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.


New Orleans downtown from Central City

T

his very well could be my last post if the software causes another break down. Make no mistake, this isn’t hard for me. I’ve been doing this for years… and years.

It’s funky, nasty, poorly designed software from WordPress that is causing me grief. Every time I start to think that I should just stay over here, WordPress screws up again.

So.

I’ll be over to my new website and blog very early next week. The site address is laskowitzpictures.com just as it’s been for years, WordPress not with standing.

I made this pictures a few years ago, during a Central City festival. I photographed the usual things then I started thinking about the city skyline from there. I used a long lens, probably a 300 mm to compress everything as much as I could.

Then, I let it sit for years until last night when I needed to process a few pictures. I thought the this might be a good picture to post on Storyteller.

It turns out that it wasn’t but I’ll tell you about that on the other side.

O

n the other side.

There’s a lot of technique to discuss.

The picture that I found in one of my archives was too small.

After I worked on it in Snapseed, where I layered it in sort of an offset pattern, and shipped it to OnOne, I immediately uprezed it. That’s short hand for resizing a picture to be a bigger size. There is a resizing module on OnOne that used to be called Genuine Fractiles.

Genuine Fractiles was state of the art software about twenty years ago. It was sold, improved, resold and improved until I guess OnOne bought it.

I did the usual finishing work on color, contrast and depth.


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.


Only in New Orleans.

What a day. The fire did not only jump out of the frying pan, but it burned the house down.

No. Not literally.

A photographer who is known to many of us and who has helped us in career advancement just resigned from Magnum in lieu of being voted out of the cooperative.

Let me take a step back.

For those who aren’t aware, Magnum is the premiere photo agency in the world. At one time they were purely editorial photographers. As time passed they grew into something else out of financial necessity. They are a co-op which means they can’t just fire anybody.

The photographer, David Alan Harvey, was accused of sexual harassment of 11 young women. A reporter from the Columbia Journalism Review investigated, talked to the 11 women and found their charges to be true. The women showed incredible courage in talking on the record.

This exploded via Twitter and if you Google his name, you’ll find it all over the internet.

Many of the tweeters are women. They are not yet satisfied. They feel like Magnum and Harvey are getting off way too easily. They feel like photographic gatekeepers are essentially a good old boys club.

A reckoning is coming.

I’m sad and a little bit hurt, not because of the oncoming discussions. We all need them. I’m sad because I know this kind of thing has been going on for years. I don’t know it directly, but there were whispers in the wind. It wasn’t just with Harvey, but with all manner of photo influencers.

In Harvey’s case, he was always sort of a cowboy. I had no idea he had gone as far as he did. This hurts. His advice mattered.

I suppose it’s true. You must separate the art from the artist.

I only have one question aside from what was he thinking? What is a 76 year old man doing chasing 25 year old women?

Oh, I know why.

And, that just sucks.

I don’t usually cross post. This picture first appeared on Instagram which is distributed to Facebook because they are one company.

It’s slightly elderly from Super Sunday 2019, the last one we’ve had because of the pandemic. I doubt we’ll have it this year because it is just too soon.

Those folks who have already looked at it bear with me. You are going to look at it again. Sorry.

This may be one of my best Black Masking Indian (Mardi Gras Indians) pictures. It’s good because I managed to be inside the picture.

No matter how you try, it is very hard to do. My advice is to take a couple of years and get to know the players. Then, they MIGHT part for you to work your way inside. They might not.

There is very little post production used in the picture. There didn’t need to be. Those Indian suits are as you see them.

I’m sorry to say that it was guys like Harvey who taught me to see and work this way. That was all good back then. Today? Not so much.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Get your jabs. Be good to each other.


Along the parade route.

Friends.

That’s what second lines are really about. Of course there is music, paraders, social and benevolent societies, food and drink. The real point is to say hello to friends. Some who you saw just yesterday. Some who you haven’t in seen in a long time.

It’s the hug and smile that makes this picture. Nothing else.

It is my job to work close enough that I can make a fairly powerful picture, and far enough away that I don’t disturb them. The debate about consent rages on. I’m out of it. I have only one question to ask. If I had stopped these two men to ask their consent, would I have caught such a wonderful moment?

That’s my job as a photographer. To make powerful photographs. I’d go so far as to say when I photograph faux nature images that I’m not doing my job.

Stay safe. Enjoy every cob of corn.


Summer in city.

This was probably the last second line of the season. The weather turns too hot and humid to walk after the first week in July. We resume during the second week of September.

The joyful dancing woman and I had been flirting photographically for the past couple of weeks prior to my making this series.

She knew that I was there to make pictures. I knew that the man in the pink shirt is her husband. She introduced us. At the time, they were a family of four. She’s in her mid-thirties. Doesn’t look it, but she is.

I haven’t seen in them in a while.

If we ever get to come back out, hopefully I’ll see them and their children.

It’s funny about doing this street work. You meet people, say hello to them every Sunday and when second line season ends you go your own way. After a two month break for the hottest time of summer, if you are lucky you see them again.

Stay Safe. Enjoy every smoked sausage.


Old time, good time.

This is a dramatic change.

Mostly, I’ve been posting faux nature pictures as they relate to the season. But, I downloaded an upgrade to my OnOne editing and processing software. I just had to test it. I had to take it for a spin. You know, kick the tires.

I remade an image that I photographed about five years ago. While I won’t be tinkering in this way with the pictures I select, I was able to start an end of decade project.

Remember, 2020 is not only a new year, but a new decade.

That started me thinking about the dawn of this millennium. That’s a story in itself. At least, I started that out properly, by standing on The Great Wall of China as the clock struck midnight. I’d like to say it was a sort of lonely experience which would have been perfect. But, there were more people — Westerners and Chinese — standing up there than at any Mardi Gras parade.

Anyway.

Back to this picture. I tinkered with my upgraded software for a couple of hours. It was two things. A learning experience without a sharp learning curve. And, a lot of fun.

If you ask me exactly what I did, I couldn’t tell you. There was a lot of back and forth. I actually think I went a little too far. I may reprocess it in a slightly more restrained way once I learn more about the software.

I remember submitting the original image to an agency. They were looking for something “spooky” for an ad campaign. They really liked this picture. They asked if I had a property release. I replied that I didn’t need one. The Art Director started to say something, but I cut him off. I said, ” I don’t need a property release because I own the house.”

Yes. I did. We did.

We bought it for pennies on the dollar because the entire back of the house fell off. Three stories just peeled off the house in one big sheet, which broke up when it hit the ground.

We applied for, and received, state and city grants. They came with two requirements. We can’t sell the house for ten years. And, we needed to place a historical plaque on the front of the house.

Flash forward four years. The house is restored to its former glory.

There are a lot of period pieces that have either been restored or internally modernized.

It’s painted using New Orleans colors of the time period, which are not as bright as you’d think. Around here you can go to any Sherwin-Williams paint store and ask for their color chip chart for a certain period of time. Pick the colors and they mix them to 1887 specifications. The year the house was born.

It is leased to a nice young family who treat it as their own.

This house is the anchor to a completely rehabbed, but not gentrified, neighborhood. What was once a run down and Katrina-flooded street is now restored. The people who live there are truly neighbors.

So.

The city got a restored neighborhood. Young families along the street got new homes. Some rent. Some own. We got to test our general contracting and work skills. And, we own a lovely second property in an up and coming section of town.

Everybody wins.


Zulu Tramp experiment.

I wanted to play.

So. I did.

I wanted to see just how some of my new approaches to layering would work on a human being. The only place I’ve used them is on nature pictures.

After poking around on my admittedly limited smart phone archive I found a portrait of a Zulu Tramp. I thought that would be a good picture on which to experiment. Zulus are normally very colorful without my help.

A word about Zulus, and Tramps.

To me, and many others, Zulus are the heart and soul of New Orleans culture. The actual krewe is much like their brothers who walk for the Young Men Olympians. They are focused on community service. The often offer scholarships to deserving young people who couldn’t attend college otherwise. They are made up of people from all walks of life. Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, very successful businessmen. And, so on. And, so on.

The Tramps. They are the men who lead the first parade of the day on Mardi Gras day. They start around 8am. If you want to hangout and photograph them, you’d better get there around 6am. You could get there later. But, the later you arrive the further away from the start you’ll have to park.

How important is their parade?

Very.

Two examples.

The mayor, no matter who he or she happens to be, leads the parade on horseback.  Not to worry. The Zulus meet and greet the Krewe of Rex as the day rolls on. Ultimately, the mayor leads both parades.

When Hurricane Katrina blew the city apart, most of the Zulus were scattered far and wide. They couldn’t come home for the first Mardi Gras after the storm because many of them had no homes to come back to. After all, Katrina arrived on the last day of August 2005. Mardi Gras was scheduled for February 2006. Five months. Not much time to rebuild anything.

So.

In their place came the real Zulus. Shaka Zulus. From South Africa. They rolled in a very limited parade. But, they would not be denied. There are moments about that first Mardi Gras after the storm, the will live in me forever. Seeing the African Zulus on the streets of New Orleans was one of them.

Then, there was the next year.

I was photographing from Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue, By this time, there was some recovery. Nothing was complete in any way. There were a couple of Canadian women standing next to us. They came down to support the city. I was telling them that if they got to see the St. Augustine Marching 100 that they were in for a treat. Just then, they came thundering through the cement canyon formed by the buildings along the route. I stood there, not making pictures. There was too much water in my eyes. I never thought I’d see them again.

That’s what I remember.

The picture. Seems a little bit of a let down. But, here goes. There are multiple layers embedded in the final image. I started out trying to enhance a nature picture when I got the idea to add a human being to my pile of layers. That’s when the work got good. If I did it again, I’d have a better game plan. I’d start with the face. I’d add two flower pictures and one sand picture to it and be done with it. But, no. I had to take the long and winding narrow way.

If you really want to know the steps, I’ll create a formula. It’ll be complicated. It will assume that you have the proper components in your archives.


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.