I am a visual storyteller. I've been making pictures for some 40 years. I travel the world in search of the right image. in the right light at the right time. You can reach me by phone at 505.280.4686, or by email at Ray@Laskowitzpicturess.com or Pictures34@me.com. For a quick look at my work please go to www.laskowitzpictures.com.


Eventually, nature seeks and gets stasis.

It’s nature’s way.

One of you commented something along the lines of nature has a way of overcoming whatever humans do. Nature seeks stasis. Nature is patient. Nature always wins in the end. Nature doesn’t care.

I wasn’t sure where  I was going with this, then it came to me. Human beings are a speck in nature’s eye. As we move to further harm the planet, the temperature will increase, the waters will rise, and people will go hungry. I’m sure as people go hungry and get desperate we’ll start killing each other. Finally, nature will have had enough. She’ll say, “basta!” and fling us off the planet like a dog shakes water off of her back. (Basta is Italian for enough.)

We’ll all be gone. Nature will go about her business. The earth will heal. And, it will once again be the healthy blue marble you can see from space.

This picture is an illustration of the start of the process. I made it in an odd corner of the 9th Ward. The neighborhood was flooded during the levee breaks following the storm. Some people were able to move back and repair their homes. Others could not. Apparently, the folks who own this place are either waiting for help or just gave up.

Have you ever seen what happened to an abandoned building?

The roots of plants begin to seek purchase. They find cracks and crevasses. At first, it’s nothing. Rip them down and the building is fine. Don’t, and that’s the first step. Eventually the entire plant will find its way inside. It’ll be both inside and out. Wood will start to split. Plaster will begin to fall. The floorboards will begin to collapse. Eventually, the house will cave in upon itself. There will be nothing left but a pile of rotting wood. And, leftover pipes and other bits of metal, assuming scavengers don’t get to them first. What’s left will disappear under heavy growth.

This house will be gone.

That doesn’t happen quickly. It usually takes from 10 to 20 years. Nature is patient. Nature picked her place carefully this time. It’s hot. It’s humid. There is heavy rainfall. There is constant moisture.

Oh, did I mention creatures? Unless we take countermeasures, Formosa Termites are happy to eat their fill of houses like this one.

Think about it. Think about this happening on a grand scale all around the globe. Mankind will be gone. Maybe other animals will make their return. The planet will be quiet and undisturbed by humans.

Mother Earth is probably better off without us.


Bright yellow.

This is for you.

Sunflowers. Bright, yellow and happy.

I made this picture some years back when I lived in The Land of Enchantment, or New Mexico as some people call that fine state. I went there after Hurricane Katrina flooded my city. Well, only 80% of it.

Did you ever have that feeling of when I’m here I want to be there? And, visa versa? There is actually a fifty cent word for that, but I forgot it. I’m feeling that way just about now. I think that I’m really tired of New Orleans. I think that I don’t want to be in Brooklyn either. I think that would like to go back to the place that brought me so much peace and healing after I evacuated from New Orleans.

I know that it’s not perfect. Perfection is for angels. But, most of the streets work. The water systems work. I won’t get shot in some crossfire. And, I won’t get flooded unless I’m standing a dried arroyo or wash. Even then, it won’t take my house.

Or, not.

I suppose it’s just another way of saying that I’m feeling a little restless as the decade speeds to a close. I know that I may not have many decades left. I don’t want to waste time and I don’t want to spend time in a place in which I don’t want to be. Besides, things come to an end. I think my time in New Orleans is coming to a close.

We’ll see.

The picture. I made it toward the end of summer a few years back. That’s when sunflowers reach their peak. I was just driving around looking for them. I photographed them every way that I could think of except for a very long shot because I couldn’t find a high enough elevation to do it. The entire take came out of the camera looking as you see this picture. You know. Nature, the final frontier.


So green.

I’m sort of running out of pictures.

That’s mostly because I’m living my other life for the next week or so. No worries. I have plenty of pictures stashed away that you haven’t seen. For that matter, they are pictures that I’ve sort of forgotten about.

Pictures like this one, a nice bucolic meadow picture. Pretty, isn’t it?

Or, not.

This is the Lower 9th Ward, maybe ten years after Hurricane Katrina broke the levees and flooded what was once a vibrant community.

Sure, some people have returned. Some people rebuilt on their own. Some people returned to buy and live in Brad Pitt’s Make-It-Right homes. That’s the very corporate foundation that is being sued because many of the homes are falling apart. It appears that the all-star architects who designed them had no clue about our extreme weather. Mr. Pitt tried to decouple himself from the lawsuit, but the judge basically said that he couldn’t have it both ways.

That’s not the point of this picture. I’ve long said the people shouldn’t live here. The area is so far below sea level that cracks and potholes in the streets, leak. Apparently, nature agrees with me. Most of the land has returned to what it once was. Even wild animals have returned. I’ve seen feral pigs, snakes and turtles. A friend of mine said that he saw an alligator.

This picture is an example of nature seeking stasis.

Once, on this bit of property there were at least two or three houses. If you return to it in winter when everything is dead or dormant, you can see the foundations, water pipes, and the most spooky thing, porches to nowhere. Oh, and renegade toilets.

I’m thinking that when I get back, I should go back to the scene of the crime. I used to go about four times a year to chart the progress. I haven’t been back in a long while. I’ll add that to my list.


A flower’s grace.

Another is a series.

The series of wouldn’t you like to be like us… in the cool months of the year. I found this little beauty in our street side garden. When I saw it, I couldn’t believe it. Then, I thought, wait a minute . October wasn’t normal. The weather was hot and dry. That’s our second growing season. Not this year. So, maybe our second growing season is now.

Anyway, there are flowers blooming everywhere. Even the Japonica tree, which normally blooms in very early spring, has new buds on it. The last that I heard is that we haven’t even reached winter yet.

The picture. I was surprised, the phone has a macro function. I used it. This is the result. I worked on the picture a little bit. I wanted it to be very graphic. I cropped it. I made sure that the shadow is dark and that the flower is very gently soft.

I think I got it. You tell me.


This is what you get.

I am NOT laughing at you who live in places where it so terribly cold.

Instead, I’m showing you what we get for putting up with New Orleans things. We have a high murder rate (two weekends in a row). We have an ancient water system that breaks every week. We have a terrible street infrastructure filled with car killing pot holes. We have a city government that wraps everything up in a marketing tagline, “The City of Yes.” Yes, most of us would like them to actually do something rather than all their posturing. And, they raised the value of our homes so that they could claim that they didn’t raise property taxes. The list continues. And, continues.

We also have mild weather. Of course, that contrasts with the extreme heat of summer. But, our mildness allows me to publish a picture like this one, twelve days from the winter solstice and the actual start of winter.

Older people who live in the north move to Florida for mild weather during the winter. They don’t have dodge bullets and potholes. And, the don’t have to live in our summer heat if they live somewhere near Florida’s long coast.

Anyway.

The picture. I saw it, I photographed it. It didn’t need any help in post production.


Golden light everywhere.

Golden light. My favorite light.

As you might remember, I very rarely photograph sunsets. Instead, I make pictures of the sky right before and after sunset. I also turn around a look at where the light is falling. Sometimes that’s much better than a predictable sunset.

It’s a little risky.

You might come home with something wonderful. Or, you might return with nothing. If this stuff was easy what would be the fun in that?

However.

I believe that I was made to make pictures. I think that I’m a natural. Or, I’m just whistling through my hat. There are all kinds of naturals. Athletes. Musicians. Artists. Doctors. Nurses. The list goes on forever. They are the ones in class that never seemed to be trying and yet did very well. An old friend of mine used to call me “the zen photographer.” He said it never looked like I was trying and yet I came back with good pictures.

It annoyed him.

He worked really hard. He made great pictures. But, each one was like giving birth to twins. Very painful. Well, I really don’t know what kind of pain giving birth is like. I’m not equipped that way. But, you get the point.

Comments like his were common over the length of my career. Even now, when I think I’m barely working. When I’m making fake nature pictures. A lot of you like them. I’m grateful for that. But, I just see stuff and make a picture. Maybe it’s easy because I’ve done this for 40 some years, but it doesn’t feel right to me.

This looking back in review is great. Or, it’s miserable.

Along with the understanding of 40 years of image making comes the realization of many, many failures. We’ll get to that later. Much later. It’s enough to ask, how many of you have awakened in a cold sweat in the middle of the night and think, “my God, why did I do that?” You try to write it off to being young until you realize that you did something similarly stupid about a month ago.

It’s human.


Orange Glow.

Drifting.

I made this picture on the edge of dusk. The dark edge.

There was almost no luck involved.  But, there was a little skill. I know how and where to brace myself when I try to make a picture like this one. I probably should use a tripod more because that’s the way to take a picture in available darkness. But, I wasn’t ready. So, I did what I could.

Sometimes, that’s all you can do. And, that just has to be enough.

For me, the problem with making a picture like this, is that I’m successful holding the camera steady more than I’m not. That’s really not helpful in the long term because I’ve developed the habit of not doing what I should.

One day I’ll learn.

 


All fall down.

A long December.

For me it’s a time of review. Not just for 2019, but for the decade since 2020 is the start of a decade. It’s also just not only about me. It’s about the state of the planet. The state of being. And, it’s about the people that I’ve lost. The people who are no longer on this planet. And, it’s about one more trip around the planet.

It started with sports. Not playing, but reading about sports. A lot of writers were doing best of the decade sporting stories. That gave me an idea. What if I did my best ten pictures of the decade?

On one hand, it was fairly easy to pick my ten best. They have been signature pictures since the day I made them. On the other hand, the exercise was miserable. I made a lot of pictures in the last ten years. My kind of pictures. The ones that were more like photojournalism than art or nature.

Why miserable?

I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t been very productive over the last two years. Yes, sure, I’ve made a huge amount of my faux nature pictures. To me, they don’t count. That’s not what I do. I could write that off to being in pain, to being afraid of falling down in the middle of a second line, to being fairly depressed because of the pain and feeling like my career is winding down.

That’s not me.

I’ve always played through the pain. This pain is for the rest of my lifetime. So? I’ve always lived by Neil Young’s song, “Don’t be Denied.” I’ve got a fairly high threshold for pain. I’m not the guy who thinks that he’s dying when I catch a cold.

So?

They say that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. I’m going to do my level best at finishing so strong, you’ll just think I took a few years off for some unknown reason. Besides, there is just too much to do. Too much that I don’t want to leave undone.

One more thing. This year was the year of learning. I didn’t learn that much externally. But, I did internally. I looked into my past. At my beginnings. How I got to this place. There are some bad memories. But, there were some awfully great times.

Here’s one of both.

You know that I spent six years in Hong Kong, more if you count China. I used to manufacture books. I would close the process by doing a press check. We’d work night and day. We’d look at color quality. I learned the subtle art of compromise. I learned that perfection is for angels. Especially when we were printing 8 or 16 pages at a time. The red you want on one page is the red you don’t want on another page. But, the pages are being printed together. I had to figure out the balance. The difference.

So.

I was in Hong Kong for ten months without coming home at all. At the end of my time there, I went to Singapore to print one more book. This book was a co-production with an unreasonable partner. The book was very late coming off the press. The partner wanted to review every running sheet. I was in Singapore. They were in New York City. That meant a delay of two days for every one we were on press. The whole thing devolved into a long distance three way screaming match between me, them and my bosses who were on my side.

Finally, I just said screw it. I said I would send them the running pages. I printed the entire book and sent them a loosely gathered set of pages. They hit the roof. They wanted to make changes, not just in book quality, but in content. I replied the book is in the bindery. It’s done. Dead silence from the other end. I hung up and went about my business.

I was exhausted.

Up all night. Up early in the morning. Up during the day. That’ll exhaust you. But, I wasn’t done yet.

From Singapore I flew to Copenhagen via Zurich. I didn’t have to change planes. I slept through the stop. I slept until we were about an hour out of Denmark. The flight attendant fed me after saying that she tried to wake me but couldn’t. Exhausted.

When we landed I went straight to my little house. One room, with a sleeping area, a kitchen, sitting area and a world class bathroom. Like an Air BnB, but 20 years early. I took a shower and turned on the television. I found VH-1, mostly since I couldn’t understand the Danish stations.

The first thing I see is this guy singing and dancing. He’s wearing long beaded dreadlocks. He looks very happy. Adam Durwitz. Counting Crows. Playing and singing Mr. Jones. Remember that song? From the early 1990’s?

Oh, man. Did that ever make me sing and… dance.

Music saved me.

Oh, Copenhagen? I loved it. I could walk from my place to work in a design studio on a cobblestoned walking street. I could stop for a great breakfast and even better coffee along the way. It was early June. It fairly cold so I bought a jacket. I photographed constantly. Three weeks later, I left for home.

Finally.

 

 


The start of the holiday season.

This one.

This is the picture I mentioned in yesterday’s Storyteller.

The Christmas wish of “peace y’all” has been around for as long as I can remember. Except for some slight rewiring, the lights never change. This picture is probably four or five years old. But, I could wander down to Royal Street today and make the same one.

I dressed this version up in some new bobbles from OnOne. It’s warmer. It has little globe-like things around, which are OnOne’s version of in-computer created bokeh. I’ve opened the shadows some. But, that’s about it.

As I wrote yesterday, I was thinking that I might not even try to photograph this decoration again. Then the light bulb went off. I found an idea. I’lll either show it to you if it works. Or, tell you about it if it doesn’t.

I’d like one thing from all of you who are photographers. I’d love to see where you live dressed up in its Christmas or holiday best. Whaddya think?