When it rains around here, we often get some very pretty light as the clouds break and the sun peaks through the remaining clouds. Yes. The light is pretty. But, not as pretty as it is in — oh, say — New Mexico. But, that’s a whole other story. A better story is this one. Although I very rarely get lost, I completely misplaced my favorite street in New Orleans. Yeah. I know. Probably early onset something or other. But, this is amazing. Even to me. There is an old section of New Orleans that was once a heavy warehouse district. But, not THE warehouse district. For the most part, it stands alone and forgotten. One of the streets is still paved in cobblestones. The buildings on either side of it are made of brick. For the longest time, I was convinced that the cobblestones had been torn out and replaced by concrete. Well. That didn’t happen. The street moved. Well. That didn’t happen either. I just completely missed my mark. The cobblestone street is still there. The only thing that has changed is that someone either lives or works in a building I thought was abandoned and the brick building on the other side of the street is being restored. Slowly.
When I work in Central City, a lot of what I find is in the details. It means that I can’t just drive to an appointment. Or, drive around looking for things. I have walk around looking for little details that either function as a sort of point picture, or as something large as an icon that speaks to a much larger concept. I’m just thinking out loud, here. But one way signs pointing in two directions, with one pointing to a kind of stop sign, seems to be about life itself. I don’t remember if I thought that when I made the picture. The beads? Just Mardi Gras beads that have faded in a harsh Southeast Louisiana, summer sun. Fortunately, they faded into colors that blend with the signs on which they are draped. Ah. The wonders of nature.
When I work in Central City, I shoot I lot of close up images. Even my portraits seem to get right to the heart of the matter. But, on the evening that I made yesterday’s picture, I took a step back. I wanted to see what the view from Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard looked like to somebody who was just walking down the street. This picture pretty much captures it. Of course, I gilded the lily somewhat. I took the picture during the so-called golden time which pretty much guaranteed that there would be a reddish-yellow glow. Then, off to post production I went. I used a setting in Snapseed that gives the image an old film look. I never stop with the software-driven setting. I always tinker. I added contrast, a little sharpening and I changed the color. I wanted the picture to look more like an evening in the other LA. Los Angeles. I guess that it worked. You tell me.
This is a picture that is sort of in between projects. I made it in The French Quarter a few weeks ago when I first purchased a Sony NEX camera. I took a quick little walk through a couple of streets in The Quarter, shooting I was went. I wanted to see what the camera would do in low light, since that’s where I do a lot of my work. Well, it worked just fine. Perhaps, the thing that amazed me the most was it range of ISO. I accidentally set my ISO to auto, which is normally the kiss of death since the camera tries to do things that are beyond its limits. It seems to have worked just fine. The really cool thing about this camera, aside from being mirrorless which makes it small and easy to carry, is that it uses the same sensor, or very nearly the same sensor, as a comparable model in the Nikon brand. This is possible because Sony manufactures most Nikon sensors.
Over the course of the last few days I’ve been posting pictures of the people who live in Central City. I thought I would show you a few pictures of the place that I’ve been making over the past few weeks. Some are scene setters. Others are details. Still some of these images try to make a point.
I thought that I would give you a look at some of the places where I’m working on my Central City project. There are some pretty good overalls, but I really wanted to show you yet another person who lives in the area while combining that with the place. This is Harold. Working with him was sort of funny since we’d been eyeing each other from a distance before we actually started talking. I learned something from him that I’m not sure many New Orleans people know. Well, wait. I knew there were neighborhoods within the general area called Central City. But, I didn’t know that there were historical names as well. Some people call part of it Faubourg Lafayette. I knew that. That’s the closest area to the Central Business District. But, wait. There are two more that border St. Charles Avenue. They are Faubourg DeLassize and Faubourg Livavdais. These are old French names. I doubt very many people ever refer to them these days. Both DeLassize and Livavdais are areas that are a little more quiet and apparently a lot less violent. I made this picture in Faubourg Livavdais. It’s still not paradise, but my internal bells did not ring. So… this picture is just me taking some time to talk with my subject. I made some very tight portraits that I like as well. But, this one gives you a nice sense of place.
Despite its bad reputation, there is a huge population of people who have lived in Central City, New Orleans, for most of their lives. They, too are worried about the violent crime and what will become of them if Ventral City is actually turned around as many folks are hoping and planning. This is one of those long time residents. Meet Arthur Lee. I met him while I was photographing an abandoned Catholic church. He told me a bit about the neighborhood, what it was like, what it is like today and what it could become.
Everybody around me — myself included — was grumpy. So, we went to the French Quarter. I don’t know why. We just did. We ate at Maspero’s. The real one. The one that is supposed to be a tourist trap. Not the one on Decatur which is supposed to be good. Surprise. The food was good. The waiter was a good guy. And… they gave us 15% off for a locals discount. I’ve never gotten that in any French Quarter restaurant. But, this post isn’t about the food. It’s about the quarter. It was roaring on a hot early summer’s night. I mean 92 degrees at 9pm is hot, isn’t it? Every place was busy. We started down Bourbon Street, got bored, made a right turn on Orleans toward Royal and I stumbled into this picture. I wasn’t heavily armed, but I was carrying my semi-new Sony NEX5, which I think is a great little camera. A few minutes of post production later and here it is. Oh yeah. This is the back of the St Louis Cathedral. Looks a like like Paris to me. Someone told me the reason for the crowds is that there is a giant Baptist Convention in town. Yeah. Like the Baptists are going drinking on Bourbon Street. Good one.
This picture is called High Desert Drifter. Drifting is what I’ve been trying to do since the passing of Debbie. But, my neighbors won’t let me. For instance, I haven’t cooked a meal since Monday. That’s not because I’ve lost the will or am not hungry. It’s because they keep feeding me. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. They have my back. They aren’t just saying that. They mean it. I’ve never felt anything like this. I’d like to say that I am healing pretty well. But, I don’t know that. Every day could be a different emotional roller coaster ride. I do know that I have to walk the walk and take one day at a time. And, if need be; one hour at a time, one minute at a time or one second at a time. That’s the only way to do it. That, and tell people. Be honest.
This picture is in a lot of ways about endings. When I left New Mexico to return home to New Orleans, I started missing it before I left. Even though I was anxious to make the move, New Mexico had become sort of a home to me. I took a drive to one of my “go to” places to make pictures. I had a helluva a shoot. I probably made five or six images that I really like. This one is literally the last picture that I made. Nothing special about my technique. See the scene. See the light. Take the picture. No Photoshop magic.