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On Mother’s Day


 

Royalty.

Purple. Luxury. Power. Creativity. Wisdom. Grandeur. Devotion. Pride. Independence. Mystery. And, Magic.

Those are some of the meanings of the color purple. Today, for me, it’s a grouping of fresh, growing flowers that I’m sharing for Mother’s Day. It’s a picture that I made a few days ago. A picture that I didn’t think that I’d made. I wasn’t sure.

It’s the best that I can do. Especially since my own mother passed in July 1996. She was 80 years old. She was watching the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. She was sitting in her favorite chair. She had about a half pack of cigarettes. She’d run out of matches. That’s how she was found. I’m always sorry that I never had a chance to say goodbye. On the other hand, she died peacefully and quickly. The passing of time eventually soothed me. It took about five years.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to my own aging.

Even though it doesn’t really pain me, there are still days when — as Radar O’Reilly of M.A.S.H. fame said, “Sometimes a guy just needs his mom.” Times when you just want to talk something over with your mom. Luckily, there are a few people in my life that I can use as a kind of substitute. Talking to one of them helps. It’s still not the same.

Make no mistake. I’m not sad today. A little thoughtful, maybe. If I want, I can go photograph the Mother’s Day Second Line over on the boundary of the 9th Ward. If not, there is plenty to do around this place.

I think mostly, I’m just writing from the point of view of someone who has long ago had his mom pass and maybe, just maybe, grown a little wiser as the years roll on. Hopefully, anyway.

Happy Mother’s Day to y’all . To those of you who are mothers, and to those of you who are not. After all, we all have mothers.

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Into the Deep Blue


It was the sun.

Back to it. Back to things I see as I roam about.

Or, I could just call this who is supposed to clean this pool? Actually, what caught my eye was that mushy white dot located in between the handrail, which is something new. The dot is the sun reflecting off the blue water. It was poking through some light cloud cover.

That’s the story of the picture. I saw it. I made it. I developed it. I manipulated it. And, I posted it.

Easy.

I was wandering around looking for more junk. I found some. But what I really found sort of made me sick. Trash. Strewn everywhere. And, given that I just read a National Geographic Online piece about deep divers finding plastic bottles in the Marianas Trench, the deepest place on earth, I think I found my crusade.

Let’s face it. All politics aside. Every ism aside, if we keep trashing this planet, pretty soon we will not have a place to live. Our piles of trash will get flooded by rising seas and we’ll all steam in higher temperatures. Won’t that smell great? Steamed soggy trash. With all that steam, our wrinkles will go away. So will we.

Stay tuned.

Some Thoughts


A pleasant surprise.

I’ve been thinking.

You know how dangerous that can be. These are pretty good thoughts about a man who has served my country for his entire adult life. He served in the military. In the House of Representatives. And, in the Senate.

Now, he is dying of brain cancer. A particularly virulent strain that also killed Ted Kennedy.

Senator John McCain is making peace in his last days by writing a book that he might not be alive to see published. He is making peace by visiting with his old friends and telling them what they mean to him. Because he is sick, they have to come to him. They journey hundreds of miles to do this. Despite the political implications of these visits, most of them come because as former Vice President Joe Biden said, “I just want to see my friend.”

Please make no mistake. I don’t agree with many of the things Senator McCain did or said. He is too quick to “put boots on the ground” rather than to settle something diplomatically. He was often an air cowboy as a pilot. Yet, when the USS Forrestal was on fire he landed his aircraft and rushed to the fire to help save the crew. He comported himself with great dignity after his capture and prison time as POW. He came home to serve his country.

Most importantly, I never for a minute believed that he advocated anything — even those things with which I disagreed — without my country’s best interests in mind.

I respect him.

Now, as his time approaches, he is taking care of unfinished business. He is planning his funeral. He’s asked two former presidents to speak. They are from both sides of the political spectrum. Former President George W. Bush and former President Barrack Obama. They said yes. He does not want the current president to attend. It would be easy to criticize him for that. It’s not revenge. The current president stands for nothing the senator believes in. I’m not sure he stands for anything.

Where did all this bring me to?

I’m somebody of thinks through complicated thoughts and distills them into something simple. Understandable. After all, complicated pictures are hard to view.

We don’t have to agreed with each other. But, we owe it to ourselves and to the people around us to listen and to compromise. We owe it to ourselves to speak out whether it be in words, our art, or just in our actions.

You know, like how hard is it to let another car pass in front of you when they need to be in another lane?

Yeah, like that.

The Rose?

Oh, I saw it yesterday. It was too pretty to pass up. To pretty to pass up in my search for junk. You know what I say. The work is the prayer. Call it a prayer for the senator.

Sometimes…


 

Circle game.

Sometimes… a you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.

That little saying comes from an old advertisement for Planters Peanuts. It’s the same thing for me. I’m mostly photographing junk or found objects or something I brewed like yesterday’s coffee picture. That doesn’t mean I stopped making pictures of what I see.

This picture is a case in point.

How could I not stop and make a picture of brand new purple buds? I made a few pictures in the usual way with the buds in sharp focus and the stems slightly out of focus. Then I stuck the lens into the plant. I wasn’t sure what I had until I started culling and playing. The actual file was fairly light because the phone was trying to compensate for being in deep shadow. The minute I darkened the entire file, everything started popping. The colors were amazing. A few minutes of further tinkering and I was done.

That’s the picture. A coffee blog started following Storyteller yesterday. I suppose it was based onthe coffee cup picture. I hope I didn’t disappoint this guy because how often do I post about coffee?  Maybe I should start posting about coffee. With all NOLA’s indy shops I could have a year-long project.

 

In Your Cup


Espresso all day.

Coffee breaks.

Drinking coffee is sort of an international thing. As much as we think of places like Seattle as a coffee city, New Orleans isn’t far behind. Historically, most of South America’s coffee beans moved through the city, down in The Bywater. That’s changed, although there are a couple of major roasters and manufacturers still here. Just not near the river.

What we really have is more independent and regional coffee-houses per square inch than probably any other American city. Even the big ones, like New York.

Yeah, yeah.

Aside from Seattle, there’s Portland and maybe other West Coast cities. But, I’m pretty sure they don’t have the variety that we do. You could spend a couple of days wandering around each neighborhood in a highly caffeinated and wired state if you chose to. Y’all could correct me if you think my surface research is wrong. It probably is.

This all started because of a rather big news item. Nestle bought a big share of Starbucks. No, they didn’t buy the stores. They bought all of the  “shelf products” that you see in your grocery store. The pre-mixed drinks, the beans, the little tubes of instant coffee. They bought that. All of it. Pretty soon you’ll see little capsules of Starbucks coffee for Nespresso machines.  Those machines are great. The real Nespresso capsules can be a little pricy, but not compared to drinking coffee out. And, there are about a million independent coffee manufacturers who make pods for less money.

Anyway.

The picture. A lot of coffee is drunk in this house. Both inside and out. I thought that making a picture to document that might be a good idea. It seems that I’ve sort of moved from junk to things I see in everyday life. It’s also almost become a picture a day sort of thing. See something. Photograph it. Develop it. Post it.

Of course, I can never leave well enough alone. Years ago I created a whole set of coffee pictures. They generated good stock sales until everybody else did it. They were fairly straight forward. This time, I really want to make the pictures a little different. So, there’s plenty of work done in post production. And, a fairly radical crop is applied to the original. I added the frame because I didn’t want the image to drift off the page, while at the same time I didn’t want it to feel constrained. Then, there’s the type. Check it out.

Everything is just an experiment.

Junk, Not Junk


Unearthly glow.

I’m always amazed at what I see if I just look.

Since I’ve moved into a new series of things, I see stuff everywhere. Not only for the junk (not junk) series, but for images in general. I suppose by letting my sort of photographic malaise roll around in my head I was able to open up other ways of seeing.

This picture might not be what you think it is. For the most part, that’s one of the visions of this series. What do you think it is?

Give up? Already? Oh, all right.

New cars have a couple of headlight bulbs contained behind a plastic case. When car is really new, the case casts off a lot of reflected light even in broad daylight. If you stick your camera right up  against the plastic or plexiglass case, this is what you get. Then, you just have to tone it way down in post production. You might not even have to add color because it’s hiding in the glare.

Back to the future. In yesterday’s post I wrote about how some people build followers. How some social media planning software encourages it. I received a number of comments on my various social media platforms about that.

Make no mistake, pumping out a bunch or words and unrelated pictures seems counter productive to me. It’s all noise and no signal. Some people do it in an attempt to make money using various systems. Other people seemingly just have the need to be noticed. I can’t speak to that. I don’t know those people.

But…

Two things came up for me.

The web, interwebs or internet — whatever you want to call it — is just a pipeline. It can be used for good or bad. Or, everything in between. There is also the dark web, which — for a while — became kind of fashionable to talk about. You can buy or find anything there. Drugs. Big weapons. Even people who do dirty deeds. It’s not so easy to access. It’s even hard to navigate. On the other hand, because it take some skill to navigate it’s fairly secure.

Me? I’m fairly simple. I want to see the web as something for good. As long as… I understand it’s potential for bad.

Finally, a fellow blogger and online friend who lives in the north of the state (think of it as we do – like North and South Korea…. I’m kidding. Or not. :)) who said that she got a request to reblog her site from someone within the WordPress family of blogs. She later found out that blogger only reblogs.  She was bothered by that.

That’s a little different. Reblogging — at least sparingly — is part and parcel to growing your own readership. That’s how WordPress works. I see that as unpaid advertising. If a reblogger has a good following some of their followers might become mine. I have no idea why somebody would create a WordPress blog only to repost other blogs, but so be it. I think they fancy themselves as creating fort of an online newspaper covering things that interest them. They actually aren’t hurting anybody.

And, some of the people who asked to reblog one of my posts or use a picture have become friends in real life. That’s a good thing, right?

Numbers


One, two, three…

I learned something yesterday.

That’s not unusual. The older I get, the less I know. So, somewhere along the line I’ve got to be learning. What I learned sort of stunned and saddened me all in one.

I am in a lot of LinkedIn groups. Some are artistic. Some are business oriented. Others are about SEO and growing your online audience.

That’s where I learned something.

Someone asked about auto-posting and scheduling. Someone else suggested a site called HootSuite. Depending on your subscription, you can auto schedule everything. Then, there was one level that allows you to auto schedule “content.’

The word content as it is used today has always made me queasy. It seems that I’m not a photographer. I’m a content creator. Same with a writer or musician. They don’t create what it is they do. They create content.

It doesn’t stop there.

Oh no.

HootSuite suggests that you clip and past content that you might find interesting all over the web as a method of growing your fans or followers. It doesn’t matter if you are a photographer — as I am — if you post something about, oh let’s say weapons of mass destruction. Or, something favoring Neo-Nazis, when, in fact, you are liberal. Just as long as it draws eyes and you can convert them to followers and maybe buyers of whatever your products might happen to be.

This explains a lot.

I get a couple of emails every month asking me if I need content for Storyteller. If I reply with something even mildly affirmative, the “content producer” sends me a sample of the work that “fits” in Storyteller. Usually, it is so far off the mark that I don’t even bothering to reply.

If I read HootSuite’s theories right, and then confirmed them by visiting similar sites, I now understand why most of social media is so boring. I understand why “fake news” is a thing. People are making money sitting in little rooms, in front of little monitors, churning out nonsense. Obviously, there are some people with suspect agendas pouring out content that is pure lies. Can you say Russian trolls?

That said. I promise you that Storyteller will never become one of those sites. I will never post nonsensical provided content of the sake of blog growth. Sure. Storyteller might grow. But, at what cost? I’d like to think that I’m an ethical and sincere person. Besides, even though it’s taken a little while, I’ve grown fairly holistically with original material I post. Every day.

Anyway.

The Picture. It’s one of those found objects. To tell you the truth, I made it look more like junk than it is. It is a functioning electric meter. Of course, the weathering is real. We live in Southeast Louisiana. The home of extreme weather. Stuff gets rusty. Stuff gets moldy.

That’s the news from the swamp.

Oh yeah. We have a new mayor as of 11 minutes ago… 11am. She’s probably going to be the worst mayor ever. I could tell you all the reasons, starting with a general incompetence and graft, but I’ll leave you with this. After she started assembling her transition team she made them sign and NDA. That’s Non Disclosure Agreement. Huh? City government must be transparent by law. For example, if the city council needs to go into executive session they have to follow very strict rules. Her explanation? It allowed people to say what they really felt. Excuse me?

The Big Crash


New Orleans drivers; they’re the worst.

New Orleans drivers are the worst. The only thing we are good at is letting the other guy go first. That’s not just because we are laid back southerners. Sheesh. I’m not. I was born in Brooklyn. It’s because we don’t want to get shot.

Think I’m kidding?

Yesterday, a guy was shot and killed because he sprayed water on his neighbor’s car.  Of course, as the media starting reporting the facts, we found out that it was a ten-year old feud. These two guys argued over everything. And, anything.

Still.

Who, in their right mind, shoots and kills somebody because their car got wet? One guy is dead. The other will die in prison. All because of a few drops of water. I could go into a whole gun thing, but I won’t. It could also go into a whole stupidity thing, but I won’t. I am saying that most of the U.S. and maybe the world, is going crazy. Over reactions. Polarization. Tribalism. I used to see it and laugh at it. Now, it’s the order of the day. It scares me.

Oh, and many people seem to have lost their patience and ability to think reasonably, if at all.

That’s how the car I photographed got this tail light damage. One car was making a left hand turn. One car was approaching the intersection. The guy making the left just couldn’t wait for the other guy to pass. The guy passing just couldn’t slow down and let the guy turning left make his turn.

So.

Whammo. Blammo. A small accident.

That could have been avoided.

Everybody settle down. Oh well, at least I got some art out of it.

 

 

It’s a Funny Thing


Wired.

It’s a funny thing.

The minute I stopped trying to make a picture and explaining myself the drought went away. If it was a drought. I think I was just bored.

Here’s why.

For the last few months I’ve been making pictures of my version of nature. Notice that. My version of nature. I’m not a nature photographer. I don’t play one on television. And, I don’t do the things that good nature photographers do.

I’m also not a writer. I write out of self-defense. I write for this blog. I write to make a point. I’m not someone given writing descriptive paragraphs. You’ll never see me even attempt to write a book, like a novel. There’s a lot of reasons for that. I suppose chief among them is financial. I eat what I kill. Posting a few pictures and writing about them here is fun. On the other hand, my commercial work is just that. Work. If I wrote a book I’d have to know that there was something on the other side of the rainbow besides a kind of fulfillment. Self publishing and selling a years worth of hard work for a $1.99 on Amazon does not excite me. It would be work without a financial goal.

So.

Back to pictures.

Unless the picture really calls to me, I’m not going to make anymore nature pictures. Besides, even though it’s early May, we’ve hit our summer stride. Everything is green and full. That’s the least photographic time to me. However, making pictures that are about summer is something else. Making pictures that say summer to most of us, and bring up memories, are something that interests me. It’s hard to do. I tried it a few summers ago. My goal was ten great summertime pictures. As hard as I tried, I made one.

I’ll try again beginning Memorial Day Weekend. Even though that’s not really the calendar start of summer, in The United States, it’s the start of what we think of as summer. I’ll work on this project until Labor Day Weekend. I’ll do what I can. My biggest problem is that my memories of a summer breeze, or a summer day, may not even be possible today.

Meanwhile.

I’ll work on other genres. No nature. This wired picture inspired me. The original file is kind of bland. Muddy.Dull. I added the same basic color formula that I used on yesterday’s picture of the leaf. I did not add the extra post-post production effects. After doing that, what I saw amazed me.

You can see it now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Van Gogh


A leaf among grasses.

Painting.

That’s what I wanted to do. Of my three greatest influences, two are painters. Only one is a photographer. Ernst Haas. The painters are pretty well-known. Van Gogh and Georgia O’Keeffe are known even among folks who don’t have much interest in art. Haas is well-known to the older photography community. The younger photographers don’t seem to know or care about the history that brought us to this time.

I started thinking about this as I was reading the catalogue for the exhibition, “Van Gogh & Japan,” being shown now in Amsterdam.

To my eye, what looks complex is very simple. The complexity is built in layers. That’s painting.

I’m a photographer.

Try as I might, I have no talent for actually putting the brush to paper, or canvas. So, I studied Ernst Haas as much as my painting muses. He was a photographer who was represented by Magnum. He worked for Life Magazine. He had advertising clients. He was a “special photographer” on movie sets. That meant that he made a lot of pictures that are not what he would call portfolio work. We all do that in order to pay the bills. Even the great ones.

Haas also published books. Not the self-published, self edited, self designed silliness that seems to be clogging up reader lists. No. Books that were edited and published by professionals. The book that first caught my eye was, “The Creation.” It caught a lot of people’s’ eyes. It showed me what photography could be. It taught me that photography could stand next to the painted works of Van Gogh and O’Keeffe. Those of us who work with cameras, lens and all sorts of mechanical devices didn’t have to be second or third class citizens. I’d just wish that we’d learn to raise our prices like painters do.

More importantly, all of this work taught me that we didn’t have to be documentarians. That we could make images that stood on their own, without an event to back them up. For as long as I’ve known this, I’m finally just starting to understand it.

That is one reason that my “New Orleans culture” productivity has been down. Pictures that more-or-less look the same from year-to-year aren’t fulfilling to me anymore. I come out for those events because I like being with the people. I like talking to my brother and sister photographers. I like talking to the Indians and social clubs. Most of all the rhythm of the music and the street seems to make my hip and back feel much better. If I could figure out a way to make a picture that was more art than documentary I’d stay on the streets for as long as they’ll have me.

Anyway.

This picture. For a distance, this picture looks fairly simple. Just like my three muses work does. Move in closer. The photograph starts looking more complex. More complicated. Very detailed. That’s the positive side of it. There are many negatives. Not the least being the basic subject matter. I made this picture this morning. Because I had to. I’m running out of new work. I don’t seem to be inspired to make new, meaningful work.

I don’t know why.

It’s not a block.A block usually means that you try and can’t. I haven’t really been trying. I can’t find a subject or project that excites me.

Oh well. I know this one truth. Don’t force it. It will come.