A giant mural.

They say it comes in threes.

Ronnie Virgets. Chef Leah Chase. And, now Mac Rabennack.

You might know him as Dr. John. The Night Tripper.

The good doctor passed today. His family said that he had a heart attack around day break. He’d been sick for a long time. I’m not sure with what. Doesn’t matter now. I know that he lost a lot of weight. That’s a hard thing to do in New Orleans. About 18 months ago he cancelled two shows at Tipitinas. That was the last of his scheduled performances. He spent that time at home, but on the Northshore.

Needless to say, New Orleans is reeling. We are sad. So sad. We haven’t even buried Ms. Leah yet. Her viewing is planned for Saturday, with the funeral on Monday. We are all invited to attend. We will.

Ronnie Virgets was a beloved author. His writing is the stuff of legends. I arrived on the scene a little too late to know it well. And, he wasn’t that well known out of the city. That’s too bad, because what little of his work that I did read caught the heart, soul and spirit of the place I call home.

But, Mac.

Oh man, oh man. He’s beloved everywhere. He started making his own albums in the late 60s. He was a session player until then. He had a rough start in New Orleans, doing things that would make tough guy rappers run home crying to their mamas. He’s been sober for longer than I have. Things change. We change.

How well known?

When you have a Beatle tweeting about his passing, you know how much he mattered to the music world. He played with just about all of music royalty, without ever adopting those trappings himself. Not only did he produce his own work, but he was an enthusiastic collaborator on other musicians projects.

Yes. I knew him. You’d see him in grocery stores or running errands. He was old school and gracious when he met a fan in the usual places. I photographed him once, formerly, at his home. I was paid for a half day. The shoot ran well over that. There weren’t any problems. We were telling stories and laughing so hard that tears were rolling from our eyes. Like they are as I write. I wish I was laughing now.

I wish that I could show you a picture from that take. Sometimes, a client will ask for an embargo until they have gotten their best use of an assigned set of pictures. I’ll call them tomorrow and ask if I can post one here. There shouldn’t be a problem.

For now, here’s his mural, painted in Central City. I almost like this better than the environmental portraits that I made at his home.  I made this picture on the way to some place else. A second line.

What can I say?

Desitively Bonaroo. The best of the breed. That he was.

Rest in Heaven, Mac. You meant a lot to us.

 

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A giant mural.

I read about this mural. One of the three local newspapers published a short story about it. I knew that it was located in Central City. I wasn’t sure where.

Looking for it by driving around wouldn’t work. Central City is a big place. So I waited. I was relentless.

I was on my way to a second line that started about three blocks away from this house. I didn’t know that at the time. I was looking for a place to park. There it was. I parked. I photographed it. Too bad that little black car was in front of the mural. No matter. I made it part of the picture. That’s the seeing part.

I photographed it. I photographed the second line. I photographed a few other things on my way. That’s where my beer drinking Santa was found. That’s also the seeing part.

When a young photographer seeks my advice I usually tell him or her not to edit in the field. Usually that means don’t delete images on your SD card. It also means not to be so focused on the event at hand that you miss something along the way.

I say that your head should be swiveling around, looking and seeing subjects on the way to your destination.

There is another reason for looking as I do. It’s important. It’s for your own safety. Carrying a bunch of expensive camera gear might be an invitation to a mugging. If you see a bad guy coming you can take evasive action. That might mean something as simple as crossing the street so you can be seen. You might head towards a group of people. You might have to take more drastic action in order to defend yourself.

That’s pretty much about life, itself. If you see an event coming — good or bad — you can do something about it. Or not. That’s up to you.

The picture. You know how I found it. Mostly by luck. Photographers luck. It was up to me to make the picture or walk on by. I made a few horizontal frames because that works best in the web world. I made a few verticals. That’s when I decided the picture was more than the mural. The little black car mattered. The sky mattered. I made all of that so, in post production.

Happy day.

Oh yeah. You might be wondering who was honored by painting that huge mural. That is New Orleans’ very own, Doctor John. That’s important for me. His music brought me to thinking about New Orleans. Apparently, I was in the right place at the right time.