Before the Thing

A little preparation.

There’s more to it than you think.

Walking a second line takes some work. Not just on the street. But, inside. Inside the club, bar or house from which the second line begins. Sometimes I go inside. Sometime I don’t. Depends. Usually when I’m inside most people are happy to see me. After all, a little respect goes a long way.

This picture deserves to be opened up so you can see what’s going on.

If you look closely, you can see that the subject is in sharp focus. That would be the smiling woman with all those hands surrounding her. You would also see that one of those hands has a red-painted manicure. That’s a big deal for female second line participants. Since this second line is called “Women of Class,” dressing well is very important. Finally, there is the subject’s smartphone being held out in front of her. Care to guess why? It’s for me. Of course, I obliged. I’m in their house.

I’ve gotten to the point where so many second lines look the same. Sure, the colors of the day change. Rarely does anything else. Even the people. Especially the people. They attend second lines that aren’t theirs as a show of respect. Brass bands are the most interesting. Musicians play in multiple bands. All they do is change their shirts.

I like photographing second lines. As a friend says, they are like going to church. The sights, the smells, the good feelings are important to me.

I am a photographer first. I was trained to tell stories. I was trained to make pictures that are a little different. I was trained to edit, okay — cull — my work down to the best pictures. So, I try very hard to figure out different angles, different locations, different approaches. Usually, I fail. That’s okay. I think about baseball. Using old school metrics, the best hitters bat around .300. That means they made an out two out of three times. That’s fine with me.

It’s the one successful at bat I try to make count. Certainly, there is the decisive moment. A moment when most of what you are seeing, when somebody does something that is so good, so cool, so exciting, that you better push the button.

You’d better know the scene.

For a while it was a big deal to capture guys dancing on roofs. Now, everybody dances on roofs. Or, there is a very young trombone player whose mom sort of introduced him to the adults. That was unique. Now he’s everywhere. His mom used to stand near him. Now, she doesn’t. She knows that we’ll — all of us, musicians and photographers — will look after him.


I keep looking. Thinking. Watching.

One thing I know for sure. If I make one new picture. Or, the guy next to me does it, we’ll all be doing it within about two weeks. We are all on the same chase. It’s not really competitive. None of us care. Not like that.

This picture. I went inside where the ladies were getting ready. I smiled. I nodded. I made some pictures. A guy came up to me. I thought he was going to ask me to leave. That happens sometimes.

Not this time.

He asked for my business card. He is getting married and wants to hire a photographer. We’ve talked since. I asked “why me?’ He said that if I could walk into what is essentially a private session and not upset anybody I must know what I’m doing.  I didn’t quote him because those are my words. Turns out that he works with a lot of second liners. I’ll make him a good deal in exchange for access.

I’m not really a wedding photographer anyway.


Leave a Comment

    • I just switch to photojournalism, which means that I shoot what I see, And, I sneak around quietly. I haven’t photographed a wedding since probably 2006 or 7 when a designer friend asked me to do it. This’ll be a hoot since there will be a lot of folks from the Mardi Gras culture.

      Liked by 1 person

      • They probably wouldn’t care. I have no idea how they are dressing yet. If they dress for culture, the pictures would be interesting. Otherwise, I fear if I posted a few they would just look like somebody else’s wedding.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Somehow, though, I think you’d get the interesting “back-story” pictures, too. The wistful look on Grandma’s face as she remembers her own wedding; the toddler eyeing the wedding cake and considering a run for it, the way the crazy aunt times her entrance for maximum effect…


      • You pay me a great honor. I’d like to think I could live up to that, but I would probably get tangled up with Uncle Fred who wants to do my job. We keep our toddlers locked in cages with handcuffs if they come to an event with us.


    • Thank you very much. I helps to actually get to know the community over time. Second Lining is a New Orleans tradition. There are three kinds. Jazz funerals. Commercial second lines that you see in the French Quarter which are walked for weddings, special events and corporate events. There are neighborhood second lines, which are usually hosted by a benevolent society and social club. Those were started in a time, when Black People couldn’t buy insurance of any kind. The clubs paid for medical expenses and funeral in their neighborhood. These days, there are 47 of them per year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.