A NOLA Portrait

Giant smile.

A portrait.

To be more specific, a street portrait. It’s hung around in my portfolio for a few years now. Depending on who is looking at my work, I often start with this picture. If this doesn’t catch your eye, I don’t know what will. If it’s printed, a 20 inch deep version of this picture stuns even the most jaded of viewers. Like me.

I hope you realize that last few weeks of pictures are from the past. Most of you have never seen them. A few of you might, if you’ve been here a while.

This picture was made during the jazz funeral of Uncle Lionel. His family name is Baptiste. He was kin to almost every musical Baptiste that came out of New Orleans. If you watch Late Night with Stephen Colbert, you know one of his family members. Bandleader and musician, Jon Baptiste. Yeah. He’s one of us.

Uncle Lionel’s funeral took forever. Nature didn’t want to let him go. It was rained out twice as I recall. The third time was a charm. It was for me too. I was energized. I was everywhere. I made about four or five portfolio pieces. I was beat afterwards. After all, July in New Orleans. 90 degrees with about 90% humidity. Staying hydrated was the key.

I’m not so sure that I could do it today. I could try. But, it would only be for somebody like him. We’ve had massive second lines after this one. Some were for David Bowie, for Prince. Like that. I get wanting to mourn and to celebrate. But, that’s not what I’m about. I’d rather photograph the culture. The things about New Orleans. The people who make the city what it is. Today.

Maybe tomorrow. If we are lucky.

Apparently, New Orleans has actually lost some population. This is the first time since Hurricane Katrina. There are a lot of theories about it. Some say it might be because of simple migration to Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard Parish. Taxes are lower. Services are better. Crime is less.

Another theory says that the folks who are the culture have been leaving because of gentrification. Where one building was divided into two or three apartments, now it is one house.

The final theory — at least among the ones that I heard — is that the gentrifiers themselves are leaving. It’s hard to live in New Orleans. It was made a little easier by Air BnB. But, now that they have been restricted, especially in The Bywater, the folks who moved here post-Katrina, are leaving.

I don’t know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, they brought  a lot of money to a city that needs it. Even if it was just for allied businesses. On the other, they are the leaders in killing the culture that brought them here in the first place.

It’s interesting to watch. This is my twentieth year here, with a break in New Mexico after the storm. I came here because I liked it. I never wanted to change anything.


Leave a Comment

  1. This really is a stunning portrait! I can imagine it would really be mesmerizing in a huge print.

    I’m certainly not making any direct comparison between NOLA and Los Angeles, LOL, but stats were published this week indicating a first in fewer people coming to live in the area, accompanied by larger than average numbers of people who left California this year. The numbers indicate reason to have some concern if the trend continues. Your observation that “gentrifiers” are leaving is something to ponder. Seems instability is just everywhere! You give me a lot to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think California has a cost problem. So do we. But, our costs are a lot lower. However, the people don’t make as much money as they do in CA. I’ve thought about moving home to Long Beach. Then I looked at the costs besides property and that thought was driven out of my head. For instance, gas prices. We are complaining because fuel just went up to $2.24 a gallon.

      Here, In NOLA, not always the rest of the state, since we are so different, the gentrifiers are leaving because there is too much pushback when they try to change us to someplace like — oh, let’s say Bosie, Idaho. They may have pushed some people out, but they come back for their culture.

      I’m going to be honest here. Forgive me. Most secondlines walk through heavily Black neighborhoods. More and more White people were coming out. Not as much anymore. You could see the look in their eyes and on their faces. For them, it was really tough being in such a lopsided minority. Truth be told, I feel safer there than I do in gentrified neighborhoods.


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