I was wondering just how many pictures of old couches, chairs and furniture would hold a readers interest.
I wasn’t sure what to do about it until I saw this scene.
It hit me.
A picture like this holds the reader’s interest in many ways. Not the least of them being the human need to understand the photograph. To study it. To spend some time with it. To let your brain grasp the details within the details.
The first couple of pictures that I made for the “Junk Project,” were mostly overall scenes. You look at them once, quickly, and you are done. You see everything that needs to seen in less than a second. They rely on color, shape and hue.
This picture relies on content. Subject matter.
This picture would work in black and white, as well as in color.
This picture is also harder to find. Even harder for it to find you.
If somebody wanted it for their wall, I work hard to convince them to use the horizontal version and turn it into wall paper. Something that is about twelve feet wide and eight feet high. Something that when you came home at night, you could stare at and forget the day. You’d mumble to yourself, “Oh wow. I didn’t see that before.”
Just like I’m doing now. That light bulb. They are expensive. It isn’t broken. What was I thinking?
I had a good week. Not only did I find a couple of pictures for the summer project, but I found a couple of pictures for my junk and water projects. I’m not saying that everything I photographed will make it into the final cut, but having many pictures from which to select is better than too few. Right?
I wrote about this topic a few weeks ago.
Durability. Sustainability. Repairability.
The furniture that was set out by this dumpster was old. The pieces were probably manufactured in the 1930s. Every piece was well made of good solid wood. Nothing was broken. They needed a little refinishing work, but that was about it.
All they needed was a little loving touch. They would have made a fine collection of furniture for somebody. Anybody.
We live in a time when everything is made so cheaply that it costs more to repair an item than it costs to replace it. That’s too bad. More broken stuff for the overflowing landfills. More broken stuff to add to our pollution. More broken people not working.
A few weeks ago, we went through the great plastic purge. We are still working on it, but it’s damn near impossible. Sheesh. We tried to buy butcher paper locally. Good try. Yes. It can be found in our local and regional grocery stores. But, it’s improved. It has a — wait for it — plastic backing.
Sure. You can buy paper butcher paper on Amazon. And, you add to the carbon footprint by having it shipped. Get this, most of it comes in huge rolls for commercial use.
So, you have to buy a rack and a paper cutter.
I believe that we are at a point beyond which we can’t turn back. Everybody and everything is too invested in the stuff that could kill the planet. Besides, follow the money. How does Mitch McConnell grow his wealth by some $24 million in a couple of years?
The picture. First, I would have taken that furniture if I had a truck. But, I had a dog on a leash. She refuses to carry heavy stuff. Seriously, I photograph my projects as I see potential subject matter. For me, it works better to let the pictures come to me, rather than chasing them. As I wrote earlier, I think I have my color palette figured out going forward. For the junk project.
One more item of semi-interest.
Doctor John was buried yesterday. His family and friends organized a true jazz funeral with a second line and a mule drawn hearse. I didn’t photograph it. The temperature was 96 degrees at 3pm when the parade began. The heat index was 104 degrees. Way too hot for me.
Just like the water project, it takes some time to find the pictures. Mostly, they find me. When I’m not looking.
That doesn’t mean that I’m not focused. It means that I’m disciplined, always keeping these projects in the back of my mind.
I’ve been a little unsure of my color palette, and most post production style. I think, that with this picture, I’ve found it. It’s pleasing to my eye with just enough shadows to make the picture a little mysterious. And, enough glow to make it a little ethereal.
I do like letting the pictures lead me, rather than the other way around. I’m pretty sure in terms of the flow of this project, one of two things has to happen. Either every picture stands together. As a group. Or, every picture stands alone. As a single picture.
Even though I like this particular post production process, it could change.
On another subject.
Have a good thought for some friends of mine. They are moving to Mexico from Seattle. Take that ICE. Take that POTUS. They will be living with a lot of other expats. They have a lot of reasons for doing this. Two are cost of living and quality of life.
As they get ready to approach Laredo, where they are crossing into Mexico, the weather has turned un-Godly hot. Around 115 degrees F. They have about a two day window when the temperatures drop. They’ll need that badly because they must transfer their stuff from a U-Haul trailer to a van that will deliver their goods to their destination. That’s very hot work. They are in their 70s, although you wouldn’t know that to look at them. The heat alone will tax them. Broken down heat exhausted cars in the desert could kill them. They also sent a big moving van with their furniture and big stuff.
Currently, they are holed up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The temperature is around 75 – 80 degrees F. I wish I was holed up with them. Besides, Santa Fe and all the wonderful things to do, see and eat there, we have a lot of photographer friends in common that we can hang with. We all have worked with each other in the past.
Long careers seem to equal old friends. Artist friends.
Although many artists write very elaborate vision statements when they show their art, I’m not one of them. I think a lot of what we do comes to us by accident. It isn’t planned out. We don’t write outlines of what we are going to do. At least not in the raw creation phase.
We see something. We hear something. We might even smell something that turns on that lightbulb in our minds. Then we pursue that idea. The hard part is having the discipline to see it through. It’s easy to self edit and decide the idea wasn’t a good one without knowing the middle and end. You just pivot. That’s the current word for changing in mid stream.
In some cases, that’s right. In most, not so much.
I always say that once you start something you should keep going until the end appears naturally. You never know what you have until you get to the conclusion.
A good case in point was yesterday’s post. I resurrected my picture from my Storyteller archives that are stored here, on WordPress. I worked through the pictures, one by one. I came to understand just how productive I’ve been since I started Storyteller almost eight years ago. Understanding is an understatement. More like shocked.
It also explained why I feel burnt out. I don’t think that I am, not after seeing all that work. It’s just that I’ve photographed everything I wanted to in New Orleans at least four or five times. Some subjects, like second lines, I’ve photographed at least 250 times. Sure, the people, neighborhoods and suits change, but the pictures themselves don’t.
I walk or drive by these common trash sites almost every day. I never thought twice about them, until I did. I liked what I finally saw. It was there all along. I just finally opened my eyes. Cleared my brain. I made one picture. Then two. On a different day. Now, I’m looking. I still haven’t come upon a consistent artistic approach. Maybe I never will. Maybe each picture speaks for itself. Or, maybe I find a suitable color palette. We’ll see.
My Spotify playlist brought up a Mudcrutch song. Mudcrutch was the late Tom Petty’s first band. It had an Eagle in it, along with a few members of The Heartbreakers. It was a proto band. Petty decided to release an album of their music in 2006. It couldn’t have come at a better time. It helped us get through the early days after Hurricane Katrina when we sought refuge in New Mexico.
That one song on the playlist brought me to the album, which kicked my rear into gear. Time to start doing the final work on my dual book project, Abandoned New Orleans Books One and Two.
Off I went. Into the archives. I decided to go inside first. Into the buildings as they were, right after Hurricane Katrina. I also decided to let you see some of the pictures. Because? Because why not?
By the way, the line that caught me in that Mudcrutch album was, “”Lord, I’m just an orphan of the storm.” We felt that way.
Because it was still very hot when we returned to the city after the storm, I couldn’t work all day in my house. The heat and humidity was draining. I took breaks by driving around in my car. It had air conditioning It was the only way to get cool. I would stop and make pictures along the way.
Anyway, on to the pictures.
“Calling Buddha” is very close to me. I used to live in that house. It was the last place I lived before I bought the house in Esplanade Ridge. This house used to be in Lakeview. It’s gone now. I liked Lakeview well enough, but it never felt like New Orleans. It was safe and boring. The best thing about living there was that I could walk across the street and have a coffee. Later, I could walk across the street again and have lunch.
It was on one of my cool-down drives that I decided to look around in Lakeview. If you recall, there were two places were the levees completely failed. The Lower 9th Ward and Lakeview. The water blew through with such intensity that houses were lifted off their foundations. They were dumped on top of other houses. Cars were stacked on top of each other. It looked like a scene from the end of a war. Apparently, the house that I rented had been sold. The kitchen was completely redone. When I lived there, it had a 1950s look and feel. It was wonderful. If you look into the kitchen, you can see wooden Home Depot cabinets.
The backdoor was in tatters so in I went. I had to make pictures. If you look at the crown molding you can see how high the water rose. These folks were lucky the the house stayed on its foundation, which was a cement slab. The rushing, raging water turned everything this way and that. Yet, if you look in the kitchen, there are bowls on the counter just as they were left when the occupants evacuated. Ain’t that something?
After I settled in a bit, I started roaming around the city. I started looking in Central City a little bit. At that point a lot of the city was empty. It was fairly safe.
I took no chances. Like just about everybody else, I was armed. I remember walking into one of the few open restaurants in the French Quarter, looking around and thinking, pity the fool who comes in thinking he can rob the place. Everybody was wearing guns on their hips. It seemed to be the thing to do. Nobody gave anybody a second look. We shared the restaurant with soldiers from elements of the US Army’s First Cavalry Division and the 82nd Airborne, as well as police from everywhere and members of the Louisiana National Guard. Those guys were armed to the teeth.
Anyway, on one pass through Central City, I found this place. I entered through a broken wall. Somebody had been at work. Whoever it was started the hard work of rebuilding. I guess that person may not have left the city during the storm. A lot of poorer people couldn’t. They didn’t have cars. The busses slated for evacuation were parked in a bowl and were flooded over their roofs. Many of the survivors made their way to the Superdome and the convention center. Places that were supposed to be places of last refuge. They suffered there for days. Most of them were eventually bussed to Houston were they New Orleansized the neighborhoods they settled into. God bless ’em. Others were sent to places like Atlanta while the rest of their family was to someplace like Chicago.
The strangest resettlement happened to us. We rented an apartment in Albuquerque, New Mexico. About a month after we settled there, I walked outside to see my 7th Ward neighbor who lived a few houses from ours. She was staying with her nephew who lived two doors down from our new apartment. If you ever wanted to see two people dance and hug each other, you needed to see us. We were so happy to be alive and know that each other made it. We proceeded to New Orleansize things and have a bar-b-que in the front yard even though we had backyards. Good bless us.
“The last three days the rain was unstoppable.” Another Tom Petty line.
I made this picture towards the end of the time of my giant house emptying. This time I was able to do what most of us dream of doing. I opened my old office window and threw my water logged computer into the street. How many times have you felt like doing that after your computer crashed for the third time in an hour?
I was looking around the 7th Ward, which had almost been entirely under water during the flood that followed the storm. I was looking into houses that were in a state of partial remediation, which meant that many of them were stripped down to the studs as a way of removing the Aspergillus Mold that grew everywhere in the flooded houses in hot and humid weather. My eye was caught by a little sparkle. I stopped. There it was. A chandelier, hanging by its wires. Something that said, “this is my house.”
There you have it.
We are two weeks from hurricane season. That always spooks me a little. Time to organize some things and buy extra water, batteries and canned food that we’ll never eat unless we need to.
We had God’s own storm early Sunday morning. So much rain was dumped on the city that everywhere flooded. Even our neighborhood, which never floods. Luckily, for us, it did no damage. But, plenty of folks lost their cars. Some water crept into their houses. We all want to blame the city, but not this time. We are city that floods. Time for a t-shirt.
Two more things.
This is long enough already. My publisher was wondering why I have such deep files of abandoned buildings. When I told him, they were stunned. They are based in England. They forgot. Or, barely knew. They haven’t seen my final selection. Just wait until they do. Heh, heh.
There are lots of people who emigrated here after the storm, after the second storm and after the last hurricane. They don’t understand. They think they city will just flood like it does when there is a lot of rainfall. The don’t understand that they need to make an evacuation plan, or figure out what they might need to survive for many weeks without power or running water. Even when I talk about buying supplies that’s for something on the small side. If there is an evacuation order, we are gone. Maybe Hurricane Katrina was a 100 year event. Somehow, with climate change, I don’t think so.
Even though I use the word “abandoned” in my tags, these old trains really aren’t. The are owned by the Louisiana railroad historical society, or whatever they are called. They are a small group. The don’t return phone calls or emails. They work on their collection on Saturday.
That’s too bad.
They will never restore most of their old property. There is just too much of it. It mostly sits rusting and moldering away. I’m glad the own this stuff. If they didn’t, it would likely be scrapped. I like to see examples of the way we used to live which is part of my obsession with abandoned old buildings, trains and cars. I like to photograph all of that, which is what lead me to so many book contracts.
This picture wasn’t made in a bubble. Even though I was mostly just returning from an appointment, I was accidently working on a book. That’s cool, right?
No long tales of the past today. That doesn’t mean my journey through the past is over. It just means I’m showing you what I’m up to right now. Quite the contrary, I think my trip is just starting for real.
The picture. See it. Photograph it. That simple. Very little post production. If anything, I tuned down the color. That Leica glass is just a little too good. That’s saying something, yes?
A trip through Central City reveals a place that is still falling down despite claims that New Orleans has recovered from Hurricane Katrina. To be sure, Central City was falling apart long before the storm approached. But, it wasn’t too long into the recovery process that people were starting to talk about the gentrification of the neighborhood. They said that it was the only place in the city that was above sea level that hadn’t been recovered.
It never happened. Sure, a smallish area near St. Charles Avenue was partially redeveloped. They got some new apartments. A new food court. A few restaurants and a couple of other things. That’s about it.
The rest of the neighborhood? Not much. There is some minor redevelopment. For the most part, Central City looks about the same as it ever did. Oh, the big Catholic Church that the diocese finally sold has a new coat of paint on it. I have no idea what it’s going to be. We thought it would make a fine recording studio. I doubt that anybody else thought that way.
I haven’t been spending much time there. I drop in and out for second lines, but that’s about it. I need to start haunting the place again. It’s been pretty much left alone and that’s enough for me. Besides, it’s funny to watch the porch sitters dive for cover when you drive by a second time. You can figure that out.
The picture. In spring this is one of those houses that will be covered in tiny, yellow flowers. That’s worth a second trip right there. Or, maybe even more trips. Despite its reputation for danger, I’m comfortable there. Often I’m greeted with, “Hey, mister photographer are you coming out for the second line on Sunday?” Go to a place long enough and people start to know you. Funny how that happens.
I saw the house and photographed it. The light wasn’t right. But, I liked what I had. Tinkering away I went. I literally made this picture. The original exposure was simply a component. The rest pretty much came out of my head. The title and caption are borrowed. They are lines from Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row.” The lyrics are a little ridiculous. But, they paint the scene. They give you the feel. The picture combines the two.
I have a way of finding these places. Repeatedly. Usually on the way to someplace else. This place happens to be on a corner that I know well. Once I realized where I was, I decided to have a look to see if anything has changed.
Nothing has changed.
Ever since the doors have been boarded up with four ply sheets of wood, I doubt anybody has been in or out of it. Before that, everybody — even me — went inside to check it out. But that was back in 2011. Or, 2012.
Not so much. Although I think some of street types probably could find a way into the rat infested building. The building with stale air. Into the interior where almost anything of any kind of value has been removed. And, sold to the local junk dealers.
I didn’t even bother to try to go inside. What would be the point? I just photographed the most graphic side of it. I like the Super Fresh Meat Market sign. And, the rusted ladder. Or, fire escape. Whichever.
I knew, when I made the picture, that I was going to work on it heavily in post to bring out its most forlorn features. I knew, too, that I was going to try to make it look like a charcoal drawing.
That’s it. It’s the internet-themed “Throwback Thursday.” So, I’ve thrown this one back. Into the street where it belongs.
Looking at the picture now I see a lot of squares or boxes. Sort of like a rough Mondrian. Only different.
I think that I might have some new work tonight. I have choices. I can photograph the start of the Christmas season with a bonfire in Algiers across the Mississippi River, but still in New Orleans.
I can photograph the Krewe of Krampus. This is their second year. The parade is for bad kids at Christmas. Like me.
My problem is simple. They both start and finish at about the same time.
I have to pick.
I’m inclined to work on Krampus because there are the big bonfires upriver on Christmas Eve. I know, I know. Christmas Eve. But, it’s fairly early in the evening and we can be back in time for revillion dinner. Maybe even midnight mass
That makes me feel better. But, not that much better. These are events I enjoy. I’m not going to rush back to post. You will see some pictures, but not immediately. These are all holiday events. Family events. Family first.