The queen and her court roll by at the head of the Treme Sidewalk Steppers second line. This was a big deal since it is their 25th Anniversary.
Unfortunately, they start on Rampart Street across from the Quarter. A few years ago, they started putting up police barricades and hiring security guards. You know the ones. The ones who wear badges that say the word security. The kind you can buy online for ten dollars.
I dealt with it that year, didn’t go last year and decided to get as far away from that silliness as I could this year. I went into what was just about my old neighborhood. The same so-called company was still working the ropes. I just walked around them.
I actually don’t like to photograph the floats since I normally can’t get a good angle on them. I did this time. I sort of had to make a picture like this because the actual second line was chaotic. The brass band was scattered amongst the walkers. The walkers were all over the place. The guys with the ropes couldn’t control anything. Everybody walked around them.
I let the second line come to me. That was the best thing that I could have done. I stood on my little patch of ground and made pictures.
That’s the story of the picture.
I have another story. It deals with wondering what we why we are on the planet. A friend of mine sent me an email about that. I don’t know why people come to me. I’m no guru. I barely understand what I do, let alone what others do. I have to process his words before I reply to him. Then, I may talk about it here. In general terms. No sense in embarrassing anybody when they are reaching out. Or, ever, really.
Ask any New Orleanian and you’ll learn the July and August are soggy months. If the humidity doesn’t get you, the rain will. They go hand in hand. The humidity builds up, the heat draws the clouds and bang. The rain falls. Usually pretty hard. But, we all know that it won’t last long. The rain stops. Everything cools down. The air becomes a little more pleasant.
For ten minutes.
Then it starts again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Most of us know to carry an umbrella. We mostly wear some kind of open shoe. Like flip-flops. Like Crocs. Or, sandals. We wear shorts. T-shirts. Women wear sun dresses, sometimes. We are going to get wet. The lighter that we dress, the quicker we dry.
Real old school, long time folks just dress normally. Jeans. Long sleeved shirts. Closed shoes. The summer weather doesn’t seem to bother them.
They are delusional from heat induced craziness.
It’s not for me to say.
That’s a very long-winded way of saying, be like a Boy Scout.
I know a photographer who won’t take pictures in the rain. His camera isn’t weather sealed in any way. He hasn’t figured out the trick of using a small garbage bag and scissors. Cut two holes in the bag, wrap it around your camera and you are good. To go.
Not photographing in bad weather doesn’t fly with me. I live by the old saying, “When the weather turns bad, the pictures get good.” At the very least, you’ll have some pretty wonderful reflections. It’s even better if people are part of the picture.
This picture. I posted it on Instagram. I didn’t post it here. I started thinking that I should. So, here it is.
I met a friend for coffee prior to the first day of Satchmo Summer Fest. I actually wasn’t really up for working that day so we hung out for a while. The rain started falling. I turned around in my chair and made this picture through the door window. Easy as that.
For Instagram, I made the picture black and white. That’s sort of become my signature over there. Obviously, I left the color alone for Storyteller.
I wanted you to see the rain drops as clearly as possible so I worked on that in post production. I also didn’t want to over enhance the color since it was bright enough on its own.
Funny thing about this place.
Back in the day when I lived just down the street, I would finish my work and hang out here. I’d walk my dog and we’d sit outside and visit with our neighbors.
In those days, I had to ship my work. It was film. After review and selection, the seconds were returned to me via FEDEX. I did this so much that the driver knew where I was. He’d drive up Esplanade make a u-turn and bring the box directly to me. He couldn’t stop because of their tight schedules, so I asked what he liked to drink. Drivers can’t accept cash gifts, but they can accept food, drinks, and stuff like that.
I started trading him.
He’d drop off my package and I’d have coffee waiting for him. Or, ice tea in the summer. I could do this because he had to stop at a red light. I would hustle inside and buy his beverage. The baristas thought that was very cool, so when they saw me coming they had the drink ready. I paid them after the driver passed by.
Neighborhood places are like that. This is a chain, but it’s a local chain. One of their Uptown stores is where I hangout prior to photographing the start of Mardi Gras parades. Instead of FEDEX drivers, I hang out with the NOPD.
I thought, that I’d better post last night and schedule it for today.
The storm hasn’t even officially made landfall. But, we’ve had strong winds and rain since about 1 pm yesterday afternoon. It may never really get stronger this far down river. But, you never know. Besides, you know how OCD I get about not missing a day. Last year, I took a few weeks off in July. By the end of that time I was pacing around waiting to get back to it.
If we have power in the morning (Remember, I wrote and scheduled last night), which I fully expect, I’ll update you on the weather. If not… well, at least you get to see a picture. And, I’ll be back when I can.
I promised you an update if there was power. There is. It is currently 10:15 am. The rain stopped for about an hour and there was just a slight breeze. Rain began to fall a few minutes ago. According to NOAA, we are well within the storm range, and Cindy remains cyclical. Wind should not be a problem since it has died down some on the ground and in the air. But, rainfall might be a problem, especially further upriver. We’ve had rain for almost the last two weeks, mixed with a couple of days of sun. The ground is super saturated.
Even though the building is bright — sort of Pepto Bismol — pink, which contrasted nicely against last Sunday’s blue sky, I just had to mess with it.
I have no idea why anybody would paint a building this color. It is for sale. Maybe it was done to attract passersby attention. It worked. It caught my attention. But, I was walking through the neighborhood on my way back to the car after photographing the second line.
I was tired. The weather was hot and a little humid so I didn’t spend much time making the original image. This may be another place to which I should return. We’ll see. I now have four locations on my list. Even though this picture could have been a bit boring processed straight, I was able to mess around in post production. And, turn the picture into something else.
I’m not quite sure what to think of my effort. I may have failed. No problem. That’s how you learn.
The picture. The building is located on the same street as yesterday’s picture. Maybe some owners like bright color as much as I do. These colors wouldn’t have appeared back in history, but bright color was the rage in the Victorian era. Many houses were painted in four or five different and contrasting colors.
The one thing that I didn’t notice when I took the picture is the house next to it on the right. It’s pink too. I didn’t drag color back there.
Maybe the owners are one in the same. Maybe they got a deal on Pepto Bismol pink paint.
One Sunday morning. After the second line. Walking back to my car.
You just never know what you are going to find along the way. In this neighborhood, many of the houses have been repaired. But, just. They are functional houses that were brought back after the storm. Some are still boarded up. Waiting for their occupants to return.
There’s this house. What can I say? It’s bright. Colorful. It might me smile. I made a few pictures. I promised myself that I would return to explore a little more.
You know what?
I’ll never make this picture again. Can you see why? If truth be told, I didn’t see it when I took the picture. But, I have a little defense. I was working from the LCD. With the bright sunlight I really couldn’t see much detail.
Just look at those windows. Those reflected clouds complete the picture. They make it different from anything I could produce later. Who knows? Probably I could make a better picture. Maybe not. But, it won’t be this one. And, these days that’s a rare thing.
For something. A grocery line. A toll bridge line. A venue line. On Sunday — any Sunday — we wait for the second line to begin. Everybody waits while the hosting club gets ready to make their very grand entrance. It’s a tradition. For everybody. It’s a time to hang out and talk to people you know. And, meet some folks who you didn’t know.
I saw this young woman leaning against a supporting pole and thought that she might make a nice picture. I waited until the background was fairly clean. That took some patience because the door to the house in which everybody was getting ready is right behind her.
I made about five or six quick exposures and I was done. I showed her the pictures on my camera and gave her my business card. She smiled and told me that she knew I was taking her picture. She thought that I wanted her just as she was, so she waited. Talk about communicating with a subject without saying a word.
Tomorrow. Second line pictures. The actual event. I promise. But, I have been liking the work on the edges so much that I thought I would share it with you first.
The picture. A little post production to help you see what I felt. She’s young and at the age of little skin blemishes. I fixed those. I made her glow just slightly. When she emails and asks for a couple of pictures, I’d like her to be proud of them.
Sometimes, it’s better to look along the edges of the event. Things get more interesting there. So do the pictures.
I’ve long said that for those of us who work second lines on a regular basis that our pictures look about the same. Oh sure, there are lens selection differences. There are post production differences and choices. But, the content — which is king — looks very similar.
I’ve been listening to two pieces of advice. One in the form of a quote. The other in a conversation with a sort of mentor.
The quote is musician Neil Young’s. He said it right after he had a couple of big hit albums in the 1970s. His work was becoming too middle of the road for him. His record label, promoters and publicists wanted more. The same kind of work, only slightly different. It made a lot of money. But, money isn’t everything. His response was to kill his pop career with three albums often referred as the ditch trilogy. They weren’t bad albums. But, they weren’t what was expected of him. In doing that he said, “Whenever I get too close to the middle of the road, I head straight for the gutter where things are more interesting.”
Well, that’s a bit harsh.
But, it is a good way to look at things that are getting a little too common. Yes. I photographed the second line as I normally would, but I paid closer attention to the edges. I wasn’t looking for the “normal” edge pictures like guys dancing on roofs or porches. That’s easy stuff. See it. Press the button. I was looking a little deeper. For smaller moments.
Those of you who seem to be right on my footsteps when you read this stuff can thank me when you see me. You know who you are. You can’t buy me a beer since I don’t drink. But, I accept cash. I’m fairly nondenominational. Bigger denominations are better. Oh yeah. One of you gets a pass…you don’t care what I do. Heh!
The second bit of advice came from someone who I think has been to New Orleans maybe twice in his life. But, he works regularly for Nat Geo Soc and is a Magnum member. These days he is producing his own books, which actually sell for big dollars.
That said, he reminded me that what I’m really doing no matter how artfully I try to do it, is documenting something that won’t be there in the future. I’m holding on to something special. I’m making pictures for future generations. Then, he proceeded to “hit me up the side of my head.” He told me to work harder. Longer. Forget this smarter nonsense. Make pictures. Post them here. There. Everywhere. Make books. Market them. Get the work out there anywhere that I can. As often as I can. After all. Life is short. Very short.
I keep telling myself that. Sometimes, it takes another voice to do the job. This time I listened. Because time fades away.
This picture. I was walking down one side of the second line. After a black SUV rolled by slowly, I decided that I want to be on the other side of the street. For no apparent reason. When I started walking along other side of the SUV, I saw these sisters. I saw the younger one first. Then the other one popped her head out of the window. She likes the color lavender. Check out the her phone case and her fingernails. She looks a little taciturn. No worries. She isn’t. Once I started keeping pace with the SUV, she started laughing and talking to me.
One more thing. It appears all this advice is working. I’ve been photographing everything that moves. And, some things that don’t. If you are reading the full version of Storyteller, look at the Instagram picture. Just my pool. Looks like a different place. If you’d like, please follow me there. I’m laskowitzpictures. I work really hard to post very different pictures than the ones I show you here.
I photographed the Mother’s Day second line hosted by the Original 7 Junior Steppers. I’ve done it since the mass shooting four years ago. No fear. But, this day was especially poignant with the passing of Deborah (Big Red) Cotton.
I set out to work. And, work I did. I made some 600 digital exposures. By the time I finish culling and editing I will probably cut that down to no more than 60 pictures. You won’t see more than 10 or so of them. That’s how I work. Less is more.
Hopefully, my curating skills are up to the task. I haven’t really started it yet. I’m trying to give the pictures enough time to marinate. For the record, the phrase was first said by a friend of mine. He doesn’t blog. I just gave it a lot of exposure.
The picture. This is pre-parade. The musicians gather around, say hello, and decide what to play. Most of the songs are pretty much street standards so there isn’t much of a need to rehearse. Besides, the minute the tuba starts, everybody would think the second line is starting. That would be confusing to say the least. The condition of the instrument is — in a word — beat. This is likely a student tuba that was recovered after the storm. It still honks, so there is no problem.
Post production. There isn’t any except for what’s necessary. After all this is a RAW file.