
But the dollar’s what it’s all about. Lee Iaccoca people. But the customers are walkin’ out. The nose to the stone people. Yeah, they look but they just don’t buy. The patch o’ ground people.In a dusty town the clock struck high noon. Two men stood face to face. One wore black and one wore white. But of fear there wasn’t a trace. A hundred and eighty years later.
Two hot rods drag through the very same place. A half million people. They moved in to pick up the pace. A factory full of people. Makin’ parts to go to outer space. A train load of people. They were leavin’ for another place. Out of town people. Down at the factory they’re puttin’ new windows in. The vandals made a mess of things. And the homeless just walked right in. Well, they worked here once and they live here now. But they might work here again.
The ordinary people.
They’re just livin’ in a dream. Hard workin’ people. Just don’t know what it means. To give up people. They’re just like they used to be. Patch o’ ground people. Out on the railroad track they’re cleanin’ ol’ number nine. They’re scrubbin’ the boiler down. She really is lookin’ fine, a beauty, that number nine. Times’ll be different soon they’re gonna bring her back on-line.
They’re gonna bring the good things back. Hard workin’ people. They put the business back on track. The everyday people. I got faith in the regular kind. Patch o’ ground people. “
And, that’s the story. Three weeks of travel and I came back to this. Oh yeah. She saw me. I smiled at her and gave her a couple of dollars. Somehow I knew that just wasn’t enough. It’s what I could do. At that very moment.