I’ve come out of retirement from the street. Saturday’s events convinced me that there could be no other way. I came out for the Single Ladies Second Line.
It was hot. So hot.
It didn’t look like anybody was having any fun. Not, the ladies. Not the band. Not the second liners.
It was brutal.
After talking to a friend of mine today, I realized that we come out for a whole host of reasons. It really is like church. It’s great to see friends. And, we tell stories about what we did afterward.
Today, we walk again. We make pictures. After a week of mourning, we lay Chef Leah Chase to rest. At 2pm. The hottest part of the day. We are suppose to have some overcast. That might help. No matter. I’ll work as best I can.
Where else do you see a musician walking on city streets carrying his instrument? A drum and a cymbal. This is about as New Orleans as it comes. It happens all over the city. This picture could only get better if he was carrying a horn. A trumpet or a trombone.
This picture was made on both of our ways to someplace else during the Super Sunday events.
There is one more New Orleans thing to this picture. I would never make fun of anybody. But, it speaks to the city as being one of the most unhealthy cities in the country. We drink too much. (I don’t drink.) We eat too much. We eat too much of the wrong things.
For instance, for Catholics, it is the Lenten Season. A lot of fish is eaten everywhere in the city. It’s not broiled, or poached or boiled. (For crawfish.)
It is deep-fried. Along with everything else on the plate. A typical meal might include deep-fried shrimp, deep-fried catfish, french fries and hush puppies. You could eat that every day of Lent. Forty days, forty pounds.
I’m not a deep-fried eater. Nobody in this house is. The most we usually eat is fried chicken. We may eat that every six months or so. Sure it is good, but we’d like to live a little healthier lives.
The picture. When I say on our ways to some place else, I mean on Super Sunday. Often locals take side streets when we can, rather than fight the crowds. I saw him coming. I stopped and started following him with my camera. You can see the progression in my RAW files. As he got closer I smiled and said, “Carrying musical instruments in the street is sort of a New Orleans thing.” He laughed. We talked for a minute and that was that. F 5.6 and be there.
I was working with a 10mm lens. That’s how close I was. I could have helped the musician in front play his tuba. I didn’t mean for this to happen. But, once I broke through the rope, well… let’s just say, I really broke through. I sort of trapped myself. I couldn’t get back outside of the rope. I could only move forward with the band. That would normally have been great, but the crowd was sort of too crowded.
Apparently, it kept growing. By the time the second line made its way back to Claiborne Avenue under the interstate, it looked like a big jazz funeral for somebody who is near and dear to the community. I wasn’t there. From where I was working I couldn’t double back.
I know this from posts on Instagram and on Twitter. I get very little love there. I guess I should post directly, and I should take off my watermark so anybody could use my work for free. No matter what people keep saying about sharing, like it’s caring, I still think it’s image theft. They say that helps you get your name out there. Cool. I wonder how many photographers have generated paid work from getting “their work out there.”
It’s one thing to share your work to a closed system like WordPress. It’s another to share your work so far and wide that nobody knows that it’s your work. Watermarks are very easy to remove.
Anyway. That wasn’t the point of today’s discussion. The real point was the email I mentioned to your yesterday. I can summarize it fairly easily. It all came down to “Why am I here?” I don’t know the particular answer, but in general I think we are here to serve somebody, either formally or informally. That can mean all sorts of things. For instance, a young parent serves his or her children by helping them to grow in a good human being. Or, you may serve somebody by doing a task for them. To a larger extent, politicians are here to serve you and me. But, they forget that. The list, like the road, goes on forever.
There were a lot of other particulars to my friend’s email. Some are silly. Some are serious.
From the silly side, comparing your photo gear to someone else’s gear. I always say that it doesn’t matter how much gear you have, it’s how you use it. Besides, in travel situations, too much gear slows you down. It forces unnecessary fumbling around while the picture leaves.
Some were more serious. The rapid decline of his physical health while he was in a place that is known to have horrible air quality with large airborne particulates. Scary. If you are around my age or older, think real hard about going there. For sure, there are ways to train yourself for certain events. In sports they talk about getting in baseball shape, or football shape. If I were doing a photo tour that required a lot of walking, that’s how I’d train. There is really no way to train for bad air quality. Bring a mask an oxygen bottle I guess.
Anyway, that was my story for yesterday.
On a housekeeping note. Mardi Gras parade season sort of starts with a walking parade on Saturday night. The Krewe of Chewbacchus. As you might guess from that name that it is on the weird side. It is. It’s fun. It used to be held on a day with other parades. It grew so big and so unwieldy, that the powers that be moved it up by a week. It is more or less an unofficial parade that became popular. I’ll be out there. I’ll do my best not to cripple myself for the rest of parade season.
Then it really begins. Mardi Gras parade season. I’m still trying to figure out how to photograph it. For the past few years I worked at the start so I could make somewhat unique pictures. Unique became same and now I’m trying to figure out new locations and more commercially useful pictures. It’ll come to me in a dream. Or, in the shower.
You know me. There is something special about them. The minute that I hear them, my poor hip and back feel better. I move easier. I move freer. I move faster. I dance with them. I am more flexible. I am convinced my pictures are better than usual.
I’ll get to the pictures a little further down, below the tuba picture.
A musician friend of mine who lives in the Pacific Northwest once described brass band music as being chaotic.
What do you expect? The musicians first heard the music on the streets. It’s very likely that they learned to play their instruments in high school. Different high schools for each of them. And, they rarely rehearse. The members come together on the street right before the second line begins. If they don’t have enough members on the scene, musicians from other bands show up to fill in the gaps. Cell phones are working overtime.
Yeah. They all know the same songs because the music is among New Orleans standards. But, each of them might play a song slightly different. Yes. That breeds chaos.
That’s just wonderful. After all, at her best, New Orleans is the home of wonderful chaos.
Isn’t that what many of you come to the city for?
The pictures. I think you have to be in the middle of something to be able to make the best pictures. These pictures were made with a wide angle lens or a very short telephoto… like 70mm. The scene sort of envelopes me.
I have the same theory about music. I never use ear buds. Even when they are free. I sometimes use over the ear cans, when I have to be quiet or I want to hear a certain detail. Mostly, we just have a bunch of speakers that put us in the middle of the music. We can hear. We can share.
I feel the same way about pictures. Standing on the sidelines is the same way. Sometimes you have to. And, that’s fine. I don’t imagine the NFL would be very happy if photographers worked in the huddle or the line of scrimmage.
But, when you can you should try.
It’s a whole different sense of place. For me. For you.
This works even with travel pictures. For instance, I recently saw a picture of Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Everybody makes a picture like that. Then I saw one from inside the steeple. Whoa. That was something. I imagine getting permission takes some time and effort. That’s tough enough. But, what if you want to work around golden time and blue hour. Good luck. But, oh, what a picture.
A second line. A commercial one. In the French Quarter.
In theory, I’m going to walk out the door and photograph a real second line tonight, Uptown to memorialize Tee-Eva. The 83-year-old legend who passed early last week. I’m pretty sure this will be a big second line, assuming that the weather cooperates. We are expecting a big storm. Around here, these days, that means flooding. That, and the start time is a little odd — 6pm. I’ll have to sneak across Uptown during rush hour.
The hardest part of taking a picture is often getting there.
Of course, the other issue is motivation. Now where did that go? An old friend and photographer commented to my post via Facebook, saying that it was a whole lot easier chasing light when we could make a little money from it. I suppose that he’s correct. As much as I have finally accepted the title of “artist,” I’m still motivated by cash. After all, dogs need high quality food.
You know, the pictures I make on the streets of cultural events have no value to anybody. In fact, they might cost money because the people in the pictures always want free copies. That’s okay. Without them in the picture, there would be no picture.
Just when you thought I was stuck on spring, I turned left. I walked right into the street, chasing a second line.
The weather warmed up a bit. Everybody seemed happy to be there. The ladies rode. The kids rode. The bands played on.
No matter what, to me, there is nothing like a brass band playing on the street. It’s music. It’s loud. It makes everyone smile. And, dance.
Oh yeah. It’s chaotic. Good chaotic.
It even makes my poor hip and back feel better. It’s like magic. That’s not entirely true. I walk faster and harder than I normally might. I avoid crashing into other people. I avoid falling into potholes. My muscles warm up. My back loosens. And, I live entirely in the moment.
I did, however, crash into a cop. He was in his thirties and built like an NFL linebacker. He looked at me. I looked at him. We both held our hands out in that “what do you want from me expression,” and we were good. That stuff happens.
The picture. I’d like to tell you that I planned this. That I made the picture just as I thought I would. Oh no. Instead, I was walking with the band. I stuck my lens in between two other musicians and pressed the button. I didn’t know I had it until after I downloaded my take and started editing it. What I did know was that this guy was playing hard, turning his head up into the sun. If I walked near him I knew that I might get a chance to make a picture something like this. I’d call this luck. Photographer’s luck.
This post is short. Not because I don’t have much to say. That’s never stopped me before. Oddly, I do have few things to say. Today. See what I did there?
Big storm a comin’. I’m checking the weather channels to see what parades will be postponed, and cancelled. And, planning and reacting accordingly. Normally, when a rain storm moves into the area during the parade season of Mardi Gras, the parade keeps rolling. There are a ton of reasons for this. Not the least being with already tight schedules there is often no place to add another rescheduled parade. More importantly, there is a huge disappointment factor. The krewes work for about a year getting ready. If their parade is cancelled, well… how would you feel?
This storm is big. The weather folks are predicting four inches of rainfall over a couple of hour span. That’s a lot of water. With our barely functioning pumping system that gets dangerous. For everybody. You never know where the streets will flood.
This picture is sort of a placeholder. You’ll see this at almost any pre-parade location. Bands waiting. Getting ready. Relaxing. Before a six or eight miles walk carrying heavy instruments. Mardi Gras parades are even longer. More like 12 miles. Think about this. Every brass band or marching band member should be among your heroes. Can you walk six to 12 miles carrying a 30-40 pound weight know as a tuba? Okay, okay. A Sousaphone.
One more picture from the Ladies & Men of Unity Second Line in Central City. That’s in New Orleans. Central City is the last bit of land above sea level that is still undeveloped or ungentrified. Note that phrase: last bit of land above sea level. There is plenty of land in the Lower 9th Ward. But, it’s well below sea level. The same can be found in other locations throughout the city. You might not want to live in any of those places in the not too distant future. You could be under water. Not good. For anybody.
That’s how this picture of a semi-decisive moment at a second line lead me to unrelated comments about the state of things. Like the Union. But, different.
For those of you who have been around, you already know that I do this. I might write about something unrelated to the photograph. This time, at least, I provided a bit of transition. A bit. A very little bit. I went from climate change to corruption. There’s a link there. The President, in his State of The Union said this, “beautiful clean coal.” There is no such thing… except in the minds of his good old boy cronies.
Let’s talk corruption.
Have you read the news today? Or, any day? Oh boy.
There is not a day that goes by when somebody isn’t accused of some kind of corruption, is fired over some kind of corruption, resigns from their job over corruption or is just outed for corruption. That includes the folks who have told the truth using #me too. The people that they outed are corrupt too. In a different way. The worst kind of corruption. Corruption of the spirit. Of the heart. Of the soul.
I believe that corruption is king. Right now. And, has been for a long, long time. It’s just gotten worse quickly. And, finally is being called out for what it is.
If you start at the highest level of leadership in The United States, corruption starts in The White House and works its way down to the lowest government employees. I could go on from there. But, there’s more. A lot more. Even though we see that a lot of entertainment-related leaders have been exposed for what they are, it appears that every business has some rot. Some rust. Some dilapidation. Even young businesses like Uber.
I don’t know if people took leave of their senses (or morals) after the election of the current president, or not. They may have. He is the gateway to cheating at everything.
The roots of this are just too deep for one or two years of rot. It takes longer to institutionalize hard-core corruption than that. After all, how long were the young gymnasts abused? If you can even call it abuse. It’s worse. Far worse. How many years? How many of their organized groups turned a blind eye? Did not have their back? All of them. I don’t care how many more heads roll in punishment, those young women’s lives were changed forever. Hopefully some will recover.
Oh. The answer to the question “how long? Twenty years.
Now look at every sport. Every industry. Even those typically called blue-collar like manufacturing and construction. All forms of entertainment. Even the arts and photography. The list is forever. Think about it. You’ll have nightmares. During the day.
Reckoning is upon is. If not this year, the next. The serious change will start in the government. With the mid-term elections in November. I don’t care what the speaker and vice president say about Republican Party unity, we the people are angry. Women are angry. No. Make that damn angry. People of color are angry. Those of us who see things very differently than the good old boys are angry.
One thing will lead to another. Ring out the old. Ring in the new. Ding dong. Ding dong.
Or, not. We seem to be willing to be lead around by our noses. We gotta stop that.
That’s it. I’m done. You can finish the blog for me. 🙂
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.
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