I had a sort of half awake dream a couple of nights ago. I had a little trouble falling asleep. When I finally did, I had a kind of dream almost immediately. Or, I thought that I did.
There was someone standing next to the bed. He was dressed in old fashioned house painters clothes. White pants. White t-shirt. He may not have been a painter. That was just my impression of him.
He was just there, next to the nightstand. All I could see was his body. His head was behind the lamp. His feet were out of my line of sight. It was so real that I reached out to touch him. I couldn’t. Either my hand went through him or he backed up, out of my way. I decided to look down at his legs. There was just a sort of mist. When I looked up again, he was gone.
I have no idea if I was dreaming in deep REM state, or if I was half awake and seeing things. Eventually, I fell back asleep. Or, dreamed that I did. That was it for the dreams.
I have no idea what it means. There are different definitions of what dreams mean. I believe in the one that says a dream is an answer to a question that hasn’t been formed yet.
If the guy was really a house painter, what is the question?
Was he something else? Just because he was dressed in white pants and a t-shirt doesn’t mean that he was a painter. Maybe he was a milkman. Or, a donut delivery guy. You had to grow up in Southern California to understand that. Once there was a company called Helms Bakery. They sent their trucks far and wide to bring donuts to your door.
The picture. It’s layered. It started with a building structure. I added all sorts of layers to it. It feels a little bit like Halloween because the lamp in the window turned into a spooky red ghost.
That’s what it was. That’s how the sky lit up. It fooled me. Usually to have the sky catch fire, there must rain followed by light clouds. The sunlight hangs among the remaining clouds, its rays bouncing off of them and exploding in the sky.
Not this time.
There hasn’t been rain in over a month. Some of the northeastern parishes are already declaring a drought. I’ve been talking about the heat almost daily on Storyteller. No rain combined with heat means pretty boring sunsets.
Not last night.
Admittedly, I’ve enhanced the color among other things, but the light and color has to start from somewhere. There were even god rays which usually only come in a cloudy sky. They were so low and weak on the horizon line that I couldn’t get to a place to photograph them.
Something’s happening here.
And, it’s still hot.
I took whoever wanted to go for a walk out at around 8am. They’re smart dogs. They don’t like the heat anymore than their humans do. I passed one of my neighbors who said that it was much cooler today. I looked at him like he was crazy. 8am. 86 degrees. Of course it was cooler than 95 degrees. It was 8am. Sheesh.
A cold front should move in on Sunday night. On Monday we should have more normal weather for this time of year. This will be followed by a colder front which according to the weather people will drop the high temperatures down in the 70s and the lows in the middle 50s. You know what one of the Eagles sang… “that bubbled headed bleached blond who comes on at six.”
That’s how I feel. I don’t trust them. I wish I had a job like theirs. Get their brand of news wrong 90% of the time and be called a regional legend.
If you are lucky, you’ll be outside to see it as it drops down over the earth like a dark curtain. For me, it just depends. If I’m done with inside work and a dog wants to go out, I get to see nature’s magic. Magic and renewal. A 24 hour cycle. A kind of rebirth.
Sometimes, I’m trapped inside. I see dusk and nightfall through my studio windows. Sure, I can see the light. I can see day turn to night. But, it’s just not the same.
We — the dog and I — were walking along a little fence. When we turned the corner this is what I saw. I almost got too excited. I calmed down within a few seconds. I steadied myself. I made five frames. I knew I made a picture of what I saw.
That’s how it’s been for the last few days. A lot of photographer’s luck, combined with timing and a little bit of knowledge. When the weather finally cools down, I’ll go looking for pictures in earnest. This is the time when we all got impatient because it seems like summer will never come to a close.
I saw a little meme of Facebook. Southerners say, “We made it through 20 weeks of summer. Only 32 weeks to go.” That feels about right. Right now.
I almost forgot to show you this one because I posted it on Instagram. I know that not all of you follow me there, so I decided you should see it here. On Storyteller. Where it belongs. My first social media home. That one that really matters to me. To you.
I’ve got a few more pictures like that. I’ll share them with you here.
When I made the picture I was just was really just trying to make a good exposure. The blooms were really out of reach for me with a phone. Once I saw how nicely the blooms were back lighted, I thought that the picture needed some special treatment.
Off to the digital darkroom I went. I worked. I played. I tinkered. I finally got to this place. I liked it. It has almost no bearing on reality.
That’s a problem.
I vacillate between something semidocumentary and something that is a kind of art. I reckon that I should sort of settle on some direction. I could do both. That would require separate marketing. Separate websites.
Sheesh. I can barely keep track of one.
I realized that these days I’m not wanting to spend a lot of time building websites. That came about from my Smugmug experiment. I’m still doing it, but to do that well it takes more time than working on Storyteller. The point is less work. Not more. I want to be making pictures, not fiddling around with a new website.
Another problem has arisen for Smugmug. I watched two pricing videos. I read a lot of their material. They are great at helping you solve technical issues. They are horrible at photo philosophy, which bleeds into sales. Nobody has been able to teach me about price points.
As I see it, just about every photographer links their prices to a photo lab. They sell their prints for what it costs to make a print. Nothing else is added. I eat what I kill. Doing that might get one of my pictures in somebody’s hands, but I can’t make any money from it.
The way to do it, it seems to me, is to add the print cost to the total fee. So, let’s say you want to buy a 16 x 20 print. That costs about $12.00 to make the print. Likely, I’d want to add at least another $250.00 for the subject matter. So, your cost would be $262.00 plus the cost of shipping. I can’t find a photographer who actually does that so I could learn from him or her. When I asked around, it was crickets. Apparently, most photographers who use Smugmug are rich and don’t even want to try to pay for the cost of cameras, lenses and other photographic gear.
And, we wonder why the photo industry is so broken.
I am regional president of a trade group called ASMP. American Society of Media Photographers. We work very hard at teaching professional standards. That includes what it actually costs to produce an image. Wholesale costs and net costs. If photographers actually listened to us, and many other working professionals, we might actually make a living.
So many photographers are so excited that somebody actually wants to use one of their pictures, that they give them away. You see it at professional levels all the time. Image users want to use a picture for a credit. I can’t eat credits. I’m at the point in my career — as many of us are — I don’t need the exposure. In many ways I don’t care what the other guy does. It’s not my business. They say.
They are wrong. When another photographer gives away a picture, or undersells a picture, it erodes the market. Ultimately, it hurts me. Luckily for me, the people that I call clients know the difference between a hobbyist with a camera and a professional who has paid his dues.
I look back at my career. In the middle past. It was a time when I used film to do this kind of work. It was a time when sometimes I had no other choice. Film had a slow ISO. You had to adjust or light for it. I loved it then. I love what I do now, except that it often takes me time and thought to get back to what was once easy.
Forgive me for constantly dipping into the past. I firmly believe that if you don’t understand where you came from, you’ll never have a path to get to where you are going.
This picture certainly wasn’t made 20 years ago. It was made last night when I was waddling around full of too much turkey and the fixin’s. It’s an example of what you can do if you take your mind out of it. Or, if you can barely stand up because you ate really well. Too well.
I’ve often found that when I am at my worst physically, I make some of my best pictures.
I discovered that in about 1990, when Kodak gave a number of us a new film emulsion to test. As I recall it was some kind of beefed up Kodachrome.
I caught the flu.
We had deadlines.
I worked with a heavy and spinning head. My brain was turned off.
I worked in all sorts of light. I exposed four rolls of film. I thought, well this is gonna suck. I didn’t see the results until well after the technicians at Kodak did. I wondered, whatever they are the going to think of me. When I saw the film, I was amazed. It was as good a shoot as I was doing back in those days.
Today I say, turn your brain off when you are out making pictures. Don’t think. React.
There is a huge qualifier to that. It is about the same as the Boy Scouts motto. Be prepared. For the most part, if you work like I do you are always prepared to make a picture. If you are working in a new place, read about it. Study it. Listen to the music found in the region. There is so much information to be found online. Find it. Use it.
That’s the same with a portrait or some kind of people shoot. Learn about the person before you make their picture. That works especially well with famous people. Do a little research about them. If you have something to talk to them about, they’ll relax. You’ll make a much better picture.
Don’t look at other photographs pictures of it or them. You’ll only make the same ones. Or, frustrate yourself trying. Make your own pictures.
This picture was made with a simple upward movement when I pressed the button. You can do it. Practice doing it. Don’t do it when you are out there working unless the picture calls for it. No need to duplicate what’s already been done.
That brings me to social media, especially Instagram.
I made this picture when I went to the hospital. There. That got your attention. No worries. My doctor is based there. I went there for a “wellness” visit.
I was waiting for the elevator and looked out the window. It was storming out there. Wind. Rain. The temperature dropping. By 30 degrees in about six hours. Finally. Some cold weather. Apparently, it’s here to stay.
The picture. I did what I always do. I made a picture. That’s what I meant earlier. Pictures are everywhere. You just have to see them.
Now. THAT takes some practice. Today. Tomorrow. The next day.
For thirty days.
You’ll learn something. About making pictures. About yourself.
Then, I got my hands on it. I wrapped my brain around it. I started tinkering with it. The next thing I knew, I created a monochromatic picture in post production. I flipped it this way and that.
I decided I liked the building’s highlight pointing into the picture from left to right like a giant arrow into its heart. It’s the roof line of a building, but it looks like an arrow. I like the look. The tonality. It’s moody. Almost scary. Like a Halloween picture.
The picture. I saw the light reflecting off the building. It caught my eye. The original file is nice, bright and colorful. It didn’t move me. Made this way, the picture seems old. Maybe from the dawn of photography.
Layering has its benefits. Mixing of very different subjects is one of them. Another is mixing content that was made at very different times. Sometimes from film and sometimes from digital imagery. In this case, I used a Krewe of Zulu Tramp who was walking on Mardi Gras Day and… some giant mushrooms that popped up after a lot of rain.
Here’s what I did. I photographed the mushrooms in many ways, but I focused (not a pun) on the circles and patterns. I knew that, on their own, they looked pretty good. I also realized that the circles would be a great addition to my collection of shapes for this new layered work I seem driven to do. These days. The Zulu was a little more photojournalistic. Normal street work.
That’s just kind of how I think.
This is what you get. A face peering through the shapes and darkness. I blend, I add, I subtract, I smooth a little. Sometimes, I go too far. I pull it back. But, I always save everything. It’s good for me to see my progressions and changes. As I wrote earlier this week, that sort of thing causes storage issues. It also causes personal growth. I suppose you have to balance the two. And… always move forward.
I have a question. On Sunday I’ll finally be home and in a position to photograph a second line. The Father’s Day second line. It’s what I do. It gives me joy. I get to see friends. A friend says that it’s like going to church. It may very well be.
I’ve talked about New Orleans being a violent place. You get used to it. To the point that when you hear a gun shot, you just think, “Oh, somebody is shooting.” This month has been particularly violent. Forty shootings and the month isn’t half over. Four just last night resulting in two KIA. KIA is a military acronym that means killed in action. That’s what it feels like in New Orleans. A battlefield. We average a shooting every seven hours. Whether we need one or not.
As much as I’m chomping at the bit, my age is kicking in and saying, “hey, wait a minute.” So, do I approach this as “I will not be denied” or do I retreat to work again when things get a little less violent. If… that ever happens.
I promised you a few more details and pictures from this place. The General Laundry Cleaners and Dyers building. That’s its formal name.
It was built in 1929. By Owner Robert Chapoit, after his laundry first building was burned to the ground. In the 1960s, the American Can Company used it. The USPS wanted to tear it down in 1974 in order to add a parking lot to their postal facilities.
They were stopped cold by neighborhood residents.
Instead, it was added to the National Registry of Landmarks in 1974. It is now on a different list called “The New Orleans Nine.” A list of nine structures that are important to the history of the city that should be restored and maintained in some form. As of two years ago, the city council was still deciding what to do with it. It is one of six art deco buildings in the city. None is as colorful as this. Some have been rehabbed and repurposed into condos or work-live spaces.
That’s a brief history.
Obviously, it is still standing two years later. There is currently a huge redevelopment of the land that lies just upriver of the building. A greenway is now open on what was once dead railroad tracks. It stretches from The French Quarter to City Park. It opened the way for further new building and conversion of abandoned and broken buildings. This place is a block or so away from that land. I guess we’ll see what happens next.
The pictures. I just took them. I photographed what I saw. I’d like to work from the back as well. But, the scrap yard foreman says it’s unsafe. I need a hard-hat. Like many photographers and Boy Scouts, I’m always prepared. I got a hard hat from the trunk of my car. According to the foreman it still wasn’t safe. I suggested that he and his crew not go in the back of the building since they were dressed about like I was. He didn’t like that.