Some how. Some way. This post, originally scheduled for noon my time, was posted into a sub category under the heading of “New Orleans, but where do I go?” That was going to be a more touristy sub site of Storyteller. I’ve never actually developed it. I did nothing different from my usual routine.
If you click on one of the title next to my name, you can read what I originally wrote. I’m not going to do it twice and WordPress won’t let me copy and paste.
A neighborhood parade called ‘tit Rex. No. Not what you are thinking. ‘tit is a shortened form of petite. Rex is one of the largest Mardi Gras krewes, rolling on Fat Tuesday. This is the snarky version of that. Little Rex. Take a look at the middle picture. That’s yer typical float.
Like almost every smaller parade, it’s grown to an almost unmanageable size. Oh well.
First. I think this is about it. I had a really good shoot over the past three weeks. I made more pictures than any of my agencies can ever handle. I probably could turn Storyteller into a Mardi Gras blog. But, you’d get bored. I’d bore myself. That’s just how many pictures I made. I made so many images that I had to clean out my computer’s hard drive. I think I produced something like 500 gigs. That’s a whole lot of pictures, even for me. I’m afraid to know what I did to my external hard drives and cloud storage. This may cost me some money.
Let me know if you want to see more Carnival pictures. But, if I don’t hear from you, I think it’s time to move on. Besides. There’s the huge St. Patrick’s Day parade coming up in just ten days. Yeah, yeah. I hear you. Around here, we never stop. Then, just to stay in practice, there’s French Quarter Fest in early April and Jazzfest in April and May.
These pictures. We have a whole lot of what I’ll call sub-krewes in the city. The represent all sorts of neighborhoods. I suppose you could almost call them a third line parade. They are walking parades. They are usually very casually organized and they sort of fill in the gaps. Most of the people who participate in them are very well masked and costumed. They have a great time. Usually. This year, with temperatures just over 30 degrees with rain and sleet, it was a little more work than most years. A lot of people left very early.
Here we go.
The top picture. Unlike the Krewe of Zulu, there is no elegance here. The guy in the polka dots suit is the parade leader. I’m not sure whether he is the grand marshal, the captain or just some guy they ran into on the street. But, he did a good job.
“Everybody is happy…” Well, she certainly was. I started to photograph her when my camera battery died. One thing about these little Sonys that I like to work with so much… they are battery hogs. I always have spares. She waited while I changed the battery and continued to blow kisses at the camera. Mardi Gras.
“Hey buddy…” She liked his nose, er, beak. I almost passed them by, but I caught the motion of her gloved hand and did my sort of point and shoot thing.
“Keeping the beat…” This woman with the old leather drum walked the entire length of the parade never once missing the beat. She had help from a guy with a snare drum, but she keep the parade marching.
“A friend…” This woman. I don’t know her. I don’t know her name. But, come Fat Tuesday we always run into each other. This has been going on for four years with the exception of last year when I was in Australia. She always has a huge smile for me. This may not be the most iconic picture that I could post. But, this is what Mardi Gras is for locals. It’s a chance to visit with friends and family. Even friends whose names we don’t know. And, only see once a year.
“Hey mister…” This is kind of funny. The paraders throw beads up onto the balconies. The people on the balconies throw beads down on the paraders. Seems like a fair exchange.
Monday was Lundi Gras. The day before Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. For those of us who live in New Orleans, it’s sort of a day to prepare for the final and biggest day. For me, that meant wandering around The French Quarter photographing whatever I saw. I went to Waldenburg Park which runs along the Mississippi River to listen to some local brass bands. Then I sort of gave up. It was very cold and the wind was blowing off the river. There were two more Uptown parades, but I gave them a pass. I’m sort of preparing my mind and body for a long day tomorrow. It could run from 8am until midnight. But, it’s likely I’ll give up well before that.
I’m hoping that I can actually wake up early enough to photograph the Krewe of Zulu. Their parade starts at 8am in Central City. I sort of need those pictures for my long form project, but in order to actually find a parking place and walk around I should wake up by about 5:30am. For me… that’s a miracle. But, I’ll give it a shot and if not I may be able to catch them before the roll into the heart of the city. After all, this is probably the heart and soul of Mardi Gras.
These pictures. They are mostly just things I saw today. There is a mask show and sales area in The French Market. I was surprised to find many masks this late in carnival season, but there were people shopping and buying. That’s good. You know what the other two pictures are. I just found it sort of funny to watch seemingly sober adults fight over cheap plastic beads thrown from a balcony in The Quarter. They could have at least gotten out The Quarter and made their way to a parade where it really is fun to ask for beads. What do I know? Many people think the The French Quarter is New Orleans. They make their way to their hotel from the airport and never leave a ten by sixteen block area. Often, when people come here the first thing I tell them is to get out of The French Quarter. There’s nothing wrong with it. But, New Orleans is so much more.
Today’s post is made up of odds and ends. I photographed these folks throughout the two weeks of Mardi Gras parades. There are a couple of days left. Well, two days to be exact. So, it’s time to show you some of the people and things that I saw. I’ll be editing and processing pictures for the next couple of weeks so you’ll see at lot of them… eventually.
As much as I enjoyed working in a wet darkroom and I like digital processing, the amount of images I’ve made over the past couple weeks is astounding. I’m not even sure what the count will be when I finish. Editing and processing that volume of work is just grueling. My back and shoulders ache. My head hurts. And, I’m always unsure of the edit. You know. What if I picked the wrong picture? What if I overworked it? What if? What if?
At the end of the day, I just do it and use my most basic instincts. That usually works. Let the picture find me. Stuff like that. I just remember one thing. Two things. It’s about the people. It’s about the moments.
Okay. I borrowed the title from Sir Paul. And, his then band, Wings. But, “Band on the Walk” just doesn’t seem to make it. This picture sort of illustrates the chaos “backstage” at a Mardi Gras parade. Especially a big one, which is how these things grow as we get closer to the big day, itself. The players — the floats, the bands, the dancers, the flambeaux, the speciality krewes all line up along the four corners of the block from which the parade starts. Between the parade coordinators, the great New Orleans police officers who are assigned to logistics and the participants they manage to merge into the parade from all four corners.
Oh sure. Parades run late. The tractors pulling the floats break down. People get tired. But, it is that time of year. Everybody plays their very best game. The parade handlers make up a little time if they pass by a smallish crowd. There are spare tractors stashed along the parade route. And, adrenaline carries the tired paraders. If it really comes to it, there are EMT units all along the parade route. And, lots and lots of cops. From all across the Louisiana. State Troopers too. There are ben police from out of state who are given some kind of special jurisdiction if they are accompanying some band (usually) from another state. Sheesh. We’ve had both the US Naval Academy and West Point bands here. The Marines that I wrote about last night were visiting from South Carolina. High school and junior college bands come down here too.
This picture. It’s about how high school marching bands make their way down Magazine Street to take their place in the parade. It may look like they are walking on a busy street, but it’s blocked at both ends. The vehicles you see are all official in some way. Even that black Charger is official. It’s an unmarked State Trooper car. And, the vehicle to the far right? It’s a giant RV that is a police mobile command center.
The motion? Well, unless I want to start using flash on these band members, I had very little choice. They wouldn’t appreciate it if I started firing away. And, the picture wouldn’t feel “right” to me. I like the vibrant motion. It helps if you are lucky enough to have some part of the subject in duplicate. Like the tubas.
Flambeaux. Well this is curious. I Googled flambeaux to make sure I had the details correct. Guess what? My post from last year came up as number 10 on the page. The only difference is that I published it last year on Feb 10, which makes sense because I shot the pictures, posted them and left for Los Angeles the next day. From there I went to Australia. That was some year.
Anyway. At the risk of repeating myself, Flambeaux carry these lighted torches for the length of parade. They dance and swing around hoping to earn tips. I have a thing about that. I always tip them a dollar and I always give it directly to the man I photographed. Here’s why. In the old days — the way old days after the Civil War — many of these guys were former slaves. Since there wasn’t much street lighting back then, they lighted the way for the parades. Spectators tossed coins at them and Flambeaux stooped down to pick up the coins. Think this through and I won’t have to write the rest. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t feel right to me to make grown men carrying 70 pound propane tanks bend over to pick up a quarter. So, I hand them a dollar bill… from my hand to theirs.
So. Last year’s picture is a portrait of a flambeaux standing in the street. It is nothing like this one.This was made just prior to the parade after the torches were first lighted. It’s a 16mm lens picture. Pretty close, eh? Yes. The man looking at me, was given a tip. Those torches are hot. He earned it.
It’s very interesting for me and parades. I kept bouncing from flambeaux to The United States Marine Corps Marching Band. I’ll show you a couple of pictures of them later next week. I have a lot of pictures to process and I’m physically tired. I can’t recover as quickly as I used to. Certainly not in the 12 hours I had to rest between shoots.
I’ll tell you the back story now. I noticed that these Marines were pretty heavily decorated and the very lowest rank was Lance Corporal. Most were more senior sergeants. Photographers talk to each other while we are waiting, waiting and waiting. I was fortunate enough to talk to the USMC photographer. It turns out that even though these Marines’ MOS was band musician, once a Rifleman always a Rifleman. Many of these Marines saw some pretty heavy combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or both. Tonight they walked in New Orleans. They started with “The Star Spangled Banner” and then played “From the Halls of Montezuma.” What do you say to that?
I felt Harry Pottered. There were Druids everywhere. They came out of about eight school busses which pulled up along Magazine Street. There must have been 200 or 300 of them . They marched up Magazine Street, turned left on Jefferson and mounted their floats. They did the right thing. After all, the first parade was the Krewe of Druids.
Wanna see another picture?
Same location. Different lens.
The funny thing about these guys is that they had no idea how imposing they looked as they poured off their school buses. With their masks and my positioning, they could have been planning something real bad at the bank. Hmmm… maybe there is something to that. A movie, maybe. I’m not that original. I’m sure it’s been though of.