I was listening to a little bit of Jazzfest from New Orleans yesterday via the internet on NOLA.com. I used to live in New Orleans prior to the storm, which is what we call Hurricane Katrina. It made me a little nostalgic. I started thinking about what it was like to live there and how much I liked it and how much I miss it… sometimes. As time passes, I find myself missing it less and less. That’s the way of time, I think. The picture I decided to post today was my last serious picture from New Orleans. I made it in July 2005 at the jazz funeral and second line parade of Tootie Montana, the Chief of Chiefs of all the Mardi Gras Indians. This man is called a spyboy and is part of the Indian culture. He is singing a spiritual song called “Golden Crown.” What’s interesting about this picture is how I made it. I like to shoot “from the inside out,” meaning I like to get in the middle of the action rather then stand on the sidelines. Because this is a cultural event, the Indians would dance and sort of push me out of their circle. I would work myself back in. They’d push me out. Back I’d come. Everything was fine. They knew that I understood and I knew that they understood. Besides, Tootie’s nephew, Donald lived only a few doors down from me. Now, he’s the Chief of Chiefs.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that getting to the heart of something is like peeling an onion. Sometimes, it’s just not that hard. I was unpacking some groceries when an onion fell out of the bag and bounced on the floor. Off came the outer skin. I picked it up and thought, ” ah ha, here’s a subject for my daily shot.” Oddly, it didn’t break, but came off the onion in one long piece. It reminded me that even though most things worth pursuing need a lot of work and practice and more practice and… some times, you just get lucky.
So far, I’ve been mostly posting from Picture A Day 2008. I thought, since it is the start of a new month, that I would show you a picture that I made in the last 12 days. There are a couple of real nice frames tucked away in the general nonsense of what I’ve been shooting. But, since I haven’t posted many people images, I decided to post on of my neighbor Vincent Herrera. He is a carpenter by trade. But, with housing starts way down in New Mexico, he does whatever he needs to support his family. On the day that I photographed him, he was planting trees and bushes.
May is here. For me, producing a picture a day that means it’s download and post production time. Since I rarely review the month as I shoot it, this is always a very interesting time. How did I do is always a question. But, even more telling is that you can the events of my life, my moods and my technical failures. I can also tell just how much effort I put into the project. Was I lazy? Did I work hard? Did I explore each subject as far as I could? That’s an example of what I mean when I say that you learn a lot about yourself shooting a project like this. Oh yeah. What happened to April?
May also means baseball. And, beer.
I like to post to my blog in the morning. But, I’m a little late. The garden had a higher priority. There are tomatoes, and chilies, herbs and fruit — strawberries and blueberries as well as colorful flowers. Now the garden also has cedar chips which should keep it cooler in the heat of the high desert summer and keep the insects down a bit. How does this relate to a picture a day? On not so great shooting days, I do two things in the garden. I make a simple walk out the door and it’s there picture for the collection and it gives me a place to sit and contemplate the meaning of something. Sometimes, I even get ideas for the PAD project or other shoots. And, even in the heat of July and August, it’s a cool, quiet place to eat breakfast or have a coffee.
Shooting Picture A Day images are like shooting for any long form project. For a time, I shot a lot of Lonely Planet Publishing Division projects. Most of them were either for their “Condensed” series or for their large trade books. They’d give you a shoot list that number in about the hundreds of locations to be photographed. They’d suggest that it should take you ten days to do this. It didn’t matter what city you were working or whether you knew it well or not. In order to complete the assignment you need a lot of discipline and organization. It was like running a road race. You had to shoot a certain number of locations in a day. or you could never complete it. Unlike a road race, shooting PAD is more like shooting a marathon. The logistics and planning matter a little less. But, you need the discipline. You need to do it every day. You need to be flexible and somewhat opportunistic. You need a certain amount of aggressiveness. But, you need to temper that with what some people call flow. Some shooting days are better then others and you have to recognize that.
Sometimes you get really lucky. I was looking for a PAD image when I stumbled onto a quinceanera – a coming of age celebration for a young Mexican girl. The people were very friendly and they allowed me to work from the stage where the band was playing.
This week’s big project is working through my travel files and editing images of street food. It seems to be a popular subject with agencies and clients so I thought that I would build a small collection of images that could be displayed on my website and distributed through my agencies. Fortunately, I’ve photographed street food, cooks and sellers wherever my travels have taken my… China, Hong Kong, Bangkok and domestic locations like San Francisco and even here in New Mexico, where the street food becomes state fair food and fresh local markets. This, of course, taps into the notion that in order to be more “green” we should eat organically and locally. We are lucky in New Mexico to have local outdoor markets from Spring through Fall. And, we have a nice group of vegetables and fruits that include; peaches, tomatoes, squashes, chilies (of course) and all sorts of spices and herbs. Like so many others, I have my own little garden. So, I can can walk out into my backyard and photograph the growing process.
Today’s photograph was made in Bangkok, Thailand. It’s classic Asian street food. Before you gag at thought of eating on the street, let me say that the food is fresh, clean and well prepared. It is also very affordable.
I’ll get back to Picture A Day images tomorrow.
I spent a good amount of time this morning updating my website with a new gallery called “Experiments Around The World.” It’s mostly about testing different processing techniques. Normally, my work is very colorful (some say too colorful), bright and energetic. This new gallery tests more muted and subdued color pallets as well as a few different ways of seeing. Check it our at laskowitzpictures.com. Go to the galleries tab and you’ll find it without too much trouble.
The image to the right is an example. It was made on Highway 93 near Las Vegas, Nevada. The exposure was normal. But, it is processed using some software I found from “xero.” The trick is not using all the software in the package and limiting myself to just a few choices. But, isn’t that what editing is about?
A few weeks ago I read a funny post on SAA concerning how little photo-graphy we actually do as compared to the rest of what we do in order to tell people about our work and ourselves. In addition to actually taking a picture for this PAD project, I have to process it — that’s only every two weeks — talk about it here, maybe on Facebook and again on Twitter. I also try to keep my website (Laskowitzpictures.com) current which means the PAD portfolio is updated every few days. Then there is the prep work. What to shoot? What to shoot? What to shoot? When I figure that out, then I think about how to shoot it. In many cases, it’s like working for a newspaper again. I look for events in Albuquerque. Then I go work the event and hopefully a picture reveals itself. Some days, it might be something much smaller. It’s Springtime now, so a lot of my pictures are about newness, rebirth and — of course — all things green. Sometimes I get very lucky and the picture finds me. Sometimes it’s a real struggle. Mostly, the process is enjoyable and it keeps me thinking even on days when that’s all I’m photographing.