I like working in it. Rain. Snow. Slush. Ice. Even wind. I often quote National Geographic’s Sam Abell who said, “When the weather turns bad, the pictures get good.” I probably live in a good place for that. Although we don’t often get snow or ice in New Orleans, we do get a lot of rain. Misty rain. Sprinkles. Hard rain. Sideways rain.
This picture was made in 1995. In New York City. I was mostly working with a lot of color slide film by then, but often I would shoot a little black and white.
Generally, I was falling into one of the patterns you see today. Some of my better work was produced while I was on my way to someplace else.
This picture was made with a Nikon F90. Yeah, the “Rest of the World” version of the of the N90, which I believe was only sold in The United States. I’m not such a gear guy, that I know those sorts of things. For sure. Especially something from 20 years ago. The lens was a 105mm. F 2.8. The film, as usual, was Kodak Tri-X black and white film.
Here’s where the fun begins.
The film was rated at 320 ISO. The lens was set to f5.6 and the shutter speed went wherever it needed to go using auto metering. I’m guessing this picture was made at 1/4 of a second. I also took off the lens hood. Doing that made me a little less conspicuous. Mostly, I wanted to capture the feeling of being in a rain storm. I usually think feeling and sensing are better than documenting.
All that weird refraction and blur along the edges of the picture was caused by photographing through rain drops on the lens. Yes. I know. That’s not a great idea. Protect you gear at all costs. But, what’s the point of having cameras and lenses if you can’t break them while you are making pictures?
Seriously. The lens didn’t stay wet for very long. It does illustrate how far I’ll go to make the picture in my head.
I try to keep my promises. Life is too short for unkept promises. Sheesh. Maybe life is to short for promises at all. You asked for more Mardi Gras pictures, so I said that I would do sort of a wrap up of Mardi Gras 2014. I decided to give myself a month to do the curating, post production and fine tuning. After all, I do have other work to do. So do you. I also set a deadline. Since Fat Tuesday occurred on March 4, 2014, I thought publishing these pictures on April 4, 2014 was appropriate.
Exactly one month.
I also decided not to use the gallery function that is offered by WordPress because the way that it sizes pictures and sets them up in a grid makes it very hard for other social sites to “see” them. Additionally, it appears that Google has a pretty hard time finding them if all those little pictures aren’t key worded in a way that optimizes each one of them for their search algorithms. So, I went back to full-sized pictures that you can open up to even bigger pictures if one strikes your fancy. And, all the other sites can find them.
One more thing. These few paragraphs are all that I am publishing. This is about pictures and carnival. I’ve written enough — way too much really — so that you have a pretty good idea of what you are seeing.
The pictures. I think you know that I like to work around the edges. I think that most Mardi Gras parades are probably among the most photographed subjects in the world. EVERYBODY has some kind of camera and they use them. Being a person who’s lived photography for almost 40 years I have to wonder why all these people want to live and see their lives through a view finder or little screen. If I didn’t do what I do, I’d just watch the parades and enjoy Mardi Gras without the encumbrance of a camera of any kind. That’s just me. I don’t know what all those people are going to do with all these millions of digital files. Oh sure, they share them on various social media sites. But, those go by in the blink of an eye. Then what? More pictures? More sharing? Blips of data. Too much data. Unless you have a good library system, likely you’ll never find the pictures you took last week. For me, the ultimate use of a picture is on paper. Yes. Paper. Whether the picture is published in a magazine, brochure or whatever matters to me. Hanging a well-printed photograph on the wall matters to me. But, all these bits of data on some hard drive? Eh. That’s just a starting point. Like an old school negative.
The pictures you are about to see are organized in no particular order. They are little moments of time that I captured by intent, by luck or by some other thing. You know. Pictures like these used to be called the decisive moment. I don’t know how decisive these pictures are, but they are unique. Even the one float picture in this little portfolio is about the man and his son or grandson more than the float, itself. I don’t know how good or bad these pictures are. That’s your call. But, I know that nobody else made pictures like these. For me, that is the point.
That’s it for Mardi Gras 2014. I hope you enjoy my work.
It started a few days ago. We were walking to the area in which the Indians were assembling for Super Sunday and their massive second line parade, when I happened to see this scene. I had to stop to make a few pictures. I think you all know what this means. I wish that you didn’t. No child should die in a blaze of gunfire in some drive by shooting. I cannot imagine the pain this child’s family feels. Maybe, I have a sense of it. Two years ago or so, when I first started working in Central City, I happened upon another scene that was very smiliar to this one. That time, the child’s grandmother was sitting on her stoop sipping a cup of coffee. I did what I always do. I asked her if she minded if I took a picture and she shook her head no. As I focused and composed I watched her eyes. They were dead. No glimmer of hope. She looked at me, but didn’t see. My companion and I sat with her for a while. Mostly we didn’t say anything. What could we say? But, just being there mattered.
Today. The morning started by me listening to Neil Young sing a song called Thrasher. It was from a YouTube fan video from the other night’s concert in Los Angeles. He hasn’t played that song live for about 35 years. The lyrics are nostalgic and some kind of change. It’s very dystopian. I wasn’t going to publish this picture today, or maybe not ever. But, after listening to the song I just had to. I’m not sure exactly why.
The picture. I think that the content is strong on its own. But, I wanted to make the picture as nasty and dirty as I could without going too far. I wanted to put my emotions into the picture. After all, this scene should make you feel two emotions. Sadness. Anger.
I thought that I stumbled upon one of the so-called missing Banksy bits of wall graffiti and political commentary. Apparently, he came through New Orleans in 2008 and did his thing. Love his work or think it’s just graffiti defacing a wall, he did spend some time here. Most of his work was covered up by a self-described anti-graffiti activist known as the Gray Ghost. The Gray Ghost sprays over any graffiti he finds with gray paint. He finally got caught when he sprayed over a commissioned mural. Oops. Banksy’s last known work, located in The Bywater, was almost stolen by a couple of guys who thought it would be a good idea just to cut out a chunk of a brick wall and take it.
Along comes me. I was looking for some junk in Mid City near the new hospital corridor when I stumbled upon this building and its graffiti. At first, I thought I’d found another bit of Banksy wall art. But, it isn’t on any map and the more I looked at his past and current work, I don’t think this image is anything more than a copy. His work is a lot more complete with highlights of bright color. And, it is very well documented. There is even a website that has maps of his work divided by location. The street artist gets around. Whew.
For a while I was excited. I like to learn. I learned quite a bit about the elusive Banksy.
Hmmm… I posted a version of this picture yesterday. It is a vertical and it is just the young indian. I called it “The” picture. I shouldn’t have spoken so fast. I’m not so sure that it is the right picture. Here’s what happened. As usual, if I want to post something from the same day’s events I quickly look over my work. The pictures you see usually jump out at me. Then, in the next day or so I do a full edit. I really do like to let my pictures marinate if I don’t have some kind of client-imposed deadline. So, in this case, I curated my work a lot more carefully today. I found this picture. It’s not the portrait I showed you yesterday. But, to me, it is more interesting. There are things going on in the background that I like and that you don’t see in the original image. It also gives you a little insight into how I work. Normally, I try to keep my images very clean even in a very crowded or busy situation. Sometimes, I think that’s not such a great idea. With the advent of my little mirror less cameras, I’ve been able to loosen my framing up a bit. It shows in this picture. It’s a 24mm shot with a pretty open f-stop. Maybe f4. Something like that. Very little post production because once again, the image didn’t need it.
Oh. One more thing. I like to teach. Especially on this blog. Usually I teach from experience. Usually it comes from some mistake that I just made. Here’s a big one. A BIG mistake. After reading what I wrote in the last paragraph, you probably came to the conclusion that I have pretty good discipline when it comes to curating and work flow. Normally that’s right. But — you knew this was coming — in the three weeks of Mardi Gras parades and events — I cherry picked pictures for Storyteller and just let everything just sit. After three weeks you can imagine the mess I made. It was a big one. Add to that the images I made on the trip to the “Frozen North” and the mess just grew and grew. It took two days to clean it up, get images sorted and placed in the proper files. When I write two days, I mean it. Two 10 hour days.
Super Sunday. It was postponed twice this year, but the wait was worth it. It was very crowded. More than I remember, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s talk about what you are seeing. First. A couple of things to know. Super Sunday is the premier of the Mardi Gras Indians suits for 2014 – 2015. Until today, everything is kept in secret. I just learned today that the official close of a suit is the walks that are down on The Feast of St. Joseph. Second. A little history. Originally, when the indians came out things could get a little violent between tribes. Tt was the first time Uptown and Downtown tribes would meet for the year. But the violence hasn’t happened for a long, long time. Now they sort of strut their stuff, greet each other, talk and move on to the next tribe. It’s more a family affair.
The top picture is “the” picture. I didn’t even know that I made it quite the way you see it. I was talking to the young man more than I was paying attention to what was in the viewfinder. That’s one of the good things about mirror less cameras. You can work with the person you are photographing a lot more than you can if you always have to look through the viewfinder.
The second picture — the pink picture – is Mz. Charisse. She taught me more about working with Mardi Gras Indians than anyone else. The real key to having successful relationships with Indians as they are getting ready to walk is to “present yourself.” That means paying them the respect of talking to them, introducing yourself, offering a business card and asking “may I?” It’s an easy thing to do. But, often in the wall of color you forget to do that. I don’t. But, I’ve been trained by the best… Mz. Charisse.
The third picture is interesting. She is dressed more for a second line parade than for and Indian walk. That big, huge smile caught my attention and what could I do. I asked, she smiled again, I pushed the button and said thank you.
This is Georgette Lang-Mims. Who? The Queen of Zulus for 2014. I was surprised to see her at this parade, but Mardi Gras Indians walk during the Zulu parade on Fat Tuesday so she returned the favor. It’s always a treat to Zulus when they come out for a second line or something a little special.
The pictures. Nothing special. F8 and be there. No heavy post production. No need to. This is really just photojournalism.
Now, about the crowd. When I first started coming out for Super Sunday, it was a smallish event. Yes, all the tribes came out, but the crowd was mostly local. Very local. As in folks from the neighborhood. Not any more. It’s packed with people from all over. About 75% of them are trying to be photographers. They don’t bother me so much. I’m sneaky. I work around them. I walk through them, behind them and past them. I have a lot of practice. But, they don’t know the unwritten rules. The rules I briefly discussed when I was talking about Mz. Charisse. That’s just the minimum. These “new” people forget that we are in the indians home. We are just guests. This is their neighborhood and it should be respected as much. Over the years that I’ve been working in Central City, I’ve come to know a lot of people. Some are indians, most are not. When we see each other, we visit. Of course, someone seeing cameras hanging off my shoulder think that whomever I happened to be talking with is fair game. Especially if they are all feathered and sequined. A couple of times today, it was like a feeding frenzy even when we walked around the corner to just talk for a few minutes. I’m not sure what can be done, or if anything should be done. The “new people” bring money into a fairly poor neighborhood. They have a lot of fun. But still… Aretha Franklin sang it best. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
This picture was made when the poodle and I had our guy’s night out in The French Quarter. I’ve been walking past this building for years, but on that night the light made the building look bluish-purple and oh so photographic. So I stopped and worked the building for more than a few minutes. I added a little to it in post production, but not that much. The evening light did most of the work.
One of the aesthetics of The Quarter that I like so much is that you can just mentally put yourself in some part of Europe while you are standing in the middle of New Orleans. See? I never have to travel. I can just pretend. When I think about that last sentence I kind of have to chuckle. People come to New Orleans, and especially The French Quarter, from all over the world. Me? It’s about a ten minute drive. I couple probably walk to The Quarter from the house in a half hour. I may have to try it one day.
I think I’ve shown you this house many, many moons ago. That’s the point of this picture. This house is on the edge of the soon-to-come hospital zone. Actually, now that I think of it, I showed you the back and side of the house. I’m not sure who owns it. It may now belong to the city. I guess you could say that it is in storage rather than abandoned.
Here’s a short version of what happened. After the storm, the powers that be and some that didn’t be, decided to rehab the city by building a huge hospital area in Mid-City. That’s a good idea because we need hospitals and there are already a couple of big hospitals in the area that were included in the plan. Additionally, we are getting a new VA complex. And, there will be plenty of new jobs at all levels of employment. All good stuff.
However, In order to do that, a huge section of the neighborhood was condemned and either torn down or moved. There were neighborhood protests about that. There were those long-suffering home owners who refused to be bought out. Eventually, something was worked out. They left.
Many houses were moved to Hoffman Triangle were they continue to rot. Just a few miles away. I’ve written about those houses in the past. In some cases, the houses were moved just a block or two. This house is one of those. It’s been sitting on those temporary blocks for at least five years. It’s a big house. It’s pretty much settled into our soft, loamy ground. Apparently, this house was moved very quickly. Look on what’s left of the upstairs balcony. On the right. There’s an outdoor, or lawn chair, sitting up there. This must have been the fastest that anyone has moved in New Orleans in years. Heh!
The picture. This time there was no question in my mind. I needed to help it to make my point. Or, any point. Especially since it was made a little too early in the late afternoon light and was really bland. So, I did a few of my tricks in post production and this is the result.
New Orleans junk. My junk. I wasn’t going to post this today, but I read a story in the local newspaper about a new bike path and green belt that just broke ground. It’s been about four years in the making. It stretches from The French Quarter to way out into Mid-City. This project will cost about $ 9,000,000 when it is finished. Of course, nobody knows how it will be maintained when it is done. Nor does anyone know how it will be kept safe since it passes through some very dicey and drug ridden neighborhoods. Given that the NOPD is losing officers and detectives at the rate of four a week and that morale is at an all time low, there doesn’t seem to be an answer to the safety question. Oh yeah, there are no new officer trainees in the pipeline. And, our crack city council wants to lower the qualification standards.
But, that’s not my rant… for the day. It’s another rant.
These pictures were all made in Hollygrove a few days before I left for the Great Frozen North. Hollygrove is a very rough neighborhood that abuts a very good neighborhood called Broadmoor. Look at these pictures. The damage you see is still left from Hurricane Katrina. Look at the middle picture. The blue picture. Look at the streets. They look like they belong out in some old country place. This area isn’t alone in such horribly maintained streets. New Orleans is pot hole city. It makes Detroit look good be comparison when it comes to streets.
Here’s my question. Doesn’t our local government think that $9,000,000 could be better spent on street repair, unrepairable structure demo and rehabbing neighborhoods than spending it on a greenway that might not be able to be maintained or secured properly? I dunno.
The pictures. This is a little complicated because I let each picture teach me how to process and modify it. So, I used three very different approaches. The middle picture — the blue picture — got the heaviest treatment because I wanted to make a very strong statement about that street, that house and that fractured tree. It works for me. I hope it does for you.