Into the night.

This is what I saw.

A deep blue sky at just around dusk. I was lucky to make the picture. This is one of those times when a tripod might come in handy. In my own defense, I wasn’t expecting to see such a sight. So, I did what I could.

Dan Rather tweets and posts on Facebook. Yesterday, he said that the points of light in this dark time, are the arts. He talked about any of us who keep going. To keep making work. To continue to grow. I guess that I’m one of those artists to whom he was referring.

I never really think of myself that way. I suppose that you never do when you are in the midst of your work.

Speaking of photographer’s work, I’m in mourning today. Photographer and videographer Robert Frank passed yesterday at 94. Without him there would be no me. Without him, there would be none of the guys and ladies I came up with. Without him there would be no photojournalism as we know it today.

He turned the photography world on its head when he released his seminal work, “The Americans.” The self-congratulatory photographers, and a lot of photography critics at the time, thought his work was terrible. It was grainy, sometimes the horizons tilted, he made statements about America that weren’t so pretty. He told the story of the underclass.

Basically, his work was honest but it wasn’t pretty.

That’s what opened the door for a lot of us.

You know what Neil Young would say about that. He once famously said that, “when he was in the middle of the road he headed towards the gutter where things were a lot more interesting.”

Robert Frank embodied that.

May you rest in peace, Robert Frank.


Out on the Westbank.

The long way home.

After a long day driving upriver towards Baton Rouge on the Westbank’s River Road, I came to this little spot in the road. Blue hour coming. Dusk coming. Trains on one side. Power lines on both sides making great leading lines. What could be better?

Actually, there are two River Roads. One on the east bank of The Mississippi River, where I live. And, one on the Westbank, which some people call “the best bank.” Maybe if you live there. I always get lost on there.

Anyway, it feels like you are way out there when you drive along the river, even if you are fifteen minutes from home. You are in the countryside. The southern countryside. There are still little tiny communities of former sharecroppers homes, that were slave quarters even earlier in history. Yes, descendants of both of those eras still live there.

Even though I always get lost, I like going there. I’ll be back once hell’s weather begins to cool down a bit. Air conditioning or no air conditioning, it’s no fun to get out of the car to make a picture and walk into a blast furnace.

The picture. After a long day of looking for pictures, I was vibrating. So was the camera. What you see here is the result of that.

 


Hard rain out on the road.

“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”

So wrote Bob Dylan.

Where is that shelter? Again, a year to the day of the Pittsburgh shooting, and not more than two weeks from the last mass shooting, a Jewish synagogue was attacked. Four wounded. One dead. A woman died attempting to protect her rabbi.

Christians say it’s a war against them. Jews say it’s an anti-semitic war against them. Muslims say it’s a war against them. None of them see the big picture, or, they are ignoring it. It’s a war against everybody who is different from some other guy. It’s a war against people who think differently from some other guy. For sure, the Catholic churches that were attacked in Sri Lanka were claimed by ISIS, but the shootings in The United States were allegedly done by deranged white guys.

It’s  a war fueled by pure hatred. And carried out at the point of a gun.  An AR-15. an A-R, that are the model letters for Assault Rifle. Think about that for a minute. The minute when you try to defend gun ownership in all cases.

When does this stuff stop? How does it stop?

It won’t.

We don’t have the leaders to stop it. You may have heard the speeches at the NRA convention. The convention that does not allow guns inside. That one.

The only way to stop it is to get angry. To get very angry. An anger that is sustained and will flow through the next general election in 2020. It’s not enough to vote out the punk president. Anybody who gets in the way of positive change must go. We must do this. We must organize. We must fight back. Legally.

It’s time.

There is so much to do. These guys are getting in the way. They have to go. It can be done. We saw a little of it during the mid-term elections. The House of Representatives was flipped. And, not just be a few representatives. We can do it in the Senate. We can do it in The White House. It’ll take hard work. But, as they say, anything good takes hard work.

I promised you that I would keep Storyteller politics free. And, I will. This is a place for art, for photographs, for New Orleans. But, yesterday kind of broke me. I’m getting afraid to open any social media. I dislike reading newspapers — the job I liked best. In the early days. That’s all ridiculous. But, I just hate reading what I find. I should be reading about baseball, and Jazzfest, and general news, and news about New Orleans. Oh no.

Enough.

The picture. One stormy day on River Road. Camera on the dashboard and me stopping a little long, so that I can make the picture. It says a lot. About Southeast Louisiana rain storms. I don’t remember exactly, but I’ll bet that I either drove out of it, or it stopped not far away. That’s how it is. The storm doesn’t last for long. Unlike the state of my country. That storm shows no signs of breaking. Unless we break it.

Lori Gilbert Kaye.

Remember her name. That’s the least we can do.

 


The quiet side.

The quiet side.

Most people think of the French Quarter as being loud. They think of people always partying. They think of the typical New Orleans craziness.

Let me tell you, we ain’t all that crazy.

We don’t spend much time in the Quarter. When we do, we rarely walk around on Bourbon Street. It’s usually too crowded. With partiers. And, bad guys. And, it stinks. Literally.

We do like walking in other parts of the Quarter. Like this place that I photographed. It’s way down river on Royal Street. People actually live here. People make their homes here. There are no bars. No clubs. Tourists rarely come down the street this far. It may actually be safer than the more heavily populated areas of the Quarter. There’s nobody to mug. Nobody to rob. Well, there are. But, they are very street smart.

If I ever lived in the Quarter, this is about where I’d do it. But, that’s not going to happen. But, it sure is nice to walk around this part of the Quarter. It’s also much harder to photograph. No matter. Making a successful picture when there isn’t a lot of action going on defines a “street” photographer. Or, it should.

One more thing.

I made this picture without a tripod. I rarely carry one when I work on the street. It’s too cumbersome. It takes too much time to set up. It attracts too much attention. That’s the last thing I want. You just have to learn your craft. The trick is to expose for some mid-tone. I used the street signs. It gave me enough detail in both the highlights and the shadows. I also knew that I was going to correct the exposure issues in post production. They say GIGO. But, not if you plan for it. I thought about what I was doing before I did it.

Housekeeping. I’m going to refocus Storyteller back to where it sort of began. About the photographs. A little bit about New Orleans stories.

Because.

I think some of the NOLA stories I tell you are confusing, especially to people who come here as tourists and mostly stay in The French Quarter. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, they usually stay in hotels and eat in restaurants. The chores of daily living are done for them. For the most part, they are protected from our random and violent crime. When it rains, they don’t have to deal with flooded streets.

They don’t know what it is to live in a city that is very hard on the people who live here. I suppose that can be true of any place. But, most places aren’t described in the loving terms that people use to describe New Orleans. Or, really the Quarter.

Anyway. Back to the basics.


Motion on Royal Street.

All motion.

For years I made a career out of pictures like this one. Motion. Movement. Energy. It wasn’t hard to do. About 1/4 second at f/5.6 and I’d make a picture likes this one. But, that was the film days.

When digital photography came into being sharpness was everything. That’s why mega pixels became a big marking tool. That’s why faster and bigger lenses became a thing. That trend continues today. I switched to mirrorless cameras because I liked their small size. The first lenses were small too.

Today? Not so much.

Lenses are huge. They are fast. They are sharp. But, they defeat my purpose for switching to mirrorless bodies. I want small. I want unobtrusiveness. I want to blend in with the people around me. For me, bigger is not better.

Anyway.

It’s been a long week. I’ll leave you with that.


Seeing everything.

Reflections.

Sometimes they are simply a technique. Sometimes you see them. Sometimes you use them. Like I did here.

I like the picture in the mirror just fine. But, that’s not why I was looking at it. There’s a car coming. In front of that, there is a mule drawn carriage. I didn’t want to hit either of them. I also want to know if anybody is walking on that side. Good guy or bad guy, I want to know how to react.

Good guy because people walk all over the streets of the French Quarter. Bad guy because there are all sorts of car thefts, high jackings and robbery, done in the streets. Forewarned is forearmed.

Anyway.

All was clear except for the car and the carriage, so I waited by photographing what I saw. Since I mostly use wide angle lenses I kept the background and foreground scenes in the picture. A little context for you and me.

And, that’s the story.


A little colder.

These days.

It’s hard to stay in the zone. To stay focused. To stay intent. I know this from my own actions. And, from those around me.

I suppose it was the turn of the year. Even though many people claim not to make resolutions, in many ways we do. After a while — maybe even a day or two — something gets in the way, or we just slip. We either throw up our hands and give up, or we admit our mistake and move on.

I really don’t have a great deal of advice, at least as it pertains to photography, but I can tell you what I do. I’m in the middle of all those book projects, in addition to regular work and the other side of my life as well as family. If you look at all that from any distance, it’s a giant ball of twine.

Look at it long enough and pretty soon paralyses sets in.

Or.

I try to remember these two things.

Go slow because slow is smooth and smooth is fast. And, one day at a time. One hour at a time, one minute at a time if necessary. I learned both of these ideas a long time ago. I always forget them until they occur to me… at a time when I need them.

I started out like a flash after the turn of the year. Pretty soon, all the stuff started clogging me up. I realized that on Sunday. I returned to my two sayings. I’ve gotten so productive this week that I could easily take off tomorrow and still be content with the work I’ve completed.

There’s a corollary to this. I read it today in a New York Times column. No Tweeting. For that matter, no social media. Aside from being a giant time suck, there’s very little new that is ever shared. Some people post or tweet just to hear themselves share. Others like to pile on. Especially in these mean-spirited and polarized times.

Yeah, sure. I need to do some of that to keep my work out there. But, I don’t have to respond to anything that isn’t related. Of course, I’m going to like and comment on others art, but I do that — at least, this week — in the morning and again at night. The time saved is considerable.

That isn’t to say, I just work more. Time saved from social media goes into other things. Reading. Watching movies. More family things. More dog things. More walking and exercise. Good stuff.

Time. More time. Isn’t that what we want?

I’ve taken enough of yours. Just think about it. nd, if you are off track, don’t worry about it. Just get back on track.

The picture. I made two cool images in about five minutes the other evening. I’m not sure how great they are, but they are interesting enough for me to want to share them with you. I was trying really hard to expose so that the street light would be hidden except for the light. As I worked on it, I started liking the entire picture opened up. It looks like a cold winter dusk. Because it is.

 

 


Look into the sky and see what you see.

Today’s post isn’t about Maxfield Parrish.

Sorry.

I didn’t mean to mislead you.  The sky reminds me of his work. Now that I looked at some of it via Google Images, the entire picture reminds me of his paintings. I suppose that means I’m in good company.

There’s one thing to look at. The thing that caught my eye. The thing that forced me to make a radical crop so that you could see it.

The moon.

It’s lurking in a white puffy cloud that is about two-thirds of the way down on the left side of the photograph. That’s it. That’s why I made the picture.

But, the sky.

That’s a winter sky in Southeastern Louisiana. Soft. Looking like cotton. Or, cotton candy. For me, this is a great time of year. I get to wear long pants. I can wear heavier shirts and jackets. I bought some shirts when we returned from the desert. Some of them are on the heavy side. Do you have any idea how new they look after coming up to eight years? I get to wear them about five days a year. Luckily, they are “classic,” like me. They don’t go out of style very quickly.

Style.

As I assemble and edit my archive and get the pictures ready for easy licensing and sales, I’ve started thinking about style. For the most part, I process similar genres of pictures in the same way. You know, Mardi Gras Indians might be bright but I don’t do much experimenting with them. Meanwhile, with a picture like the one today, I might add a lot. I believe it helps you to feel what I felt when I made the picture.

Conventional wisdom suggest that there is not much variance between pictures in each collection. I agree. I think. That usually slows me down as I rework some pictures to have the same general feel in color, contrast, and weight.

Not to worry. Building this thing has become a hobby to me.

I have a question.

I’ve been poking around Smug Mug, where all of this will live. I’ve looked at other photographers work. Really what I want to learn is how they price pictures. For the most part, unless they are selling specialties like canvas, stretched canvas or some sort of metal or glass print, their prices seem a little low.

So.

What’s a picture worth to you? I kind of have a problem pricing a picture by size, because I think the content is what you pay for. That is not the case in this world. Buyers pay for size. Let’s say you want a photograph printed on archival paper at about 16×20 inches — about, because digital file sizes are not the same as traditional file sizes — what would you pay for it?

It won’t be signed because  it comes straight from the photo lab to you. I suppose I could sign it, if you’d be willing to pay additional shipping from the lab to me and from me to you. That’s a side issue for right now.

I ask this because I would like this to have a reasonable return on investment. If I price pictures too high, they might not sell. If I price them to low, a smart collector understands that you get what you pay for. I’d like to hit the proper price point.

Help me out with this and there might be a picture in it for you.

There you go.

 


Monday thoughts.

The headline isn’t a typo. It’s Latin. I’m pretty sure that only one of you who comments regularly knows what it means.

No worries. I’ll tell you.

“Do what you are doing.”

That sort of falls in nicely with the discussions of the last few days. I read it in a New York Times piece about California Governor Jerry Brown. I first photographed him during his first pass as governor. He was approachable, smart and disciplined. That seems like 150 years ago.

It was during those years that the nickname, “Governor Moonbeam” was hung on him. Do you know what earned him that silly name? He was talking about the future when signals could be bounced off satellites and they could be used to communicate.

Can you say cell phones?

As in many things, he was ahead of his time.

He rebuilt his political career after his failed run for president. He was elected governor again after serving in various other political posts. This time around, he lifted California out of debt and well into profitability. He learned from his mistakes.

Today is his last day as governor. He is 80 years old. He retires today to his family home on a pretty isolated piece of land in Northern California. Somehow, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of him. At least, I hope not.

I didn’t intend this to be about Jerry Brown. It just started that way. When he was a young man, he was in the seminary. He was going to be a priest. The Latin saying is a Jesuit saying. I was taught by Jesuits at Loyola/New Orleans. That was during a masters program. Those kinds of beliefs are embossed in my brain.

Reading that article did bring a lot of memories flooding back. Memories about my teenage years. Memories about my early career years. Memories about my many moves throughout the world and country.

This is added to by a man whose dad just passed. He and sister have two pictures that I made when I worked at the newspapers in Winston-Salem North Carolina. In early 1981. He sent me an email. At first, he was wondering of the name on the picture was me. When I confirmed that, he asked what I knew about the pictures.

That’s a long time ago.

I don’t even remember taking them. One of them is pretty good. I’ll dig through my archives. Unfortunately, they look like they were made for our social pages. It’s likely that I never scooped up those negatives when I left the paper. When you are a staff member of a newspaper, magazine or wire service, your work belongs to them. Most bosses turn a blind eye to a staffer removing negatives as long as you left something behind. Those are the kinds of negatives I wouldn’t taken.

I hope not. I’d like to help this guy out. I’m happy to scan some negatives and make him some prints if I can.

Oh, that learning thing? It seems that I’m mostly trying to learn about myself. All recent signs point to that.