Strolling along.

New Orleans sidewalks.

Depending on the neighborhood, they can be made of brick, cobblestone, very old cement or even slate. They are usually pretty broken up. Tree roots grow up through them. The heat cracks them. They fall apart after years of use.

We are an old city.

I found this one while I was waiting for a friend of mine to close his gallery. He had a last-minute customer so I spent the time wandering around his neighborhood in The Bywater.

The Bywater is an old industrial, blue-collar neighborhood. Once, it was the place where coffee and South American fruits were offloaded from ships and processed. In those days, most of the people who lived and worked there called it by its real name. The 9th Ward. The Bywater name came later, apparently it was named after an old telephone exchange that was used in the neighborhood.

But times have changed.

There is very little industrial work of any kind going on there. After many years of decline, the neighborhood has come back as sort of a hipster, artist enclave. Houses that once sold for $15,000 now sell for $450,000. There must be 15 coffeehouses in a one mile square neighborhood. And restaurants? Sheesh. I can’t count them. They come and go very quickly. There are a few old standbys. Jack Dempsey’s comes to mind. It is named after a crime reporter. Not the boxer.

As NOLA sidewalks go, this one isn’t bad. Sure, it’s brick and looks perilous. But, it’s pretty well maintained. Of course, with our past few days of deep freeze, those leaves likely got very slippery. Down here, we really aren’t prepared for frozen or slippery.

The picture. I saw it. I made it. I actually worked the scene a little because the light was so pretty. This image is the result of getting down. To the ground. Actually, these kinds of pictures are much easier to make with new modern articulated LCDs. Just put the camera close to the ground and tilt the monitor up so you can see it from above. You have to be careful when you do that. You can accidentally stick a lot of unfocused foreground about half way up the frame.


After a lot of rain.
After a lot of rain.

Rain. Lots of it.

I’m not complaining. We can always use more rain. Besides, it’s summer. Our rainy season. It’s also humid and warm — not hot — which makes everything grow. For a few months of the year we live in what amounts to a hot-house.

During my first year in Louisiana I asked one of my neighbors, an old Creole man who still spoke French as a first language, what I should plant. He replied, anything. Everything grows here. He was right. I planted tomatoes, peppers and some herbs. The only thing I did was separate and thin them. I didn’t water them. I didn’t fertilize them. I just let them grow. By the time they were ready for picking, which is different from ripe, I had so much that I couldn’t give them away quick enough. Sauce was made. Salsa was made. And, still tomatoes and peppers kept coming.

That’s how it is down here.

That’s also what happened to these bricks. Wet, wet and more wet. Moss grew. Just like anything. It’s fair to say that nature made this picture. I just saw it, pushed the button and did a bunch of post production.


Bohn Motors Building
Bohn Motors Building

I know what you are thinking.

You’re wrong. I’m not stuck in Hurricane Katrina pictures. New Orleans has a lot of nicknames. One is the city that care forgot. Bohn Motors was abandoned long ago. In fact, I think it was some kind of community center pre-storm.

I’d love to accurately tell you when Bohn Motors first left the city, moved to the suburbs and then moved across the river, but there doesn’t seem to be any historical information. They are major car dealers. They are no longer just a Ford agency. They seem to sell just about everything these days. And, they are a very big name around these parts.

I have no idea if this building will ever be restored. I suspect so, just because it is solid brick, has great bones and there is a lot of potential in those big metal skylight frames. But, it has no roof. That wouldn’t stop me. Sheesh. I bought a house with no back. Three stories, and the back just fell down. And, off.

Yes. I did shoot this picture when I was tearing around shooting the “Katrina Collection,” but it didn’t fit in, so I left it out. Until now.

The picture. Yes. Yes. Yes. Lots of heavy post production. I wanted the picture to look like it felt when I took it. The raw file is actually kind of boring. So, it was off to work I went. Before you ask, I don’t know. I tinker around until I the picture finds me. I start with some sort of vision. That rarely works out. So, I just let the picture lead me. It takes some time, but eventually I can be taught.


There used to be a building on this site. It liked it. Now it "ain't der no mo'."
There used to be a building on this site. It liked it. Now it “ain’t der no mo’.”

Neil Young was right. Rust never sleeps.

You know this place.

I’ve shown it to you a few times. Well, not this scene. There are broken bricks and bits of glass in this picture. There used to be a graffiti covered building here; made of concrete, brick and iron. Homeless people took shelter here. Sometimes they lived here. They even cooked here. One of them offered me a meal. How’s that for irony? Me? I have stuff. A house. A car. A computer. Money to spend. That guy apparently had nothing, but a little bit of food. He wanted to share it with me.

That’s a whole other line of thought. Not for today.

There used to be a building here. As we say down in New Orleans, “It ain’t der no mo’.”

When I got to this location I was confused. I usually find my way around by local landmarks. Like buildings. When I realized where I was, I got a little bit angry. Then, I got a little bit sad. I liked that building. It could have been restored. Gentrified. Sheesh, hipsters could have turned it into expensive condos. Or, it could have be repurposed to give people living on the street a home.

But, no.

It’s gone.


Green and Brick.
Green and Brick.

See? I did have a pretty good shoot in Cairo. Considering my shooting night was really about an hour, it was exceptional… for anyone. Especially me. I’m not sure what this building was originally because it has what looks like loading docks in the back, and store fronts along the street. It’s one of those buildings that I’d like to buy and renovate. Unfortunately, in Cairo there is really no need for it. Nobody would use it. But, in New Orleans… well, that’s a whole other story. This place would sell for a lot of money even in the abandoned and boarded up state that you see here.

 

The picture is simple. See it, frame it, push the button. Very little post production. No need for it. Somebody painted parts of it green without my help.


Exterior of  the two churches that you saw last week.
Exterior of the two churches that you saw the last week.

Churches. This was last week. On a nice day. Today we are a bit cold, but not frozen to the point that our power is failing. In fact, as I know it, the only power failure that occurred today was in the Lower Ninth Ward. All the big media outlets made a huge deal out of it. And it was a big deal. It lasted for all of 4 minutes.

But…

The approaching storm did shut everything down. I was supposed to return to these churches today to begin work on a longer project. But, oh no. Everything was closed. Likely, I’ll return on Thursday when things warm up a bit. Or maybe not. The old church is no longer heated. Even on the nice day when I was there, it was cold.

Anyway.

This is what New Orleans major buildings look like if they were built in the late 1800s by local craftsmen. In case you are wondering, there is absolutely no way of framing the picture to eliminate those electrical transformers. In most cities that sort of stuff is kept under ground. But, not in New Orleans. Underground either means underwater or in sinking former swamp land. If you think our huge potholes are bad, just think about sinking electricity.


Flags
Safety in Central City
Door
An inside door on the outside.
Brickyard
Doorway to nowhere.

Doors. I have this thing about Doors. No. Not The Doors. They were a great band, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about… oh, never mind. You see the pictures. Within a few hours of finally being home, I just had to run out and make a bunch of pictures. I immediately resumed my Central City project and I went back to the building with the graffiti. So. Let me talk about what you are looking at. The top picture is just on the edge of Central City. I was attracted to the all the signs and flags more than I was to the door. But, the door made a great subject from which to build my composition.  The second door — the inside door on the outside — was also made in Central City. I suppose this building was about to fall down anyway. But, when Hurricane Isaac struck last summer, it tore off the entire side of an apartment building. If you look at it from the front or the other side, the building looks fine. But, when you walk around to the downriver side of the building, not so much. Kind of like a movie set. I’ve also made some overall images, which show the situation much clearer. I’ll post one eventually. Finally. The doorway to nowhere. I went back to that building with the graffiti. I approached it from another side. I found this door. I also could smell cooking. My homeless friends were cooking over a grill. They asked if I was hungry. There you go.

So. These pictures. The making of them was pretty simple. Poke around. Find them. Photograph them. The fun is in the post production when I try to make my normally bright and energetic pictures look a little more beat up and muted.


Caring for His Truck in Central City
Caring for His Truck in Central City

The plan for yesterday was to photograph a second line parade. I wasn’t sure how big it was going to be, but after plotting the route on Google Maps I realized this parade was going to be a long, long walk. That’s okay. Second Line Parades in Central City are usually a lot of fun to shoot. People sell water,beer and home cooked food along the route. The people are always in great moods. And, since this one was going to take place during Carnival, I could claim that it was a Mardi Gras event. That’s probably stretching things a bit, but… It didn’t matter. It didn’t happen. We drove to the corner from which it was leaving and… nothing. I made a couple of quick calls and found out that it was postponed because we had a 60% chance of rain. Oh well. The rain didn’t fall for the couple of hours that we were there. However, the rain did come pouring down later… much later. The temperature dropped by about 20 degrees.

Anyway. What to do? I realized that I really hadn’t done much work on my Central City project lately, so we just started poking around and I made pictures where I found them. I also realized that there is a section of Central City that I had never really worked, so this was a good opportunity to get to know that part of the neighborhood. For those of you who don’t know much about Central City  — New Orleans, just let me tell you that during Hurricane Katrina the area got almost as much water as the Lower 9th Ward. You don’t know that because CNN didn’t cover it. However, part of Central City did not flood because it is the only low-priced higher than sea level land left in New Orleans. When I say above sea level, I mean only higher than the rest of the city which makes it about 5 or 6 feet above sea level. That’s it. One big issue that Central City has to contend with is very high crime. So high, in fact, that when I asked the man in the picture if I could photograph him and we got to talking, he warned me to be very careful. I already knew that, but I thought his words were very kind. He didn’t know that I know Mike Keller, the owner of Keller’s Food Store. Mike has been shot three or four times. He’s also returned fire and shot three or four bad guys. Yes. It’s that bad. Sometimes. On the other hand, the people who I’ve met and photographed there have been just wonderful.

This picture. The actual picture is pretty simple. It’s a documentary picture of a man working on his truck in front of an old abandoned gas station. It’s the kind of building I wish that I owned. Most of the real work is in the post production. For the first few months that I worked in Central City I made the pictures in my usual way… by not being afraid of color. The colors are bright, energetic, richly saturated with a lot of pop. But, that doesn’t describe the place. The place is in transition. Only one out seven houses are habitable. You could probably buy an entire block of houses for under $100,000. However, when you get to “main street” which is Oretha Castle Halley Boulevard, things start to change. There are big restoration and public programs. If you continue towards the river, there are even new condos and apartment buildings. So, what is the right color palette? The work I did on this picture is an experiment, just as the burger joint images that I published last week were experiments. I’m thinking that the second version of the restaurant is about right. While today’s picture is interesting in its tone, I think it is a little too much.

Comments are more than welcome. Stay tuned.


Okay. You know I like bricks and brickyards. So, while most photographers are taking pictures of the famous sights of Melbourne, I’m poking around the lesser known alleyways and laneways of the city. Some are relatively wide and house cafes, coffeehouses, restaurants and stores. Others are really just tiny passage ways, like this one where I waited and watched for the perfect passerby. I found one and this picture is the result.

Yes. There is a lot of post production involved in the picture. I wanted, and achieved, a lightly dreamy feel.By the way, you can go to a website called http://www.onlymelbourne.com.au to learn a lot more. You’ll even find out that Corporation Lane has been renamed to ACDC Lane after the band of the same name.