In the garden.

Home.

This picture is less than two hours old. At least it is from Noon, Central Daylight Time. The time in New Orleans.

Yes. I know what I say about letting a picture marinate. That’s my theory. It’s not a rule. Even if it was, rules are meant to be broken. If you have an idea of what you are doing. Disruption for its own sake is wasteful and harmful. Just look at the current state of The United States government. As I’ve said, this is not a political blog. But, my country is leaderless unless you count bombastic tweets and threats, which aren’t law or legislation.

That’s not the point of the picture.

I walked outside. A dog joined me. We stumbled upon this scene. She stopped and let me take the picture. I knew what I had. I actually have two versions. This one. And, another in which the picture is just clouds and bubbling water. More minimalistic. I’ll show you that tomorrow. There is no better and best this time. It’s a toss-up.

Oddly, now that I’m back, I have a couple of brand new pictures waiting to go. I guess I’m ready. My eyes are working just fine. And, the pictures are just sort of popping up on the scene. That’s when you know they are getting good. It’s the picture. Not the photographer.

This picture. I already told you about most of it. I just tuned things up in post production. For those of you who are wondering, I used Snapseed, OnOne followed by Affinity. Affinity is sort of a Photoshop clone that does everything I want it to do. It’s inexpensive and the updates are free. No more monthly charges, or expensive updates. There is a learning curve, mostly because the terminology is different from Photoshop.

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Blowing in the 9th Ward.

There are days like this one.

A quiet day. After a long trip.

I don’t know if it’s so much that I want to be quiet, or I feel like I have no idea where I am. Or, what time it is. You’ve probably had days like that. After a certain amount of decompression — maybe six months — it’ll get better.

Happy Sunday. Or Monday, if that’s where you are.


Rebirth. 

Still in the Lower 9th Ward.

Nature changed this place. With a storm. A storm that will live forever in our hearts, minds and souls. And, in history books.

She gave us a new start. She showed us some truths. There are places we should rebuild. There are places that we shouldn’t.

This is one of those places. It’s good fertile land. The land is far below sea level. The closer you get to the lake side of the neighborhood, the more you are likely to see never drying mud. Water bubbling through the earth. Use this land to plant crops. Everything grows here. Without much farming effort. Feed the rest of the city.

The picture. Symbolic imagery is hard to make. Strip down a complex scene. Photograph that. You might come close. I tried when I saw this bit of what remains of a house. See the remaining color? Vieux Carre Green. One of New Orleans’ colors. That, plus the summer flowers, told the story for me. Nature wants stasis. Things return to what they were.

I might be a little too close emotionally to the subject matter. I see my point. Do you?


9th Ward Levee

I go back.

To this place of flood waters and death. I go back every three or four months. Just to see how things are progressing.

The Lower 9th Ward was destroyed during the flooding after Hurricane Katrina. The levees broke. The levees that were built by the Army Corps of Engineers were not properly maintained. They probably weren’t constructed properly in the first place. So, the storm surge hit the walls from seemingly every direction.  In total, throughout New Orleans, there were 57 levee breaks. Most were small. The two that the world saw were here, in the Lower 9th Ward, and in Lakeview. Both areas were inundated with 15 to 20 feet of water. Buildings were swept from their foundations.

Both neighborhoods were destroyed.

Lakeview has pretty much come back. The people there had fairly good insurance, money and were aided by the LRA because they could prove that ownership of their land and houses.

In the Lower 9th ward, not so much. Most homes were insured for replacement costs… in like 1925. Ownership was muddy because houses were passed down generationally with no succession documentation. This was, and is, a fairly blue-collar and poor neighborhood.

Original street sign.

What do I see?

The neighborhood between St. Claude and Claiborne Avenues has come back. Sort of. Those buildings weren’t flooded as badly. Unlike the buildings above Claiborne, they remained on their foundations.

When you cross Claiborne, you have some development along the avenue. There is actor Brad Pitt’s “Make It Right” homes and scattered rebuilding. That’s it. There are few buildings that have yet to be demolished. There are foundations and a lot of land that has reverted back to nature.

Nowhere for sale.

The pictures.

The first is the rebuilt levee. The towers are the Claiborne Avenue draw bridge. The levee is much stronger now. And, it is properly maintained. It’s sort of locking the barn door after the cow escaped.

The second picture is a 12-year-old street sign. One of the city’s last priorities after the storm was replacing street signs. The people who tried to return to the Lower 9th Ward made their own signs. In some places, the city has replaced the signs. Even though Forstall is a kind of major street, this area is so far out in the brush that the city didn’t bother.

Finally, some owners try to keep their land maintained and the grass mowed. They have hope. They hope to sell their land. I have hope too. I hope that they succeed.

But.

You knew this was coming.

There are no city services this far out in the neighborhood. No water. No electricity. Very few police patrols. And, I’m willing to bet that this seller has no proof of ownership. I know this because a few years ago a friend of mine, working for a local law firm, tried to vet some of this land. She believed the owners when they said this or that property was theirs. But they had no way to prove it. Even when she dug into the property records, all she could find was documentation of the original owner with no succession.

So.

This land lies fallow. It will probably never be restored back to the neighborhoods that once were. Maybe the neighborhood reverts back to what it was at dawn of the 20th Century. Small truck farms. After all, farm direct to table is the thing now.


Po’ boys.

More Bywater. More Vaughn’s.

Even though we were trying to cover a lot of ground fairly quickly, I slowed things down when we got to one of my intended destinations. My colleagues looked around and talked to the bartender. I made pictures of whatever I saw. Inside and out.

It really was just that simple.

Talk to people. Make pictures.

That po’boy sign always draws my attention. It’s been there, in that state, for at least the 19 years that I’ve been in New Orleans. It’s a sort of a landmark. It’s weathered all manner of storms, including Hurricane Katrina.

The bar has survived too. Unlike a couple of bars in the French Quarter, it closes during hurricanes. No matter what, it re-opens. The regulars come back. All is good.

Inside Vaughn’s during a quiet time.


Life in The Bywater.

This is what I thought.

If I’m changing the last series to something new, it really ought to be new. Something different. Something unexpected. Something in black and white.

So.

Here it is.

The picture is about two months old. I made it when I was taking a couple of guys around New Orleans while they were scouting for possible film locations. After an extended email conversation, I had some pretty good ideas of where to go. I took them to my first idea. Vaughn’s. In The Bywater. A dive that is known for Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers long, long Thursday night residency.

Of course, we went out during the daytime. The bar was open. There was no food. No music. Just this guy hanging out, trying to keep cool. He didn’t care if I photographed him. In return, I bought him a beer. That seemed like the New Orleans thing to do.

We went inside. My friends fell in love with it. One day, I suppose, it might be in another movie. Who knows? These things change.

The picture. It started out as a color image. But, I wanted to make a change. So I did. I really did. I converted it. Then I did my little magic and made it creamy and less contrasty. I hoped to make it feel old. Or, oldish.

Here’s a little clue for you all. Open this picture as big as you can. This is a very subtle image. I made and finished it as I saw it in my mind’s eye. Hanging on the wall. About 6 x 4 feet.

The funny thing about this picture is that after watching an unrelated movie I came to the conclusion that my best work is in color. Yeah, yeah. I know the argument. You see form, shape, light, texture better in black and white.

My reply to that is simple. The world is a colorful place. Honor that.

 


Rock, blossoms, and glow.

Yes. A conclusion.

For now, I think this series is done. Over the course of the last month and a half I’ve made about forty of these layered images. That’s a lot. In a very short time. Normally, that would be about two years worth of work. It’s time to move on. I’ve had a good time. I’ve learned a lot. You’ve seemed to enjoy them. I’ll probably end up keeping about ten of them in a new portfolio.

I’ll work a little bit on summer images.

Mostly, my photographic time will be spent on Storyteller. I’m in the middle of converting it from a blog site to a website. The actual changes look to be fairly minor. There will be a static page. About four portfolio collections. A way to license stock or purchase art easily. And, some cosmetic changes. Maybe a few other things.

Looking through the tree.


As twilight comes.

Another picture that just sort of sat in my archives.

Or, really never made it that far. It sat in RAW files waiting to be worked on. At some later date.

Another picture that speaks to summer. Summer in the south. As the late, great Allen Toussaint sang… southern nights. There is something special about them.

Truth be told, there is something special about everywhere’s summer nights. Especially if you are from there. Where ever there happens to be. You know what I mean. Your place doesn’t have to be country. Or city. It just is “that” place.

The picture. Yes. It’s time to get back to that discussion. First, I have to change my set of tricks a little. Change my locations. I have places that I head to when the light begins to change because they are easy. To get to. To position myself. In which to feel somewhat safe.

It’s time to stretch a little.

Don’t ask me what that means. If I knew I’d tell you. That’s the joy of it. I don’t know. I’ll have to discover it as I go.

That’s always a good thing. And, lots of fun.


Summer glow.

Yes. Dog days.

As summer continues to roll on we get to a place called the “dog days.” It’s a time when the air is too hot for even dogs to wander about. They hide out in the shade. If there is a body of water, they swim. They don’t ramble about in the mid-day sun. Only mad dogs and Englishmen do that.

I realized that with all my layering experiments I haven’t really made any summer pictures. Normally, my goal is to make ten great pictures. Usually, I come up with one or two. There are many ways to photograph a kind of summer icon. But, it’s hard to make great pictures.

I’ve been a little busy with other stuff this summer. I haven’t had the time to think through what I wanted those pictures to be. I certainly didn’t have time to roam around looking for them.

This picture just sort of fell into my lap. I looked up. There it was. I made the picture. I tinkered with it. And, here you have it. I’m not sure it fits into even the remotest definition of greatness. But, it is a summer picture.

In a week or so, I’ll be able to get back to it. I’ll be able to make new, fresh images. That doesn’t mean the layered series is coming to an end. I’m happy to say that the series is fleshed out and full. To be sure, there is more to come. Much more. The most important take away is how much I learned by working through the process.

That may be the most important thing.

Learning. Always learning.