The streets were wet.

One of my road trips during the PAD days was to Reno, Nevada. There is a story behind this adventure which I’ll tell in a bit.

I drove from Albuquerque through Las Vegas and north on state route 95. I stopped along the way. I turned a two day trip into three.

I made a huge amount of signature pictures. Most of that was just due to timing. Arrive at a place that you want to photograph in good light and guess what happens.

When I arrived, I was tired, grumpy and wet. The grumpiness was at myself. Nobody else. I checked into the hotel at time when nobody was traveling. The hotel was a pretty good one, but my room cost ten dollars.

The front desk manager took one look at me and upgraded my room without asking.

What a room.

It was one of those high roller suites. It was located on a very high floor so I could see the city. It had a huge bigger than kingsize bed, a 60 inch television right in front of the bed. If you didn’t want to watch anything you could lower it and see the rest of the room. There were sitting areas with couches and deep, plush chairs.

There was a heart shaped couples bathtub in the room. There was a shower for two. There was a wet and dry sauna. And, get this, the minibar was free.

I stayed three for three days. Thirty dollars for all of that.

Anyway.

My parents retired to Reno. They also passed in Reno. They are buried at the veteran’s cemetery in Fernley about 15 miles away. That’s really why I came. When my dad passed I promised myself I’d come every two years.

I’m sorry to say that I was last there in 2007. Fourteen years. That’s too long. Maybe when I feel like it’s safe to travel I’ll go there. It’s gonna be a long road trip.

I like road trips.

If the weather is my kind of weather, it’ll take me a week to get there even though from New Orleans I’ve only added an extra days driving time.

Maybe the fall.

Picturing things, I walked out on the street into the pouring rain.

I din’t care. I was wearing rain gear, my cameras were protected and I felt like making pictures. After all, that was the secondary reason for this trip.

I had dinner in a Thai restaurant that I knew from past trips. I finished that and started walking.

I walked up behind this couple and started making pictures. I never look at my work even when I return to my hotel room. I had no idea what I had until I returned to New Mexico.

It may be superstitious of me, but I never look. Or, it just may be the realization that I can’t do anything about a blown set of pictures.

The take away is that this picture was made in the camera. The only change I made in post production was to sharpen the image a bit.

When the picture is right, it’s right.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Be patient.


Keeping It Real

A lot of thought.

Art, in its best form, is supposed to make a connection. It is supposed to make your viewers or readers feel something. A lot of people have been doing that to me.

A friend of mine lost her dog last week. The dog was old and it was time. She wrote such an elegant blog post the it took me three tries to read it without tearing up.

Padma Lakshmi has a new show called, “Taste the Nation.” She picks up where Anthony Bourdain left off. It’s a food show only in that food is the point of understanding. She interviewed her mom while they were cooking together. Her mom is talking about how she came to America. Both mother and daughter are fighting back tears. A vision came to me. I could see my little Polish grandmother cooking and teaching me how to cook. In a railroad flat. In Brooklyn. Whew.

I was reading a column by The Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell. He and I go back aways. We knew each other when we were journalistic pups. He wrote about teamwork and how you get there. The example that sticks most is about The Washington Nationals who won The World Series last year. They were invited to The White House. Some went. Some didn’t.

When it was time to start playing baseball and defend their world championship, they checked their politics, egos, race, spiritual beliefs and everything else at the door. They became a team. His working theory is that we, as Americans, forgot how to do this. We must defeat or control the Coronavirus. Everybody is walking to the beat of some other drummer. In order to win we must check our political beliefs, our racial beliefs, our spiritual beliefs and our anger about everything, at the door.

If we can’t do that, this country may not survive. There. I said it.

I said that I wouldn’t be talking about these outside issues. I would only focus on photography and art.

Nuts.

Outside influences are what propels an artist to make new, and maybe, better art.

Pictures

I suppose that you can write around a group of pictures to influence their meaning. I’m not doing that. This group of pictures is about one of the few times New Orleans comes together and acts as a team. Second lines and Indian events.

Making the photographs was easy. I made pictures of what I saw. I didn’t do very much to them in post production because this work is kin to photojournalism.

There are a couple of pictures that I’d like to talk about.

In the photograph called “all joy” look at the woman with the giant hoop earring. When I lived in the 7th Ward, she was a little girl who lived a few houses down from me. When we saw each other, we grabbed each other and started hugging and laughing. Caring.

In the photograph called “Paying Respect,” I photographed Black Masking Indians greeting a frail looking man on his porch. He is a retired Indian. He’s about 90 in the picture. The Indians stopped, danced and chanted for him. Respect.

It’s those feelings that I hope you feel when you look at the pictures. Open them up. See the details.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy every bowl of gumbo.


Faces in windows.

Walking is better than driving. Because you see stuff like this.

I saw this in a window. In the French Quarter.  You know how some stores, usually clothing stores, put mannequins in the window. Well, this is an art gallery’s version of that. If you look close enough you can see framed photographs hanging on the wall. They are for sale. This mask isn’t. Unless you want to spend really big bucks.

That’s it for today.

I am planning on going to the big Halloween parade called the Krewe of Boo. It’s tonight. A little earlier than usual. The route has been changed, which probably has something to do with it.

I’m torn. Usually I photograph parades from the start. There are a lot of pictures to be found there.

I was thinking.

There is a really nice view from the gun emplacement near the river that puts the parade in the foreground, Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral in the background. But, it’s one picture. Once I commit to one or the other that’s it. Because of the huge crowd movement is almost impossible unless you are leaving. I guess I’ll flip a mental coin and decide while I’m on my way.

What would you do? Go for the potential of a lot of pictures? Or, just the one scene setter?


Majorettes in red.

The big wind down. I made these pictures on Lundi Gras. Today is Mardi Gras. I’ll go out in a bit. I decided not to really chase anything. I’ll go to a place. I’ll let the pictures come to me. As someone just said to me, “Aren’t you getting a little bit old to be doing this shit?”

Of course, she is right.

Forget the aches and pains that come with my back and hip issues, instead think of it this way. If I were playing major league sports, my retirement would come around 40 years old or so. Add twenty-plus years to that, and that’s me. While we aren’t intentionally knocking each other around on the streets, working the way we do is like being in some kind of football — no, make that rugby — scrum.

It didn’t help that I awoke in a terrible mood. A friend of mine passed. She was responsible from moving my creative thinking from photojournalism to whatever it is that I do today. She was a visual thinker/creative/agent. She found my first big assignment. For Delta Airlines. And, then for Bord Failte (Ireland’s Tourism Group) That was years ago. She was 59 years old. Cancer killed her.

So here I am playing Irish rock n’ roll.  The Waterboys to be exact. A band that she turned me on to in maybe 1990. Letting memories wash over me. Yeah. I know what I always say. ‘The work is the prayer.” I just don’t feel like doing any damn work right now. Besides being tired from two weeks of pounding the streets, bouncing off of people, getting coughed and sneezed on, being pushed and shoved and getting rained on, I’m just not in the mood for it right now.

But, it’s Mardi Gras Day. To some it’s a spiritual day. To others, it’s one big drunken brawl fighting for beads and trinkets. For me, I’m just glad it’s coming to an end.

I could use my late friend about now. I need a shove. And, a push. In another direction.

Secret garden.

A little noontime sip.

The pictures. One of you — Kim of Glover Gardens — asked some questions about my working methods. It’s buried in the comments section of a couple of day old post. I thought I would share the conversation with you where you could easily find it.

She wanted to know what I carried on the street. Do I work from a camera bag? What lenses I use when I’m making pictures like these?

As usual, it depends. It depends on my intent. But, my basic philosophy of working on the streets or taking travel pictures is simple. Getting lighter is righter. If I were just wandering around making travel pictures, I would use one camera body and one lens. Usually that would by my 18-105mm short zoom. If I wanted to get really small, I’d used a 24mm. My camera would be one of Sony’s small mirrorless cameras, like anything in the a 6000 series. Assuming that I actually make it out the door, that’s how I’ll work today.

I’m not trying to be a gunslinger. I’m just observing.

Hold on though.

That isn’t how I photographed all of these parades. I added another camera body. A matching body. This one has a 10-18 mm attached to it. I had a full range of 10-105 mm, which on an APC sensor is like using a 15-157 mm set of lenses. That gives me all the reach that I need since I like to work close.

I stuff extra SD cards, batteries, filters and a lens cleaning cloth into my pockets. Carrying a fully loaded camera bag was what destroyed my hip and helped to create the osteoarthritis that lives in my vertebrae. I don’t change lenses on the scene because you can introduce bad things into your camera body and rear lens element. Dust, dirt, water droplets.

No. I don’t use photographer’s vests. To me, they scream out “Hey, I’m a photographer. Rob me.” With the smaller camera bodies that I use, I can sort of tuck them against one side of my body and most people don’t see them.

I hope that helps.


French Quarter

I took a stroll in The French Quarter. I made a few “traditional” pictures. I’m pretty sure that will make my agencies smile.

Doing the work and walking around the Quarter made me happy. Yes. It was hot. It was humid. And, the eclipse was all but invisible there. But, it wasn’t crowded. And, the people who “are from here” seemed happy. Free, two-hour parking was found just about everywhere. If I wanted to stay longer, all I need do was move the car.

I haven’t been in the Quarter for a good long time. I’m well aware of the Bourbon Street rebuilding. New street. New pipes. And so on. The schedule is very late, way over budget and now, stopped at a certain point while the city pours money into repairing the flood control system. But, I was surprised by how much other construction is going on right now. Many side — lake to river — streets are being repaired. Many buildings are also being repaired, restored or just renovated.

I suppose that makes sense.

We are passing through the dog days of summer, when it is too hot and humid for all but the most hearty tourists. Of course, because tourism is our main industry, shop owners and restauranteurs are counting their pennies and hoping they make it through the summer slow period. Anybody who has been in business for any length of time has been through this every year and knows how to stash a little money away during their busy seasons to carry themselves through.

For the tourists who are willing to deal with our steamy summers, good deals are everywhere. Lodging, food, and just about anything they might want to buy are marked down well below normal cost. Of course, for many of our seasonal events — Mardi Gras, Jazzfest, French Quarter Fest — everything is marked way up. So, there is kind of a balance.

The picture. Since most of my work is either high stress (corporate and advertising), low light, or artistic, making a daylight picture under blue skies seems easy to me. I mostly have to find a scene that says The French Quarter and work on it. For my agencies, I mostly just process and make slight corrections. They want a “straight” photograph. For you, I added a little more color and glow.

I’ll tell you. I had so much fun doing this, that producing pictures to fulfill my contracts will be a blast. I fully intended to go back this morning.

But.

Nature got in the way. Heavy overcast. The solid kind with no character in the clouds. There is a 40% chance of rain. If it rains around dusk, I’ll go back today. If not, I’ll try again tomorrow. Or, the day after that. Or, the day after that. Just being there helps.

It makes me smile.


One for the road.

I’d rather photograph people.

I’d rather make pictures of people by discovery. On the scene. Whatever the scene happens to be. I’d make their portrait without showing the event. This transports them — and me — to another place.

As it happens, these three casual portraits were made at various parades. The top two were taken at various Mardi Gras parades. The bottom picture, which I call wolf man for obvious reasons, was made at a second line. I think I mentioned them in writing about the pictures I showed you from these events.

Finally. Now you get to see them.

The pictures. The one thing to keep in mind is that these aren’t portrait sittings. They were made in the moment. On location. In about 30 seconds time for each of them. I learned to work fast in my newspaper days. I had to. None of my subjects wanted to sit and pose. Same thing today. These people were gracious enough to let me photograph them. That didn’t mean that they wanted to spend an hour with me. But, you do have to make some sort of connection. You have to think about that when you are working the street.

Smiling slightly.

Wolf man.


Dumpster tagging.

Yes. Irony.

The dumpster is made out of iron. See what I did there? But, not that. Tagging a dumpster just seems so ironic. In the usual sense.

Nice branding for the trash collection company, eh? That’s Sidney Torres IV. It has nothing to do with internet waste. Although there seems to be plenty of that. Mr. Torres owns and develops a lot of stuff and property in New Orleans. He’s a young guy. He helped out in the French Quarter by providing private policing who cruised around in mat black, tricked out golf carts. He’s developing a lot of property in Mid City. He calls out the mayor regularly and thinks he wants to replace him. All good, except… He owns a house behind a music club. He bought the house a couple of years ago. The club has been there since the 1920s. He turned NIMBY. (Not in my backyard) and want noise abatement rules instituted.

You can see where this is going.

Anyway. I made this picture on the way to a second line, This is an example of tagging that I don’t think is art. Since a number of you have started blogging about graffiti and street art, I’ll just add this picture the to conversation. Yes. The dumpsters do have a pretty nice, contemporary bit of typography on them.


Dancing out of the door.
Dancing out of the door.

Another Sunday. Another second line.

This time it is the CTC Steppers. With everything being normal. Or, as normal as these events ever are. The social clubs danced. The brass bands played. The people walked. And, the photographers took pictures. In the normal way. With everybody getting in each others way. But, that’s the joy of it.

This is the last second line until after Mardi Gras. You’ll see pictures from this second line today and tomorrow. If the mule doesn’t kick the bucket and the well doesn’t run dry, you’ll see Friday night’s Mardi Gras parades on Saturday afternoon or night, depending on where you live.

I doubt that I’ll venture into the French Quarter this weekend for any reason. Not only does the Mardi Gras parade season begin, which means a flood of tourists. But, the NBA All-Star game is held this weekend. This means even more tourists. Everything turns expensive. Parking lots that normally charge $10 will charge at least $25 for the day. Parking on the Quarter streets will be very limited. My “secret” spots in the Treme will be taken. Uber will convert to surge pricing. Using them for two miles may cost about $37. Hotels will mark their rates up by at least 250% and will want a guarantee of at least three nights. Restaurants. Ho, ho, ho… that’s why I eat where I live. Uptown.

The picture. Close to the ropes. I tried real hard to keep the general scene in the picture with a little glimpse of a semi-decisive moment. You know, his eyes. Post production is limited, but I’m working on making my work a little more cinematic.


 

The look and feel.
The look and feel.

2016.

What could I write that hasn’t been already written? It’s been a rough year. It doesn’t seem to want to let go. There’s also been some wonderful moments. Especially when you look at them at a more granular level. Dig in.  Forget all the noise. Just listen to the signal.

In my case all I really had to do was look at my work for the last year. I thought, “Hmmm, some of this isn’t half bad.” On the other hand, some of this year’s work falls into the “what the hell was I thinking” category.

And, so it goes.

Here are twelve pictures that I made in 2016. Twelve pictures that I like. One for every month. But, not organized by month. Are they my best? I don’t know. Ask me tomorrow. Or, the next day. Or, the day after that. My thinking changes on a daily basis. As it should.

Enjoy the work.

Dreams.
Dreams.