Time fades away.

W

hat remains.

This is one of our storm ravaged trees. Branches are broken, but new leaves are sprouting up like today was spring and not fall.

I’m not sure in what form the recovery will take, but at least nature is doing her work. All nature really wants is stasis. One way or another, this tree will be dealt with.

Okay. Enough of that.

Let’s talk about technological dependence. Let’s talk about Monday. Let’s talk about Facebook and all it’s secondary companies. They crashed. There was a DNS problem.

We think.

Facebook executives lie about everything. Here’s one now. They claimed service was down for five hours. Oh really?

I was looking for a post so I went directly to Facebook at 7:30am. It was down, at least for any new posting. You could still read whatever was posted before the system came down. You couldn’t reply.

I didn’t have service until around 5pm. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s 9 1/2 hours. Of course, that’s in New Orleans where time moves at a different pace. They say that we are 50 years behind. So, there’s that.

Anyway.

The New York Times published a story about what this really means. Facebook claims a membership of 2.6 billion users. Most just use it like many of us do. Mostly we talk amongst ourselves.

However, about half of that total use it to conduct business, to communicate within companies, to sell stuff, to publish newspapers and — in some countries — it is the prime method of communication.

That’s all great. But, in another story, the Times says that Facebook is weaker than we think and that it is already showing cracks.

There are those who talk about regulatory measures. That’s good. It’s a good idea. Let’s take it a few steps further.

What if Facebook is turned into a utility like electric companies and phone companies? What if the entire internet is declared a utility?

I know, I know. That could take the freedom of the internet away.

That’s been done about a decade ago.

There are only three — or four — big players; Amazon, Facebook, Google and some people say Apple.

There’s no privacy. I could post something on Instagram and see ads for something related on Google. That implies there is no freedom.

It seems simple enough to me. It could be done. It won’t be.

T

his picture needed something a little different. At least, I think it did.

I made it monochrome. It seemed a little bleaker that way.

It still wasn’t done. I tinkered. I added extra bokeh using OnOne.

I messed around with the basic color because I thought I made it too bleak.

So, this is the finished picture.

Let’s jump back to the other side for a minute. I realized I wasn’t done with it yet.

I concluded that any kind of regulation or reclassification of the internet and its most dominant sites wouldn’t happen.

It’s not because of a lack of political will. There may be. Or, not. I don’t know.

The real issue is that the people conducting hearings — mostly the Senate — have no clue what to ask or how to follow up because they don’t understand the digital world at all.

You’d think that after the last two decades of digital growth they’d take some time to get familiar with these things.

But, noooo.

They are busy doing something else; obstructing everything, trying to tear down the good things about government and taking money from certain rich players. You know, bribes. There I said it.

The very least they could do is ask their younger staffers to explain the questions they are about to ask on the floor or in committee so they wouldn’t look like idiots.

But — once again — noooo.


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.


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.


Oooooh no, Mr. Bill.

I broke a picture. It slipped out of my hands and dropped on the floor. It was just a flimsy digital file of about 36 mp.

That’ll happen.

Seriously, there is no way to do that. Digital files are made of ones and zeros. They don’t exist physically. I suppose you could destroy one in a computer or erase one from a hard drive. But drop one?

Nooooooo.

Since I’m searching for the way forward I thought it would be a good idea to test some new software. If it’s for a phone it is usually free up to a point. Then, you have to pay for anything further. Sometimes I do, mostly I don’t.

This software is called Lumli. It’s okay, but I wouldn’t use it that often so I didn’t buy the rest of it.

The picture says more than you see. To me it’s about the globe and just how fractured we all are. There’s also hope because it draws together in the center. The trees may be barren for now. But there will be new growth.

I hope.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Don’t think that your jabs are going to totally protect you. Enjoy every experiment.

Testing. That’s a big part of Storyteller. I want to know what works, what doesn’t, and what’s close enough for work arounds.

This blog is how I learn. There are other ways, but this is a big part of it.

One other way is to post on Instagram and let the picture be shared to Facebook.

However.

Never follow the crowd. I suppose that I could have a huge amount of hearts and likes if I did what everybody else does.

Instead, test pictures. In my case, I want to have an idea of what viewers and readers like.

It’s not that I need the validation. I want to know because I’d like to have a salable archive. In a way, it’s disappointing.

Every scene is predictable.

I’ve made the pictures in better and different light, at an odd time of day or from a different view point.

I’ve known this for a while. There are eight to ten locations that buyers want. They are fairly well known.

If I photographed them seasonally I might never have to photograph them again since the scenes don’t change.

What would be the fun in that?


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.


In another neighborhood of the 9th Ward.

This time I wanted to feel it.

So, I played with everything that I could in post production without going too far. I suppose this is a kind of art, but I’m not sure. It could just be a mess. Ironically, in my world of typos I originally wrote that, “I could just be a mess.” That’s probably closer to the real story.

These two houses are located very near to the one in yesterday’s post. The neighborhood wasn’t in the best shape when the storm arrived. When Katrina blew through it sort of dealt a death blow to the area. Houses stood. Brick buildings remained. The streets were still there. But, for the first couple of years of recovery this area was a ghost town. People didn’t start returning until at least 2012, seven years after the big event.

That’s how it went. Many people were forced to take the long way home either by lack of funds, or by FEMA, or by the passing of a loved one either during or after the storm. Some people never came back.

This is an odd subject to write about during the holiday season. Once our holidays are upon us they don’t stop. Christmas, followed by New Year, followed by The Twelfth Night, followed by Carnival and Mardi Gras, followed by the Lenten season. And, finally Easter.

I suppose that I want to remember my thoughts as they come to me. It’s the end of the year. The end of the decade. These little histories matter to me, if nobody else.

After all, somebody might ask me how I spent my decade. Probably not.

I have a question.

I’m going to publish my ten best pictures of the decade right here on Storyteller. The editing wasn’t as hard as I imagined. Storyteller is ten years old. The decade is ten years old. My signature pictures — the ones that I didn’t make on assignment — are all right here in my archive.

So.

The question.

When do you think I should publish them? All the big publications have already published their “best lists.” I could do it next week, or I could do it the week in between Christmas and New Year. What’s your pleasure?


Lost in Central City, New Orleans.

Life.

As long as we have life, there’s hope.

John Lennon said that. He was murdered.

This weekend and week is about as rough as it gets. First came Peter Fonda. I didn’t know him, but his work influenced me. Then came Nancy Parker. I met her once at the Krewe of Zulu on Mardi Gras Day. A true sweetheart. Next comes Governor Kathleen Blanco. I met her at some event. She helped rebuilt the city after the destruction caused Hurricane Katrina. She stood down the president when he wanted to nationalize the state in the aftermath of the storm. She was the aunt to a very good friend of mine.

It didn’t stop there.

My oldest friend in New Orleans died on Sunday. She had breast cancer. It was in remission until it wasn’t. She was 48 years old. She leaves a husband and a 12 year old son. They both adored her.

Today, I hurt.

I suppose that I’ll go to the celebration of her life on Sunday. From there I’ll go to the first second line of the 2019 – 2020 season. I wasn’t sure if I’d photograph that. I suppose the decision was made for me. My vision was clarified in no uncertain terms. You know, the people in the Mardi Gras culture call this, “home going.” I guess. It doesn’t hurt any less.

The picture. It’s old. Most of you haven’t seen it. It’s me. Today.

You know what I say. The work is the prayer. It had better be.


Broken bayou.

It’s not that far away.

This bayou. This swamp. This bit of water.

It’s broken.

When I first saw this place, maybe twenty years ago, the trees were lush and full. There were lots of them. Today, between industrial pollution and being a dumping ground for just about everything, it doesn’t look the same.

It’s very likely that in the next twenty years, most of the remaining trees will be gone because this swamp will be filled with brackish water from the high tides in the gulf. This will happen because we have lost, and will continue to lose, a huge amount of land from the barrier islands and swamp land. In the past, it protected us from storms, from storm surges, and even high tides.

Soon it won’t protect us from anything.

I don’t expect the kind of help we need to come from this presidential administration. They are mostly climate deniers. They don’t like science. Even with a new administration I doubt that there will be enough “political will.”

Lucky us.

At least we won’t be alone.

Lucky you.

The picture. I made this picture a couple of years ago. It’s one of those “lost” images. It wasn’t lost. I just forgot the proper file in my messy archive. I haven’t been to this place in at least two years. I’ll go back soon, once @NOLAheat cools down. Sheesh. Normally, I describe our summer weather as a sauna. Not this week. It’s an oven out there.

Anyway.

Now and then I get up early. That’s how I made this picture. Technically, in order to get the flare and the starburst I used a very small aperture, probably f/16 or f/22. Normally, that would mean a very slow shutter speed, but not with that sun shining directly at me. I did some work in post production. Mostly, I opened up some shadow areas. And, I made the light a little more yellow.

 


It’s all in the details.

Details. Details. Details.

I was wondering just how many pictures of old couches, chairs and furniture would hold a readers interest.

My answer?

Not many.

I wasn’t sure what to do about it until I saw this scene.

It hit me.

Details.

A picture like this holds the reader’s interest in many ways. Not the least of them being the human need to understand the photograph. To study it. To spend some time with it. To let your brain grasp the details within the details.

The first couple of pictures that I made for the “Junk Project,” were mostly overall scenes.  You look at them once, quickly, and you are done. You see everything that needs to seen in less than a second. They rely on color, shape and hue.

This picture relies on content. Subject matter.

This picture would work in black and white, as well as in color.

This picture is also harder to find. Even harder for it to find you.

If somebody wanted it for their wall, I work hard to convince them to use the horizontal version and turn it into wall paper. Something that is about twelve feet wide and eight feet high. Something that when you came home at night, you could stare at and forget the day. You’d mumble to yourself, “Oh wow. I didn’t see that before.”

Just like I’m doing now. That light bulb. They are expensive. It isn’t broken. What was I thinking?

Oh yeah.

Pictures.