Returning.

I

talk a lot about nature just wanting stasis. This is a great example of that. The house was damaged during Katrina. The doors and windows are boarded up.

That didn’t stop nature from retaking that little piece of land.

Maybe one day the owner will return or there will be a new owner. They’ll start removing the new growth only to find out that by doing that the house was weakened, often beyond repair.

Yep. That’s nature.

And speaking of nature, her virulent cousin Covid-19 came into play yesterday. Jazzfest was cancelled for the third time in two years.

That leaves musicians, support crew and staffs as well as artists and cooks without work. Some of those people make most of their years bank during the two weeks of Jazzfest.

This hurts hotels, restaurants and clubs. This hurts the city’s tax base. As these things pile up it means that we are further and further away from recovery.

If that didn’t make Sunday bad enough, a friend to us all passed. Action Jackson worked for WWOZ, probably the best jazz radio station in the world. He anchored the culture. I remember meeting him years ago. He was making video. I said, but you work for a radio station. He said, “Aw man, you never know.

He battled cancer for almost four years, almost never missing a beat on the street. He was 59.

He was right. You never know.

H

ere are two mantras to live by. They came to me when I was trying to talk to the universe. I heard them a long time ago but I forgot them.

“Important things are simple. Simple things are hard.”

And.

“Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

That’s about all you need to know about anything.

Don’t even bother thinking about it. Just put them in play.

How demanding of me.

Oh well.


N

ormally, you would see Our Lady of Guadalupe paintings in some Southwestern State, usually in New Mexico.

I was surprised to see this one in the Seventh Ward. This location was heavily flooded during the storm. When I made the picture there was mud, and gravel and leftover bits and pieces covering the streets.

A few people returned to their homes and were working on them to make them whole. It’s likely that one of them sprayed out that tag on the building. That tells the tagger that somebody cares. It doesn’t stop them from doing it again, but it may make them think.

The guys who tag buildings are smart, said no one ever. They could come back and get caught in he act. No telling what would happen then if they were caught.

So, there is some CoVid-19 news in New Orleans. Apparently, the virus has increased by 53% over the previous week. It’s mostly the Delta variant. The city is talking about requiring masks in certain situations and they are thinking forward to fall when it’s likely to surge.

This fall is very busy. Voodoo Festival bowed out until next year. But, French Quarter Fest and Jazzfest are scheduled to take place over three weekends. The city said that there may have to be some modifications to crowd numbers, or — ouch, ouch, ouch — the festivals may have to be cancelled. That’ll make four tries over two years for Jazzfest.

Since none of this is firm, Jazzfest is moving head and today The Jazz and Heritage Foundation announced the daily schedules.

The biggest fear may be that if there is fall viral surge that any of these festivals could become a super spreader event.

It’s all guess work ay this point, so stay tuned.

O

bviously, this picture didn’t take much post production.

It didn’t take much photo technique either.

All I did was see it, be surprised at what I saw, and make the picture. I got back in my car and drove away.

I should have investigated further. There are two sheets of paper posted to the left hand side of the picture, where the diagonal door is located. Those will tell you the disposition of the building.

I like to know those things in case I want to come back before it is demolished. In this case, I’d likely have had some time because demolitions didn’t start for another few years.

This building is a good candidate for destruction because the boarded up window looks like it was closed well before the storm.

One of these days I should return and find out what really happened.

One of these days.


I

showed this picture another similar one to a friend of mine who plays in the gallery world. He said these pictures are worth a lot in that world.

I suppose, but I really don’t see it. I made these pictures because they were there to be made. Eventually, these pictures will become parts of a book. I certainly never saw them as having interest in the art world.

I’m not even sure they are worth much in the so-called photography fine art world. So-called because a photographer claims to be a fine art guy and shows a picture of a sunset or something just as banal as that. How is that art of any kind?

All art is autobiographical. The viewer brings meaning to it. That’s how it works. How is a sunset that 239 people photographed autobiographical?

I like sunsets well enough. I rarely photograph them because most are mundane. But, when the sky goes crazy I’m out there with everybody else. I never think of that work as fine art. If that is fine art what is Van Gogh or Degas?

There is a group of galleries that do show and sell photography as art, but it is nothing like a sunset picture or a snapshot of a flower. The photographers who they represent are artists in sheep’s clothing.

I just don’t see my pictures of broken buildings as a match for them. Maybe they are.

I’ve always wanted to be an artist. Heh!

T

here isn’t much that qualifies as technical in this picture.

But, there is a technique to making a picture like this.

Most of these abandoned places are in funky neighborhoods. You have to be careful.

You need to use situational awareness.

Look in all of your car’s mirrors before you get out. When you get out head straight to your subject with that photographer’s swagger I wrote about a few days ago.

Then, pull out your weapon and fire a few rounds in the air. That’s how we greet each other in New Orleans.

Of course, I’m kidding.

Guns bring more guns. Never shoot one in broken neighborhoods or any neighborhood. Just look into a passerby’s eye and nod pleasantly.

There have been times when I’ve done that only to get a reply back, “Hey Mister Photographer do you remember me? You took a picture of me at so so second line. Do you think I could get a picture?”

Then, in this case, he said there are too many dealers — and he points to a group of houses — and then said, “I’ll just hang wicha while you take pictures.”

He had my back. He got his pictures.


In City Park, New Orleans.

T

his is the backside of City Park in New Orleans. For the life of me I cannot remember why or when I made this picture.

It just turned up in my iPhotos files.

But, wow, do I like it.

The picture almost came out of the archives just about the way that you see it. Of course, I did a little work which I’ll discuss on the other side.

Apparently, the building was a maintenance shed. There were a few buildings a couple hundred yards away. I once used them as a location for a commissioned shoot. I’m glad that I did because the next time I went to the area they had been torn down.

That’s what’s happening in New Orleans these days. After Hurricane Katrina there were over 60,000 abandoned and destroyed buildings in the city. Between two mayors and their administrations about 30,000 buildings were torn down. There are a lot of buildings remaining.

The city government celebrates each building that is demolished, yet violent crime can’t be curbed. In fact, it’s getting worse to the point of breaking records. The potholes aren’t fixed. Parts of the city flood every time there is rain. The power goes out when two squirrels are on the line at the same time.

It seems to me that the priorities are skewed.

My friend was murdered. Other people’s friends and families have been murdered or mugged or had their cars hijacked.

Apparently, those crimes are trending upward throughout the country. There are all kind of theories about why this is happening. I’d love to tell you what I think but that’s well above my pay grade.

Let’s just say that we are all lockdown addled.

My fear is that we are turning into the wild west. It’s already happened in The French Quarter. A drunk guy broke into a front door, walked into the house where the owner shot and killed him. The owner was exonerated.

That’s no way to live.

In Texas you can walk around with a gun without weapons training. In Florida you can shoot somebody if they threaten you. That’s called, “The stand your ground law.” It was tested a few years ago. The shooter was cleared of any crime.

Flash forward to a few years in the future. You already know what I could write.

This won’t end well.

H

ere’s the story. The picture came out of the camera just about the way you see it.

The image didn’t take much post production. I’m not sure why.

My little knowledge of color theory tells me that the almost blue hour gray skies reflected blue light every where, especially in shadows.

Or, I could have accidentally reset the camera.

It’s likely that’s what happened.

None of that matters.

The resulting picture is what matters. And, how you and I feel about it.

I really like this picture. It may end up being a hero picture on my website.

I’ve located a number of dark and mysterious pictures in my archives. A post a lot of them on my Instagram feed.

I think that I’ve built enough of an archive that I can build a portfolio page with them.

And, speaking of websites… I’ve wavered again. I work with a number of public relations and marketing people.

When I told them how many followers I have on Storyteller, they told me that I was crazy to leave my community behind even if there are a lot of ghost followers because you never know.

“You never know” became a reality when a blogger who follows Storyteller, but one that I don’t know, reblogged about five posts. I’ll have to look at his readership, but anything is good.

Right?


What came before.

The city that care forgot. That’s us. New Orleans. Even as some areas are gentrified and priced out of the locals ability to buy or rent, others still languish almost 16 years after they were flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

It’s likely that many of these neighborhoods were failing long before the storm did its thing and put the final nails in their coffins.

And, that’s too bad. In this day and age of low housing stock and extreme rising costs of home ownership or rental, these flooded houses might have been able to reduce the pain.

However, these old buildings have been sitting for a long time. The city deems them unrepairable and demolishes them. I suppose that might be the way to go. But, it seems wrong to me even though I know it costs less to build something new rather than to restore and rebuild.

And, you wonder where my weird dreams come from?

Mix real life New Orleans with other real life experiences with whatever is buried in my brain and you get strange dreams.

I’ll write more about part of my dream in the next coming days. I haven’t forgotten. I can’t forget.

When I first photographed this abandoned house, the bushes and trees were green but manageable.

The next time I went back everything was overgrown. And then, the last time I returned everything was dying in place.

I haven’t been back in a while. I suspect that by now the little remaining wood of the house has started to rot. The bushes aren’t dying because they have truly been embedded themselves in the ruined building.

Photographing them is easy. It’s really just documentary work, and presenting the pictures to you.

As always.

One more thing. I’m starting to lose direction. I replied to a friend, that for me, social media has become a waste of time. It started from a question of privacy. She posted something on her blog and I started receiving ads for it here, on Storyteller.

Enough.

I’ll let you know, but I’m giving serious thought to ending Storyteller after 11 years of almost daily posting.

When I started this blog I thought it would be a way to generate work in one form or another. That hasn’t happened. I thought it would be a good way to build a community. I’ve grown a good number of readers but I never hear from you.

I read a lot of other blogs. I started looking at some of their comments. They get 80 or 90 on each post. At best, I get two or three on every other post, or something like that.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s me. I don’t know what it is about me but it is me.

They say with age comes wisdom. Understanding “It’s me” is very wise. I think.


This one works.

The only working pay phone in New Orleans lives in Central City. It’s sort of in one of the worst areas of the neighborhood. I suppose people need to communicate or — forgive me — set up drug deals.

That’s what makes this corner of the area so dangerous. When drug deals go bad, there is gun play. When there is gun play innocent people get shot. Innocent like a little three year old girl who was celebrating her birthday.

Even though that was a few years ago, I won’t soon forget that. I had an assignment. I photographed her grandma. We had no real contact information but we knew where she lived.

I knocked on her door with my heart in my mouth. She stepped out of her door and screen door just enough so I could make her picture. I took a couple of steps back so I could set the context and found success. As much success as you can have photographing a grieving family member.

I haven’t been to Central City in a long time. I don’t really feel unsafe there, but the pandemic changed everything.

And, speaking of that, don’t make me start having to type that tagline again. The United States is on its way to a fourth surge. The head of the CCD was almost in tears as she talked about it. If you haven’t been vaccinated, please do it. Please keep your distance. And please wear your masks in public places.

And, please be patient.

I know that we are burned out from being isolated or in a lock down, but now is not the time to take chances.

One more thing. None of this is a political thing. The last president made it so. He’s a moron. Don’t listen to that. This is a health issue. A big, giant health issue.

Honestly, this is an older image. There are a couple of reasons for that.

You know me. I’m marginally digitally incompetent.

I downloaded and installed an upgrade for OnOne. Everything works as it should except that it can’t seem to see my desktop. That’s where new pictures go until they are archived.

It sees everything else. It even archived the unarchivable.

I can find no solution or even the same question anywhere. I have an idea that it’s not OnOne, but it’s Apple. Apple hates everybody. So does Adobe.

There isn’t much to say about this photograph. I found it in my archive. I’d forgotten about it. I fine tuned it with something that OnOne calls cinema and that was it.

The pay phone is an added bonus. And, yes it really works.


Thinking about what I saw.

I saw a lot.

When I returned to New Orleans after my time in New Mexico, I wanted to see what remained of the storm. After all, I’d been gone for almost five years. It turns out that there were some 60,000 buildings decaying. The new mayor managed to cut that in half by the time he left office.

It turns out that the city was split. Those who could afford it, retuned. Those who couldn’t, didn’t. Many of their properties rotted. Many just fell down. Buildings continue to do that today. Every once in a while there is story in the media about one collapsing.

It seems that most of the newly collapsed buildings were being renovated. I have two theories. Either just enough of the building was disturbed that whatever was holding it together caved in. Or, the owner realized what he’d gotten into and knocked the building down himself.

That’s cynical to be sure. But, this is New Orleans. Every weird thing happens. We even have a phrase for letting a building rot. We call it “demo by neglect.” I suppose that’s the term in other places.

These pictures are a representation of what I saw. Yes, even the cemetery picture. If you look near the top of the tomb on the right you can see the waterline. Like just about everything else in the city, 80% of it flooded.

Stay safe. Drink all the sweet tea.


What we leave behind.

Junkyards.

I don’t know what got me thinking about this. Maybe it’s because I often watch documentaries on various streaming services. I’ve internalized the broken, the abandoned and the left behind. If truth be told, I’ve poking around abandoned stuff long before the dawn of Netflix. It’s always interested me. It could be because when I was very young we travelled by train. As a train approaches the train station, it passes through the backside of cities and towns. Those neighborhoods are run down at best. Abandoned at worst.

They made an impression.

Photography philosophy

After all, art is autobiographical. I make pictures of me. Not portraits. Pictures of what’s inside me. The subject matter may be less important than the feel of the photograph. I like working close to the subject because I’m trying to get inside. Of the subject. Of me.

I follow a woman on Instagram who offers online workshops. The one I checked out was about the process of making pictures. It included a little Zen meditation. And, a little bit about breaking mental blocks. It’s an interesting workshop. I won’t take it because all it would do for me is support what I already know and do.

I’m a big believer in always carrying a camera. Any kind of camera. You never know when a picture might break out. In my newspaper days, we always carried our gear with us. We used to joke that we saved a lot of lives. If we carried our gear nothing would happen. But, sure enough, if we didn’t there would be massive breaking news.

I’m also a believer of letting the picture take you, rather than you taking the picture. When you are really drawn to something you’ll make a hard u-turn in heavy traffic just to get back to the scene. You’ll miss dinner. You’ll get up way too early. You’ll travel to places you never thought would interest you.

That’s obession.

And, speaking of obession.

A little news of the day

There was a woman walking her dog in the Ramble of Central Park in New York City. A man, who happened to be black, was doing a little birding. She confronted him and started yelling. He started videoing her. While she was screaming at the police she was dragging her dog in a way that could have killed her. A little scared cocker spaniel.

Eventually, the internet did its job. She was identified via LinkedIn. Her dog was taken away to keep her safe. I don’t know what will happen to the woman. I was disgusted. When she called 911 the very first thing she said was that there was a violent Black man threatening her. She’s white. She knew exactly what she was doing. Exactly.

The comments on Twitter were almost just as disgusting. People defended the woman by saying they couldn’t see the cause. The man started his videotaping well before the start of the incident because he was birding. They said he should have just walked away despite her coming to him. They worried about the dog over a human being. WTH?

You know how I feel about dogs. They are better than people. You know how I feel about cockers. They are better than most other dogs. But, I would never choose a dog over another human being.

Stay tuned.

I could speculate about the causes, but I won’t. All I know is that we live in interesting times. “May you live in interesting times,” is the worst possible Chinese curse.

The picture

I went to a new doctor. An orthopedic doctor. No worries. I’m finishing old business. His office is in a sort of weird place. A large group of doctors own a place that could have been a school or old military quarters. There is a lot of stuff left behind. You know. The American way.

The subject turns out to be an old, abandoned air conditioning system. I knew this because right next to it was a more modern one, the kind we are used to seeing. Also, there is a descriptive metal plate with instructions about how to diagnose air conditioning problems.

I had two cameras with me. i chose the lesser one. I have no idea why. I framed the subject and pressed the button. I walked around looking for different or better views. Eventually, I chose the first version. Sometimes, it’s your instinct over technique.

Stay safe. Enjoy every sandwich.


In the gloaming.

Very experimental.

Since the all seeing dog isn’t walking so far these days because she isn’t quite well, I haven’t been looking about very much.

I’d start seriously looking for pictures as our restrictions drop, but the sky is too blue and the sun is too bright. Ridiculous, I know. My best work is done either at the ends of the day or in bad weather. We’ve had some powerful rain. At night. Everytime. Usually at like 2 or 3 am.

So.

I’m reworking a lot of pictures using new techniques and apps.

I think you’ve seen the base picture. I know the folks who follow me on Instagram have. I’ve experimented so much on this one that I think if I posted the two versions side by side you might not recognize the original version.

I’ve been posting a lot of bright, hopeful pictures. Now, it’s time for the other side of the coin. The picture is dark. It’s broken. It’s eerie. The bright balls of color come from someplace else. Are they good? Bad? That’s up to you. And, me.

To me, it looks like some kind of space alien invasion. I may be seeing it that way because we’ve been watching a bunch of space aliens invading the earth on Netflix. They’ve imprinted themselves on my brain.

Or, it might just have to do with the state of our planet, and the general lack of leadership needed to win the war against the virus.

Which brings me to a piece I read in The New York Times about old school wars and what’s happened since World War II. During that war we fought to win. Since then, we’ve fought to hold the line, ending combat in a stalemate. You may not approve of warfare. Or, you might. I fall in the former category because I saw the truth. That said, I still believe if you are going to fight, you should fight to win.

That’s not what’s happening in our war against CoVid-19. Our national leaders seem content to hold the line instead of killing the virus. The death count keeps rising, yet we have been encouraged — no, make that bullied — into opening businesses too soon. In many places, way too soon.

You know the potential result. Another virus surge in places where it has calmed down. Or, there will be lies about the success. I read both sides of the story, conservative and liberal. I reckon that somewhere in the middle lies a bit of truth.

Anyway.

I read a piece written by a conservative writer who actually works in The White House. He wrote that Florida’s open standards have been a success. Success? My ass. There have been 2,500 new cases in the last three days. Who know how many people that those newly tested people have infected. And, where they live. Some success.

The way to win this war is to put politics aside, appoint a single leader and give him or her all the powers of a wartime president. That means requiring companies who can make all sorts of protective gear to make it. That requires the power to shut down the country if need be. That requires the power to help our foundering states and cities.

I know, I know. The far right will scream bloody murder saying that they don’t want to live in a socialist state. The horse is way out of the barn on that one. The minute we accepted $1,200 checks we became a little more socialist. The minute businesses accepted PPP aid, we became a little more socialist. Free food distributed by The National Guard. More socialist.

Get over it.

Shutting down the country is a little tricky. There are no good choices. Shut down business for too long and there will be extreme financial ruin the likes of which we’ve never seen. Don’t shut it down and the virus continues to run in cycles. There will be death and… more financial ruin. The likes of which we’ve never seen.

I’ve always been a “cut the leg off to save the body” kind of guy so you know what I think. Win the damn war. Don’t let us wander around in the desert for 30 years.

Stay safe. Enjoy every sandwich.