Looking forward.

New Orleans.

You don’t think of my city this way. It’s true. We are funky. We are old. We have many buildings that are well over 100 years old. Houses in the Garden District are 150 years old. My first house in the 7th Ward was built in 1837. It was the second common house that was built on a plantation that grew indigo. You know. The stuff that makes your blue jeans, blue.

First and foremost for most of our history, New Orleans is a port city. A business hub. People worked here to sell cotton, sugar, rice. They imported coffee and vegetables from South America. The Bywater, which has become gentrified and a place to go for dinner and to stay in Air BnB lodging, was the country’s chief importer and processor of coffee. And, bananas.

That’s all changed. But, we still have a pretty good-sized business district. These days a lot of former office spaces have been converted into condo and high-end apartments.

After all, our biggest business is tourism.

That’s kind of too bad. We’ve gone from making, and doing, to serving. That happened long before my time. I have no issue with that except… the local newspaper just published a study on salaries in the service industry.

Unless you have a name as a chef or something equivalent, the highest pay you’ll make is around $14.85 per hour. It goes down from there. That’s not good. Not in a city that has rapidly gentrified. Not in a city where most of the folks who are part of the culture that tourists come here to see can’t afford to live here. In a city where most of the folks working in the service industry have to have more than one job to afford the rent.

I know. I know. That isn’t limited to New Orleans. Some places have it worse. Much worse. Think about San Francisco or Los Angeles. I grew up in Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles. If we sold everything, I’m not sure we could go back to my home even if we wanted to. I’m not sure that I do. I think it’s crowded and traffic is terrible here. Think about the Los Angeles region. Sheesh. It would drive me crazy.

The picture. Not a drive by. But, a drive through. I was waiting for the light to turn green. The light you see towards the bottom of the picture. I decided that I liked what I saw so I made the picture. I’ve done that in the past as I passed through the French Quarter on the way to some place else.  I actually proved a point with this picture. An editor with whom I work wants me to photograph something specific. It needs a city-like background. She thinks of NOLA in the same way that so many people do. The funky, old French Quarter. I emailed her this picture. Now, she thinks differently. The funny thing is, if you are walking up Bourbon or Royal streets, you can see this if you just look up. Too many people are looking down into their hurricanes and wondering where the time went.

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Superdome weather.

Well. I guess you would rather see art, than documentation.

Fine with me. I’d rather make art. I’ll save the documentation for my agents.

Let’s see what I can do with some of the work I produced on Monday. I’ll start with this picture. I was on my way to The French Quarter, when the light changed for the better. The Superdome was lighted from sun rays bouncing off the clouds.  Of course, I was driving on the interstate at the time.

So.

I did what I haven’t done in a long, long time. A drive by shooting. With a camera. Not a weapon. As some of you know, who have been with me for a while, I just prop the camera on the dashboard of the car, set everything on auto and more-or-less point and shoot.

Sometimes I get really lucky. Mostly, I don’t. I think I was fairly lucky with this picture. I like the framing. I like the light on the dome. I like the silhouetted sign. I wasn’t happy with the sky.  So, I added a lot to it in post production including the rain. No. It isn’t accurate from a documentation point of view. But, it does represent New Orleans. Especially this time of year.

In order to really see the picture properly, I suggest that you open it up. Way up.

No. I didn’t use Snapseed for post production. Unless I load pictures made with a camera into iPhotos or Google Photos and work via my smart phone, I can’t use Snapseed. That’s just as well. It’s a fine app. But, I like working with other software, on a monitor that I can actually see. And, there are more options. And, better quality processing with software like OnOne, or PhaseOne.

I suggest that you work on a bigger monitor too. As you know, I think there are a lot of junk pictures online. 95% of them, in fact. I suspect a good number of those marginal images live because the person who took them can’t see them very well.

Think about that.


New Orleans traffic at night.
New Orleans traffic at night.

A little more Impressionism.

This time, it’s about traffic in New Orleans’ Central Business District. At night.

You’re probably gonna laugh when I tell you how I made those repeating “W” shapes with the light. At the very moment I pressed the shutter release button I did the New Orleans thing. I hit a pot hole. Where would this city be without potholes? Luckily, it was a small one.

In those “Ws” you can see just how I hit the pot hole. Down, bounce, bounce, back up to the normal street level. Sheesh. Wherever there was a light, the camera made a shape.

The picture. Press the button and hold on while I run over a pothole. That’s about it. No. I didn’t plan for this one. I couldn’t have.

 


Mardi Gras celebration.
Mardi Gras celebration on Royal Street.

Well, well, well…

There is a backdoor. It’s not quite where some of you suggested. But, it’s nearby and it got me to the so-called classic desktop. However, it took a lot of time to use. That’s fine. But, I’d rather spend my time taking pictures, working on pictures and planning my next shoot. If I’m not doing that, there is other stuff I’d rather be doing than mess with formatting Storyteller posts. After all, pictures are what I do. Not coding. And, I have no idea how long this will last. WordPress could de-link it at any time.

This experience has also been quite humbling. So many of you either offered suggestions about formatting or asked me not to leave.  As I wrote yesterday, I’m not burnt out. I’m energized. I want to show you New Orleans. I’d rather do that than argue with WordPress. I’d also prefer that WordPress would actually treat us — the supposedly important content creators — like human beings.

Even my gallery partner, Robert Moldaner, added to the mix. He suggested this kind of material should be our next show. Actually, yesterday’s material. I don’t know about that. Yes. I like the pictures. Apparently, so do you. But, even though the actual picture is very simple, making it is very hard. I have to be in the right place. The light has to be right on. The moment has to be special. And, so on and so on and so on.  As NGS’ Jim Richardson says, “If you want better pictures, stand in front of better stuff.”

I’ll tell you a little about each picture. But, there is a caption hiding with each picture. You have open the picture that you like and the caption will open with it. Admittedly, the captions are short, but they’ll tell you a little something about the picture.

First.

You can go to every one of these places while you are visiting. Of course, the timing for seeing a real jazz funeral is a little iffy, but that’s it. If you come early for Carnival, you can see people dancing in the French Quarter streets for Krewe du Vieux. Or, if you are here on Mardi Gras Day, there is plenty of French Quarter dancing going on.

“Low Sunlight,” “Through the Fence,” and “Motion and Color” are really a matter of being on the scene when the light changes. Again, even though they were made in the Quarter, I still like the images. And, they weren’t taken on Bourbon Street.

If you are roaming around the city, you can go to the 9th Ward and turn right towards the river levee, drive through Holy Cross, climb up the levee and see, “From Holy Cross.” I can’t  predict the light. But arrive as dusk falls and you might see something like the picture. The same thing with, “Crescent City Connection.” Drive across the bridge towards Algiers Point, follow the signs to the levee and you’ll see what I photographed.

Visitors tend to forget that we have a fairly vibrant business district. If you are staying in the Quarter, walk to Canal Street, catch the green streetcar (the last picture) and get off around Lafayette Square. Wander around and you’ll see our version of big business. If you are here in spring and early summer there is plenty of music at Lafayette Square. By the way, this square was the American version of Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The neutral ground on Canal Street divided the two neighborhoods.

That’s it. Happy Sunday.


Jennifer Jones, dancing woman.
Jennifer Jones, New Orleans dancing woman.

I think everybody is still in shock. I’m pretty sure that I am.

You know the story. Allen Toussaint passed in Spain after playing what would be his final concert. By all accounts, he was healthy, happy and enjoying himself while he played his songs for his fans. I wrote most of this on the day after he died.

To my mind, and to the minds of most of us, he was one of the most important people in the New Orleans musical world, along with Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino. They all changed music. His work transcended genre. The memorial sort of proved that. After all, how often do you see Trombone Shorty, Elvis Costello and Jimmy Buffett on the same stage? At the same time?

Sheesh. How often do you see Jimmy Buffett wearing long pants?

But, this post isn’t about big name international level musicians. It’s about a little of what I saw. It’s also about my attempt to honor a man — two men, you’ll see in a few lines — with my way of seeing. After all, every possible local and regional visual media was on the scene. They can out gear me, but I’ll be damned if they are going to out shoot me. You know that normally I’m not competitive with other photographers, but when I feel outnumbered by like — oh, let’s say 30 to 1 — my old competitive nature  sort of pops up again.

So, I hung with them until it was time. Then… when they turned left, I turned right. Besides, as I was preparing to go out for this, I received word that Chuck Scott — a legendary professor at Ohio University had just passed. He was directly responsible for how I think photographically. Maybe how I try to live a balanced life between work and home life. I’m not the only one. I can’t even begin to count how many young photojournalists he influenced over the years. I will add that he had been ill for a long time and still he was 91 years old when he passed. He didn’t die out on the road in some hotel room. He passed quietly at home with family and friends who were there for him.

The pictures. They don’t need explanation. They are what I saw. Except for the blue Rolls Royce. That might need a few words. That was Allen Toussaint’s car. Well, one of two. They were matching cars. One blue. One deep red. They were older models. He loved driving around the city in them.

So. That’s it. Well, except for two things.

https://www.gofundme.com/gk8bajd8

And, the most important.

RIP Allen Toussaint.

RIP Chuck Scott.

Final Walk.
Final Walk.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Trombone Shorty and Mayor Mitch Landrieu
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Trombone Shorty and Mayor Mitch Landrieu
Never alone.
Never alone.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Last ride.
Last ride.


The Mercedes Benz Superdome.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Time is often measured in “pre-storm” and “post-storm” in New Orleans. This picture is a great example of that. Except there are really three phases.

Pre-storm you are looking at the Louisiana Superdome. During the storm it was place of last refuge. That white roof was shredded. Now, it is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It got branded. Or, re-branded. Or, something like that.

You are also looking at the neighborhood in which it is located. I made this picture after I photographed the new hospital corridor. This corner is sort of on the upriver edge of it. It’s a funny corner. You can only turn right. The street that I was driving on is one way until you get to the corner. Then… well, you can see it. You cannot turn left or go straight. You can’t turn around. So…

There used to be buildings where you see that parking lot. They came down well before flood waters came to the area. I’m not exactly sure what the thinking was back then. I reckon now that the city has become home to all sorts of tech start-ups and techies like all things urban, I imagine those missing buildings could be useful again. Oh well. Now you see it. Now you don’t.

The picture. Once again. Nothing special in technique. F8 and be there. See it. Shoot it. Give it a little help in post production. But, not much. This picture doesn’t need it.


Glowing  Buildings.
Glowing Buildings.

On the way to some place else.

Again.

I was pretty much racing around last weekend. So much to photograph. So much to do.

Oddly, a lot of it didn’t get done. It wasn’t my fault. It’s a New Orleans thing. People didn’t show up. Events get canceled. Plans fall through. That’s all a part of life. But, here in NOLA it’s magnified. It think it started on weighing on me in not such good ways. The last line of this post is very telling.

As I was passing through the CBD — Central Business District — the sun lighted a building that was directly ahead of me. It was glowing at me. What else could I do? I did my “shoot through the windshield” thing. Funny thing, I like big city urban pictures. I just don’t make them enough. Oh. That’s a whole other thought.

The other subjects that I photographed? You’ll see a couple. I couldn’t get my head in the game last weekend. Most of the pictures are pretty marginal to me. Oh well. That happens.


New Orleans from Lt. Louis Cemetery Number 2.
New Orleans from St. Louis Cemetery No. 2.

Before the storm, this place was plain scary. Now, it’s just scary. It was a kind of no man’s land that was one of those places that you shouldn’t go into alone. But, the storm cleared out the bad guys. Most of the nearby housing was torn down. They moved to other parts of the city. Or, they went to the far western neighborhood in Houston. Texas.

This is St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. Yep. That’s how it’s written.

I went there to photograph something else. Well, actually to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. After doing what I came to do, I decided to walk around a bit. That should tell you something. I guess after all these years, I’ve finally acclimated. Imagine walking around at high noon in about 95 degree weather and with humidity at about 90%. Yes. Imagine that. Without a hat. But, I did have water. That’s something. And, a camera. That’s something else.

Anyway. As you know by now, high noon is not my favorite time to work. Ever. But, I had no choice.

So.

I started looking for a picture that could be made into some other picture. Later. Using computer software. I saw this collapsed tomb. I looked through the bricks and the other monuments and I saw the buildings of the CBD. “Aha,” I thought. The dystopian me came out of hiding, cursed the heat, the humidity and started making pictures. When I got back into the studio, I started messing with the picture. This is the result. Maybe I’ll call it, “The End.”

A word about our cemeteries. They are ancient. Many of them are partially uncared for. It’s expensive to that. There is a group called “Save Our Cemeteries.” They are a more-or-less volunteer group that began in 1974 in response the destruction of the wall vaults in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. They work as hard as they can. But, many of these old tombs are family tombs. Some were funded perpetually through trusts and wills. Many were not. When the family left the area or died out, the tombs began to crumble for lack of care. Katrina’s flood waters didn’t help. This is the result.


Interstate 10 heading into New Orleans.
Interstate 10 heading into New Orleans.

I could see it from our neighborhood. Low sunlight bouncing around the clouds. Dusk was coming and I knew I wanted to be in a good place to make a few pictures. I wanted the golden light. So. Off to The French Quarter we went. I thought that the light might be kind of special with a little elevation, so we took the long way round. Up an over. We took Interstate 10, rather than just drive straight into the Quarter.

Man.

Was I right.

Whew.

Nothing more to say except that I’ll show you what we found in The French Quarter in my next post. More amazing light. I still think it’s pretty cool. “What do you feel like doing tonight?” “Oh, let’s go to The French Quarter.” You can’t do that if you live in Albuquerque. Or, San Diego. Or, Los Angeles. Or, San Jose. Or, Dallas. Or, Radford.”

Radford? Virginia.

I didn’t do much to this picture. I didn’t need to. Between nature and the car’s windshield, the picture more or less corrected itself.