New Orleans… A Story

The survivor.

New Orleans stories.

Some I have to dredge up from deep in my memory. Others not so much. This is one of the others.

I was walking down the street in Treme. I was headed to a second line. I didn’t know there was a second line that started earlier. A jazz funeral. As I passed by, I saw this man sitting on a box in front of what I assumed was his home. A couple of friends were standing with him and talking.

Look at this man. How could I not ask if I could make his picture? He said yes and I did my thing. Afterward, I asked if he was headed to the second line that I came to photograph. He shook his head and said no.

One of his friends told me something that sticks with me to this day. He said that this man had just finished playing in a second line. A jazz funeral. I asked, “who was it for?” His friend replied, “his brother.”

Looking at the picture now, I can see the pain in his eyes. But, it never occurred to me when I was photographing him, just as it never occurred to him to shake his head no, and say something like, “not today.”

It’s good portrait. It’s nothing earth-shaking, but it matters to me.


Leave a Comment

  1. The expression on this gentleman’s face…I can’t imagine “not” feeling anything even if we didn’t know his story. As cliche as it sounds, images such as this one do express more than a thousand words. Thank you very much for sharing, Mr. Ray.

    Best wishes,


  2. Maybe you didn’t literally see his pained expression when you were drawn to him, but possibly you saw into his heart with your heart. Possibly, your instinct to take his picture stemmed from empathy and the desire to document him, as he was, at that moment. Just maybe. I imagine that after all these years with the camera in front of you, your instincts about people you photograph are like muscle memory, and you just know when there’s a story behind the face. Just maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just maybe. Actually, I get very Zen about street photography (for lack of a better genre). I have routines to get me into my zone while I’m still at home. I try to stay there while I’m getting to the place I am going to work. When I work, I try to empty my mind of all thought and just react to what I see. That could open my up empathically, but because I try not to think, I may just not have thought of it. Something to think about later.


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