If I was any closer.

I got a little too close.

I was working with a 10mm lens. That’s how close I was. I could have helped the musician in front play his tuba. I didn’t mean for this to happen. But, once I broke through the rope, well… let’s just say, I really broke through. I sort of trapped myself. I couldn’t get back outside of the rope. I could only move forward with the band. That would normally have been great, but the crowd was sort of too crowded.

Apparently, it kept growing. By the time the second line made its way back to Claiborne Avenue under the interstate, it looked like a big jazz funeral for somebody who is near and dear to the community. I wasn’t there. From where I was working I couldn’t double back.

I know this from posts on Instagram and on Twitter.  I get very little love there. I guess I should post directly, and I should take off my watermark so anybody could use my work for free. No matter what people keep saying about sharing, like it’s caring, I still think it’s image theft. They say that helps you get your name out there. Cool. I wonder how many photographers have generated paid work from getting “their work out there.”

It’s one thing to share your work to a closed system like WordPress. It’s another to share your work so far and wide that nobody knows that it’s your work. Watermarks are very easy to remove.

Anyway. That wasn’t the point of today’s discussion. The real point was the email I mentioned to your yesterday.  I can summarize it fairly easily. It all came down to “Why am I here?” I don’t know the particular answer, but in general I think we are here to serve somebody, either formally or informally. That can mean all sorts of things. For instance, a young parent serves his or her children by helping them to grow in a good human being. Or, you may serve somebody by doing a task for them. To a larger extent, politicians are here to serve you and me. But, they forget that. The list, like the road, goes on forever.

There were a lot of other particulars to my friend’s email. Some are silly. Some are serious.

From the silly side, comparing your photo gear to someone else’s gear. I always say that it doesn’t matter how much gear you have, it’s how you use it. Besides, in travel situations, too much gear slows you down. It forces unnecessary fumbling around while the picture leaves.

Some were more serious. The rapid decline of his physical health while he was in a place that is known to have horrible air quality with large airborne particulates.  Scary. If you are around my age or older, think real hard about going there. For sure, there are ways to train yourself for certain events. In sports they talk about getting in baseball shape, or football shape. If I were doing a photo tour that required a lot of walking, that’s how I’d train. There is really no way to train for bad air quality. Bring a mask an oxygen bottle I guess.

Anyway, that was my story for yesterday.

On a housekeeping note. Mardi Gras parade season sort of starts with a walking parade on Saturday night. The Krewe of Chewbacchus. As you might guess from that name that it is on the weird side. It is. It’s fun. It used to be held on a day with other parades. It grew so big and so unwieldy, that the powers that be moved it up by a week. It is more or less an unofficial parade that became popular.  I’ll be out there. I’ll do my best not to cripple myself for the rest of parade season.

Then it really begins. Mardi Gras parade season. I’m still trying to figure out how to photograph it. For the past few years I worked at the start so I could make somewhat unique pictures. Unique became same and now I’m trying to figure out new locations and more commercially useful pictures. It’ll come to me in a dream. Or, in the shower.

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Horns and drums.
Horns and drums.

Belonging. Home. Place.

I haven’t been on the street in a long time. Probably six months. The last time I was out, the weather was hot. Ground temperature was around 114 degrees.

I decided to do what I do best. Make pictures of our culture. In New Orleans. In any kind of weather. It was very cold yesterday. Below freezing. That didn’t seem to matter. To me. To the second liners. To the benevolent society — the Perfect Gentleman — hosting the second line. The parade had already been postponed once because of bad weather. Heavy rain. They wouldn’t be denied a second time. They traded their normal Sunday slot for Saturday in order to walk.

Home.

I know a lot of people on the street. We don’t always know each other’s name. We just nod and say hello. Other times we do. They call me Mr. Ray. Or, Mr. Photographer. I was reminded of their feelings for me. So many of them were worried about me. They asked where I had been They asked if I was okay. They were happy to see me. This place, for better or worse, is home.

I pretty much beat myself up yesterday. No matter what, I usually walk about three miles a day. Sometimes with the dog who sees things. Sometimes with the rest of the dog family. Or, my family. The humans. Yesterday, between the second line, and the first parade of the Carnival Season and the dog walks, I walked around nine miles. I was tired last night. I’m fine today. Ready to go. To the next second line. The Lady Jetsetters. In a couple of hours.

The picture. For those of you who have arrived at Storyteller in the past few months, this is really what I do. The tinkering is for fun. If it becomes a kind of art, that’s great. But, I started my career as a photojournalist. Even today, it’s where I find refuge with or without a paying client. I understand the streets and I understand the people.

There isn’t much to this picture. See it. Try to find a little different angle. Shoot it. Post production is minimal. I just made a few improvements. I didn’t really want or try to change it into something else.


The last second line parade of the season.
The last second line parade of the season.

Yeah. This place feels like home. My kind of home.

We had one of the longest days ever. Since today closed the second line season I wanted to be in New Orleans. But, we were in Brooklyn. What to do? What to do?

We knew what to do.

They say that if God wanted man to fly he’d have given us wings. That’s what they say. Instead, we just got on plane. We arrived in plenty of time for me to get to the second line. We wouldn’t have, if the parade would have begun at what is the usual starting time for noon or 1pm. For some reason this one started at 3:30p.

The starting time of any kind of parade in New Orleans is very fluid.

This one got fluid all right.

At about 3:28 p the skies parted, lightning flashed, thunder boomed and God’s own rain storm began. Heavy rain. Sideways rain. Upside down rain. Inside out rain. Within minutes the streets were flooded. We were all drenched in about two seconds.

We all headed to the stoops and porches. It didn’t matter. We were already soaked.

The brass band was across the street on another stoop blasting out walking tunes. Some of them crossed the street and came to the stoop where we were taking refuge. They split a song, playing a little call and response.

And, the rain poured down.

And, we laughed. And talked. And danced.

That’s it. My home.

I made a lot of pretty good, but a little ragged, collection of pictures. We are real tired tonight. I’ll work on them and post a bunch of them for Tuesday. I promise.