You’ve heard it before. Stop and smell the roses. I did that. I also made this photograph. It’s my version of art.
I made it soft, dark and velvety. This image makes me want to touch it. No worries. I didn’t. I like to make pictures, not touch things.
Which brings me to this. Somehow.
The CDC issued a new directive. No masks with few exceptions as long as you have been vaccinated. This confused me and just about everybody else including some very highly thought of doctors.
For some reason I’ve lost my faith in the CDC. This directive just doesn’t sound right. Until Orleans Parish relaxes the mask requirement, I won’t be walking around barefaced.
Ask The New York Yankees about this. They have seven staffers and on player isolated because of positive tests after being jabbed. They call it breakthrough contagion. Call it whatever you want. It means that there is no certainty of anything pandemic related.
It seems that everybody is rushing to open up far too quickly. I have a bad feeling about this.
Meanwhile, on Facebook, everybody is cheering.
The damn block system won’t let me edit to fix typos. Damn is not really the word I’m thinking of but this is a family blog.
If this keeps up, community or not, WordPress is going to drive me away.
Get close I always say. Fill the frame I always say.
I took my own advice and did that. I worked so closely that the purple background is really a bit of another rose.
After that I made sure to keep a little separation in processing.
There you have it. A rose.
Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty, Wear your mask, Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Ignore the CDC. They’ve become politics over science.
That’s what I’d hoped for when I returned from the desert, like a prophet, back to the swamp. Well, I’m no prophet. And, this isn’t that place. I don’t know about the rest of you, but during this period of down time I’ve had a lot of time to think. After all, there is only so much time that I can work. So much time that I can read. So much time that I can watch Netflix.
Try as I might to stay out of my head during this time, sometimes like a bad neighborhood, I can’t avoid it. You just have to pass through it.
That can be illuminating.
I’ve done some good things. I’ve lived through some wondrous times. I’ve been to a some amazing places.
I cringe at the thought of some of the things that I’ve done. The choices that I’ve made. The moves that I’ve made. They are in the past. I can’t do anything about them. That doesn’t stop me from doing a face palm and thinking, “Oh my God, what was I thinking?”
And, the time. All that time.
I’ve made lot a career moves. Career often drove my destinations. Some of this thinking came from thinking about the start of my newspaper career. I lived in Radford, Virginia. I still have friends there. They are good storytellers and share on Facebook a lot. I have this ongoing fantasy of taking the world’s longest road trip and visiting my spaces, places and people.
I started using Google Maps and Globe. I could not find the street where the newspaper used to be located. I thought I just look up the history of the paper. Still no address. I thought I’d just open the maps as big as I could and just find it. I’m good at dead reckoning. No joy. In fact, I couldn’t find anything.
That little town has grown. It’s very different now. It may not seem it to the people who have lived there all this time, but it is much bigger than when I left. I have no clue where to look for anything on the streets on which I drove daily, looking for pictures.
Then it hit me. Like a thunderclap. I left there in 1980. I came back on and off for a couple of years, then I moved west. Home. To California. It’s been forty years. What I think? That the town was set in cement?
Where did that time go?
It left me feeling a new sense of urgency. If I never left the house, I have enough work to keep me busy for years. And, there is so much that I want to accomplish in the world. Still.
A lot of it involves traveling. I could be frustrated by CoVid19. I’m not. The river flows in its own time.
The picture. I suppose you are wondering about it. It’s a multi-layered piece of art. Within it is a bit of every season. My seasons. If all my time was passing by, my life was just a season. So said the Byrds. And, Bob Dylan.
How’d I do it? Oh, the usual way. I stacked layer upon layer until I reached a starting point. I worked on it from there. It took some time even though I had a pretty clear vision. You have no idea how those pictures wanted to be free, out on their own. But, I tamed them. For now.
I am coming to my first crossroads. And, I need your help. Or, at least, your thoughts. I have another website. Supposedly, it’s my more commercial site. It isn’t. A lot of the work you’ve seen here is there.
It’s a fairly clean site. It needs reconstruction. I probably could make it all art. No New Orleans culture. No really old career spanning work. Simple. Clean. To the point. Oh, and it has a blog component. I think that I’ve said this in the past. I cannot import you from here. WordPress with let me take my work, but not you.
Many of my followers are ghosts. I have no idea why, but during some times of the year I get a lot of new followers. I suspect many of them are students fulfilling a class assignment. I never hear from them. But, I have you. A lot of you.
There is a modern business theory that says in order to succeed you don’t need the whole world to follow you. To buy your product. To help you keep paying for kibbles. Instead, you should build a community. As long as you have that, you have the freedom to do whatever you’d like within bounds. I have that here. No. I’m not going to do a hard sell to get you to buy my work. But, I do need an audience. People to whom I write. People to whom I post photographs.
My question. Given my choices. What would you do? Move on? Or, keep building here? I have my thoughts. They change every day.
One more thing. This is long enough.
I’m experimenting with Storyteller, mostly from a design standpoint. Today, it’s a drop cap. These are a little to leggy for me, but it’s a start. The trick in editorial design is to create conventions and use them.
This was one of the last pictures I made in the state before we returned to New Orleans. Originally, the picture was bright and bold. I thought that I would rework it into something a little different. I wanted to feel like I was gazing at a dream. These days, that’s what our time in the state feels like. A dream. All a dream.
As I’ve been working through my best of the decade work, I’ve been bringing up all sorts of memories. About people. About places. About events. It all feels a little hazy to me. Sometimes remembering something sends me to an entirely different mental image. You probably know how that goes.
I’ve edited a big archive down to the decade’s ten best pictures. I wish I had another reviewer to check my selections, but I don’t. I’ll publish them during the week between Christmas and New Year. That’s what a couple of you suggested. That sounds right to me.
The series of wouldn’t you like to be like us… in the cool months of the year. I found this little beauty in our street side garden. When I saw it, I couldn’t believe it. Then, I thought, wait a minute . October wasn’t normal. The weather was hot and dry. That’s our second growing season. Not this year. So, maybe our second growing season is now.
Anyway, there are flowers blooming everywhere. Even the Japonica tree, which normally blooms in very early spring, has new buds on it. The last that I heard is that we haven’t even reached winter yet.
The picture. I was surprised, the phone has a macro function. I used it. This is the result. I worked on the picture a little bit. I wanted it to be very graphic. I cropped it. I made sure that the shadow is dark and that the flower is very gently soft.
Pure art. The picture is as I saw it. Very little post production on this one. It’s meant to be soft and gentle. It’s meant to be a break from real life. A little peace. A little quiet.
I could stop right here and wish you happy Friday.
You know me. Lately, that hasn’t been my way. Lately, I have the need to talk, er, write.
This is about joy. Joy from anywhere. I started thinking about this after watching and Amazon show called, “The Grand Tour.” It was created after the original Top Gear team left the BBC. It stars Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. Last nights show was the final episode, not of the series, but of the entire thing.
History. Clarkson got fired from the BBC for punching a crew member. Over a sandwich, I think. The other two realized that two without one didn’t add up to much, so they asked to be released from their BBC contracts. Clarkson went through some behavior modification counseling and the three of them joined Amazon. The new name reflects what tours of the world used to be in the 1800s. They were called a grand tour and used to last for months.
The original version was Clarkson’s brainchild. Prior to the arrival of Top Gear, car shows were boring. I like cars, but I never watched them. Once I saw Top Gear during its first year I was hooked. Comedy reigned supreme. Things crashed. Things blew up. Things burned. Richard Hammond almost got killed (for real). Only his short height saved him from losing his head.
Last night they said goodbye. Clarkson, who can be a giant knob as Richard May would say, fought back tears during their entire announcement. They played some highlights, some of which were borrowed from the BBC, to the tune of the original ending of Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” For me, that has always been a leaving song, especially the end piece with Eric Clapton and the late Duane Allman playing intertwined guitars over a piano.
I was in tears.
They’ve done this for 17 years. I’ve seen every episode. Think about that. I’m 65 now. I started with them when I was 48 years old. They’ve made me laugh and laugh some more, even during the dark days immediately following Hurricane Katrina. When I say laugh, I mean laughing out loud, rolling on the floor.
The audience was crying. They talked about their favorite shows.
Finally, the three of them made another announcement. The talk show, the in studio work and their local race track scenes were ending. The show as we knew it was ending.
But, they love Amazon and Amazon loves them. So, Clarkson claims. Instead of thirteen weeks every year, we were going to see what they do best. Long treks in some foreign country with either junkmobiles or the best of the high-end Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche cars. Those are the episodes that to me, and I’m pretty sure, most of us liked best. We won’t have to wait a year to see new work. It’ll be released as Amazon continuing series.
My heart jumped. I immediately felt better.
One more thing for you to know.
I borrowed that from them. Since they really drive the cars, catch on fire and get in crashes, they decided how to move on if one of them was killed. They would briefly tell the studio audience what happened and would immediately move on with…
They say that eyes are the window the soul. I believe that to be true. I think most portraits should be simple. See into the person. See what they are about. See who they are.
I’ve been using this little girl’s eyes as a design element.
After discussing the eyes with a number of you, I thought it would be a good idea to show the portrait. I cropped they original image to get this tight image. The background information just cluttered the important part of the picture — her eyes.
Then, me being me, I had to tinker with the image until I arrived at this point. My vision was fairly simple. I wanted the final image to look ancient. I wanted it to look beaten up, like it had been buried somewhere. You have to understand that I’m easily influenced. I have been watching a couple of archeology-based shows on various streaming services. The information sort of went into my brain through my eyes. I had to dump it somewhere. So…
I begged them not to do it. But, just like every other tech company today, they think they know better than their clients. Their customers. They deleted the backdoor to Storyteller. I have no idea what I’m doing with this so-called new, improved, and fucked up method of posting. They started this last year. A lot of us complained about it. They left the backdoor alone. They said they might eliminate it. New Year. Nothing better to do. So their engineers removed what was a very elegant way to add “content.”
I have no idea what MY page looks like. Before I post it. And, I have to add all the metadata by hand. Yeah. This is better. Not. And, what’s with the “beep-bop-beep?” What am I? 12 years old?
These pictures. Hmmm. The dinosaur. That’s black and white Tri-x film that I scanned and started adding stuff. You’d be surprised how unclean black and white film looks after it’s scanned. There is all sort of latent color even when you turn all color sources off. I played to it.
Chicken Mart. A landmark. In Central City. There’s another out in the Ninth Ward, I think.
Ladders and chairs was made on Magazine Street in The Lower Garden District. On a break from Mardi Gras festivities.
Oh yeah. Sorry for the so-called “f-bomb.” I have no time to mince words anymore. It is what it is.
I wouldn’t have thought I would have gotten such a favorable response to this kind of tinkering around. It really hit me when an old friend of mine said this is where he hoped to go with his new-found love of photography.
I think I got to this place sort of out of self-defense. And, a desire to learn where I could really go with my work. This, to be sure, is not a new thing. I worked my way through some of my archives and these images go back a ways. A long ways. Not only did I take them a few years back, but I started experimenting with them around the same time. Maybe as long as 8 or 9 years ago. Different software to be sure. But, my vision was headed in this direction. These pictures are evidence.
I can remember clearly when I started doing this kind of post production work. I used to play a lot of computer games. I suppose there is some kind of problem solving and hand eye coordination to be learned from them. I thought back then that if I was going to spend so much time at the computer that I might as well learn something that I could really use. I stopped playing games and started to learn about Photoshop and what is well beyond.
I suppose that it’s like being a musician, which by the way, my friend with his new photographic passion, happens to be. You mess around and mess around until you find something the strikes you. You don’t have to rush through the process because it is uniquely yours. And, nobody else is expecting a finished production. It’s a kind of art for its own sake. Until you decide to show it.
The pictures. Two from New Mexico. One from Hong Kong. The balloon is from the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. Since I lived nearby I could return to the event repeatedly. Mostly, I looked for low light images. Sometimes, I’d just take a singular picture as the basis for some later work, not even knowing what that might be. In the stock photography world, that’s called a component.
The space flower is also New Mexican. I saw the backlighted flower and put the camera on the ground. It’s been around in various forms, but never like this one. Not that you’ve seen.
Hong Kong days was made from my roof. You know that I’m lazy and sometimes don’t like to roam far from home. I asked the building management for permission. They gave me the key to the roof door and said don’t fall off. They were used to my odd requests by this time. The post production work is sort of prescient. Hong Kong has degraded a lot since the time when I made this picture.
I began to think about that when a younger colleague in Australia started to worry that I had enhanced a couple of my second line pictures. I said I didn’t care because these pictures are about my intent. My vision. And, I used that phrase… “all art is autobiographical.”
How exactly are my pictures of a second line parade, or Mardi Gras Indians or brass bands, autobiographical? In short, they aren’t. My life, my family, and whatever culture I have, is very different from the people in the pictures. And, that’s okay. After all, everybody is different. As the song says, “You don’t know what it’s like to be me.” That cuts both ways.
The work. Hmmm. I suppose my pictures of second line parades, Mardi Gras Indians, local musicians, are really a kind of photojournalism. We live in a time of “If there are no pictures, no videos of a thing, than it didn’t happen. That’s kin to the old questioning saying, “If a tree falls in the woods…”
In many ways, those of us out on the parade routes are taking pictures that are really bearing witness to what happened. Preserving that moment in time when the musicians, the benevolent associations, the indians and the crowds were on the streets. Celebrating. Singing. Dancing. For us, and the people who see our pictures, that one moment will always be there. Or, until current technology says it is. But, that’s a whole other story.
What does that say about me? My work? Is it simply just a vessel? If that’s so, that’s fine. I was raised and trained to be a photojournalist. Or, is there something more?
I starting tinkering with a picture I made two weeks ago. I made it on the way to some place else. Even though the subject is kind of funny, I didn’t show it to you because the light was all wrong for the content. It was bright and sunny. Sort of happy light. The subject was gloomy. For the record, I don’t know if the out-building blew over during a storm or somebody just did it for fun or out of maliciousness.
I decide to process it. And, I started to tinker with it. I really had no sense of direction or intention. I was just experimenting. At a certain point in the process it hit me. Like a bolt from the blue. I was making a picture that reminded me of my slide film pictures that I found when I finally was able to enter my house after the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina receded. The subject obviously wasn’t the same. But, all of that stylish post production induced funk looked just like some of my film. Not only did the water get to it, but the heat of summer baked weird color into it, and mold was starting to creep in. This is what one of those pieces of slide film would have looked like if I had scanned it and tried to work on it.