Always beads.

Time for a change.

I reckon that yesterday’s post about spring was a fairly good one. That’s a good way to go out.

No.

I’m not leaving. I’m just a little tired of photographing nature when I’m not even a nature photographer. I suppose it shows. Real nature photographers go places. Even if they stayed around here, they’d head out to the swamps, to the gulf, to the bayous that aren’t in the city.

Me?

I don’t even know the difference between most flowers. You know me. I describe flowers as a pink one, a yellow one, a blue flower. I make pictures on dog walks.

But, I am a fairly good street shooter being born and bred as a photojournalist. And, I don’t mean the kind of pictures that pass for street photography these days. You know the ones. Pictures taken from far across the street. Pictures taken of people from behind. Pictures taken of the street. All are fine if they are done for a reason.

But, most of the pictures I see on Facebook or Instagram are not done for a reason. They are made by people who are scared of other people. People who just “got” a camera and out the door they go. They declare their work to be street photography because they don’t know what else to call it. Or, themselves.

Why can’t they just say, “I’m a photographer and these are my pictures.”

I’ve just called myself a street photographer. Sort of. I wander the streets and photograph what I see. In my town. My city. If that makes me a street photographer, so be it. I don’t really care. I take pictures. For myself. For my clients. For my agencies. For you.

The pictures I make for myself are usually the ones I like best. That’s what you are going to see here. At least until the end of April. Maybe longer. Some will be “little” pictures like this one. Others will have a depth to them that makes them a “bigger” picture. We’ll see.

This picture. I started this little portfolio with beads on a fence because it says New Orleans. Even though most beads are thrown for Mardi Gras and a couple of other seasonal events like St. Patrick’s Day and so on, the beads don’t just disappear. They can’t. They are everywhere. These beads are fairly new. They haven’t faded yet, to the dull silvery-gray color that is the base of all plastic beads. With our extreme weather they will. I’m not sure how much experimenting I’ll do with this collection. As I said, these are more about photojournalism than not. The rules — well, my rules — say that you can’t do what I did with yesterday’s flower and call it street photography.

Anyway.

Enjoy the new collection of pictures.

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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.


Fire hydrant and words.

A little change.

Something a little more grungy. A little more urban. A little more made by hand.

Some people think graffiti is some kind of blemish. A kind of destruction. An attack on civilized society. Others think it is a kind of street art. I fall into the latter category. Sometimes. Some of this is just tagging for tagging’s sake. Leaving a mark.

It gets controversial when an artist like Banksy came to town a few years after Hurricane Katrina. He tagged 18 buildings. Almost immediately, 17 of his works was painted over in gray, by a guy who took it upon himself to cover all graffiti with gray paint. The remaining one was removed along with the wall on which it was painted. The owner of the building did that. He also had it restored a bit, and it is now on display as part of another show.  I think it just opened.

I made these four pictures in The Bywater. I also turned the graffiti into my own art by cropping in camera and then bringing out the color in post production. On the other hand, if I actually knew who did the original tagging, I would love to credit them too. Unfortunately, unless you know the taggers’ work by name, secrecy is kind of the whole point.


An urban look.

Yes. Once upon a place.

I keep writing about my time in Hong Kong. And, how I filled my down time with walks. With making pictures. With exploring. I thought that I should show you a little of my work from that time.

However.

I’ve reworked this picture a couple of times. Over a couple of years. My intent was always to show the city as a dynamic and colorful place. Hopefully, I finally did that by using more contemporary post production techniques.

Hong Kong is slowing down a bit now. But, in the past things changed quickly in the city. There were times when I found myself a little lost because old landmarks were torn down and new buildings were quickly built in their place. I suppose that if I traveled there today, I would have to relearn the city the I once knew quite well.

The picture. I made it from high in Times Square. No, not Times Square in New York. That would have taken one very long lens. Heh! There is a shopping mall called Times Square in Hong Kong. You can enter it in many ways. From various doorways. From a direct entrance from the MTR (mass transit) and from tunnels in Causeway Bay that are really intended for MTR use. On the sub floors there is a food court. Mostly like fast food. For the next ten floors there is a shopping mall. Finally, as you reach the tower there are offices and fine dining. That’s where I made this picture. Towards the top.

Technically, this picture is the result of a couple of modifications. At first I saw the picture as a HDR work. Later I saw it differently, but I used my early post production work as a base of the new version which is mostly adding a huge amount of color. That’s about me. I choose to believe that Hong Kong was, and is, a very colorful place. In fact, the color can be overwhelming. But, not to me. I like that.


In all its glory.
In all its glory.

More freedom.

Really the same freedom. As yesterday. Just a different look at it. I like “compression” shots. They help to make a crowded scene look really crowded. They add a “stacked” look. They help urban pictures look really urban. Bottom line. They help my vision.

Yes.

I used a long lens. I don’t use it to get close. When I photographed sports, that was one thing. Today, I use it to help create the graphic I have in my head. The shape, the tight framing. a central pop of color.

That sort of thing.

Housekeeping. I’m way behind in responding to your posts or emails. I’m in motion. Transit. Something like that. I promise I’ll get to them. Soon.


Nature returns.
Nature returns.

Nature always balances things.

At least I hope so.

I made this picture while I was waiting for the second line to start. It’s one of those pictures that I made on my way to somewhere else.

Here’s what you are seeing.

The mowed lawn used to be buildings, as did all the foliage in the background. They were likely falling apart before the storm. After the storm, most of them fell down, or were demolished. The brick wall is actually part of the Sportsman Club, which is ground zero for many of the Uptown Mardi Gras Indians. And, the church steeple? It’s an old abandoned deconsecrated Catholic Church. The church, the school, the living quarters and a good-sized piece of land have been for sale for at least five years. It’s starting to be demolished from neglect.

I kept the colors a little muted today. They say that all art is autobiographical. Make of that what you will.


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.


Driver's eye view on the Crescent City Connection.
Driver’s eye view on the Crescent City Connection.

After working for a couple of hours on Algiers Point it was time to go home. I felt photographically fulfilled. That’s pretty much the whole point, isn’t it?

Since the golden light seemed to just crash into the ground, we left the Westbank before darkness actually arrived. As usual, I propped the camera on the dashboard and pushed the button. No, no, no. I don’t raise the camera to my eye. I just set everything on auto-something and let the camera do its thing.

In order to help orient you, the Central Business District and the French Quarter is on the right. We are heading to the left side of the picture toward Uptown once we get off the bridge. In case you are wondering, this is the Crescent City Connection on Sunday evening. Normally, it’s a parking lot around the time we passed over it. That probably would have been better… if you are trying to make pictures. Most people are just trying to go somewhere.

So.

A change is gonna come.

Before we hit the road again, I did a lot of work in The Lower 9th Ward and in a bit of the 7th Ward. One of my favorite abandoned houses in the 7th Ward is starting to be demolished from neglect. The second story fell off. Into the street. The entire second story was laying in the street when I passed by. Of course I stopped and took a few pictures. Well, more than a few pictures. I guess part of a building laying in the street will get the fine folks in city government to actually do something. Or not. What am I thinking? The is New Orleans. Not.


An all too familiar sight in New Orleans.
An all too familiar sight in New Orleans.

It started a few days ago. We were walking to the area in which the Indians were assembling for Super Sunday and their massive second line parade, when I happened to see this scene. I had to stop to make a few pictures. I think you all know what this means. I wish that you didn’t. No child should die in a blaze of gunfire in some drive by shooting. I cannot imagine the pain this child’s family feels. Maybe, I have a sense of it. Two years ago or so, when I first started working in Central City, I happened upon another scene that was very smiliar to this one. That time, the child’s grandmother was sitting on her stoop sipping a cup of coffee. I did what I always do. I asked her if she minded if I took a picture and she shook her head no. As I focused and composed I watched her eyes. They were dead. No glimmer of hope. She looked at me, but didn’t see. My companion and I sat with her for a while. Mostly we didn’t say anything. What could we say? But, just being there mattered.

So.

Today. The morning started by me listening to Neil Young sing a song called Thrasher. It was from a YouTube fan video from the other night’s concert in Los Angeles. He hasn’t played that song live for about 35 years. The lyrics are nostalgic and some kind of change. It’s very dystopian. I wasn’t going to publish this picture today, or maybe not ever. But, after listening to the song I just had to. I’m not sure exactly why.

The picture. I think that the content is strong on its own. But, I wanted to make the picture as nasty and dirty as I could without going too far. I wanted to put my emotions into the picture. After all, this scene should make you feel two emotions. Sadness. Anger.