It started by binging 11-22-1963 on Hulu. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a Stephen King book made into something else entirely. I won’t tell you much in case you do decide to see it. The title should tell you that the book is about the assassination of JFK. I can also tell you that a guy travels back in time in hopes of stopping it. Time intervenes in many ways.
Anything else could ruin it for you. Don’t multi-task. Just watch it.
I’ll tell you one more thing. The very end isn’t quite what you think. It was very sad for me. It brought up distant memories of people in my past. Some were lost to events. Some were lost to time and place. Others were just lost.
Do you ever think about what it would be like if you could be with them again? Could you pick up right where you left off? Would it be awkward for you? For both of you? Would you just be reeling in the years?
I don’t know. I didn’t go to my high school reunion. I was injured. It was the start of my back problems. I also didn’t really feel like it. Our next big one comes up in 2021. I have to think about that. It’s my high school’s 100th anniversary. It should be a big deal. I dislike big deals.
The picture. I stacked and layered four images together. I filtered it. I added stuff. I subtracted stuff. This is the picture that emerged from my experimentation.
I did another experiment. It was prompted by this very bloody weekend in New Orleans. As I write this at about noon on Sunday, 15 people have been shot. Of those, five are dead. I made a picture of a brass band playing during a second line. I layered it with red stuff that looks like blood. It is powerful. I just don’t know if I should publish it here.
To those of you who said that they wanted to see a picture of me in my seersucker suit, you should all know better. Saying “a picture or it didn’t happen” is an Instagram thing. I won’t ever play that game. And, when did I ever publish a picture of myself on Storyteller? It’s not that kind of blog.
The news these days hasn’t been so good. In fact, yesterday’s news was downright bleak. Like anyone who is loosely called an artist, that affects me. As it does, us all. After yesterday’s picture, I thought I would publish something lighter. Something brighter. Something happy.
The top picture is of a magnolia. A southern thing.
Yesterday’s news turned worse and worse and worse.
I made another version of the top picture. In addition to cropping it, I made it very dark by stacking images. The bottom picture is the result. I like it less than the bright magnolia, but it represents how I’m feeling these days.
One friend, from Albuquerque, saw yesterday’s picture of the jet as what it is. Foreboding. Another friend, from Dallas said, after seeing all the news yesterday, that “this too shall pass.” Normally, I’d agree. But, appointing a supreme court justice is a generational thing. It will pass in about 40 years. Assuming I’m even alive, I will be around 105 years old. Likely, “I too will pass first.”
I’m starting to think the saying, “keep a full tank of gas and live close to the border,” is becoming real. What country wants American refugees?
Probably with more sadness. A lot of you know this is a pretty musical house. And, I tell you this is getting old. Very old. Probably one of my favorite Glenn Frey songs goes a little like this…
“There’s trouble on the streets tonight
I can feel it in my bones, I had a premonition
That he should not go alone
I knew the gun was loaded
But I didn’t think he’d kill
Everything exploded, and the blood began to spill
So baby, here’s your ticket
Put the suitcase in your hand, here’s a little money now
Do it just the way we planned
You be cool for twenty hours, and I’ll pay you twenty grand
I’m sorry it went down like this
And someone had to lose, it’s the nature of the business
It’s the smuggler’s blues, smuggler’s blues”
— Smugglers Blues — Glenn Frey & Jack Tempchin
— RIP Glenn Frey
You know where I work. That may be why I like this song. It just wrote to a friend of mine that I work in “sporty” neighborhoods.
I thought I’d talk about portraits. Street portraits. Ones that are made in a few minutes. Ones the depend on a smile, a little photographer’s patter, good situational knowledge, knowing your gear and a lot of luck.
So, let’s start. There’s a lot of talk about street photography these days. Actually, that’s getting a little old too. It started when Fuji, Olympus and Sony started releasing small but high quality cameras. Overnight, seemingly, all sorts people became street photographers. Yes. Of course street photography was around long before that. I could rattle off about 50 names of really good street practitioners. Mostly, they worked with Leicas. Their pictures defined street photography. If they didn’t directly engage their subjects, they made pictures that told a story.
Today? Not so much.
There are pictures floating around all over the internet that claim to be examples of street photography. The pictures have been taken from across the street, from behind the apparent subject, often from the hip.
It appears the people who took the pictures were afraid of their subjects. That’s no good. I’m not sure that the bulk of those pictures mean anything. To anybody. Yeah. Sure, sometimes a picture taken from behind the subject adds to the graphics of the image and tells a story. Sometimes, it’s the light that makes the picture shot across the street. But, that’s rare. As in maybe one out of a thousand. Or more.
So I say, engage your subject. Talk to them. Make a friend. Don’t sneak up behind them. Take a portrait. It’s not the easiest thing to do. I’m sort of shy. At times I can be awfully introverted. Stick a camera in my hand and I’m Superman. I’m not stupid fearless, but my personality changes. I guess I like learning about people. I like seeing them be real in their real place. In their neighborhood. During a quiet moment in a normally chaotic event.
Here’s few things that I like to do.
I try real hard to make an environmental portrait. The person and their place. But, I’m fluid and flexible. Sometime a frame filling face makes the picture. Like the lead picture on this post. Or, the picture I call “Star-Star.” It’s also not the “decisive moment.” That’s different kind of street photography.
The second thing I believe is that you have to know your photo gear. You can’t be fumbling around while you are trying to take a picture of somebody that you just met two minutes ago.
Third. Smile. This is supposed to be fun. You’ll set your subject at ease.
Fourth. Don’t sneak around. Ask. Talk. If your intended subject asks why you are taking the picture, tell them what attracted them to you. See the picture called “It’s all in the signs?” I quickly explained that he was standing in front of a great background. When I was about half-finished I flipped the camera around and showed him the picture on the LCD. Once he saw that, he started using his hands. Yes. He is the proud — I hope — owner of a signed Ray Laskowitz print.
Fifth. This is a huge benefit. You know how I wrote I work in sporty neighborhoods? I’ve made myself known to enough people that I’m fairly safe because of that.
Oh. See that picture called, “New Work?” It’s really new. I made that on Sunday walking back from the second line. I saw the sign. I saw the man. I asked if he minded. He nodded for me to take pictures. I think he’s a ringer. Heh! He kept moving through the light in various poses. He knew what he was doing. Sometimes that happens. That makes me smile.
At first look, these children are being held behind bars. Heh! No way. They are inside the Young Men Olympian Jr. club house getting ready to walk in the second line parade. I think, like most children, they’d rather be outside than inside. They are letting their feelings be known. I understand. I’m a lot like they are. I’d rather be outside too.
Unfortunately, all the walking with two long second line parades over rough streets, through heavy crowds and avoiding the paraders who were moving very quickly, kept me down for a day while I recovered. Inside. Mostly sleeping.
That was my yesterday.
Today, most of me is fine. But my poor surgically repaired hip was not happy. It’s still not happy. But, there is progress. Now it just hurts a lot. Mostly in one place. Rather than all over my lower back.
I told you. Photographing these parades costs me a lot.
The interesting thing is that once I start walking with the parade I really don’t feel all that bad. Between staying focused on the work and the brass band music, my mind escapes to another place. There really is something to mind over matter.
If you walk a couple of miles with the parade, guess what? You have to walk back to wherever you parked the car. The energy that got you there is gone. So is the adrenaline. Instead of being light on your feet; you feel every rock, pebble, crack and broken bit of pavement on our terrible streets. I could get started on the streets, but you don’t have days to read my rant. One day, in the far distant future, I hope to drive down my own street without fear of braking an axle.
The pictures. This kind of work is always F8 and be there. It’s really a matter of practicing a lot. You know. See the picture, react, press the button and move on.
I had to come out on Sunday. I had to be part of the Perfect Gentlemen Father’s Day second line. I had to make pictures because last week was very, very hard. A lot of people left the planet. In New Orleans. And, in Charleston. Some I knew. Some I wished that I knew. My way of honoring them and mourning for them is to do what I do best. I don’t really do that much. I take pictures. I write a little bit.
I’m doing both. For them. For me.
For me. It was a little more than an offering.
As you know, I haven’t been all that well. There are two issues. They are unrelated. Supposedly.
One was repairable. I did that. I’m supposed to walk a little. About fifteen minutes, four times a day. That is, until I get stronger and the repair heals. Then, I should walk more. Until I’m somewhat normal. I’m not so sure my doctor meant that I should walk about four miles, sometimes backwards and sometimes at a jog, in typical New Orleans summer heat. While I was walking, back stepping and jogging in the parade my repair felt fine. But, on my return back to where I parked that changed a little. Well, a lot. I hurt. I’ve rested some and I feel better. The other issue is chronic and forever. They tell me that I’m probably one of the lucky ones because it will likely never progress. Now. The data is with me. I guess that time will tell.
Yep. I was right in the middle of things. Right where I like to be. And the middle was kind of messy. Normally, a second line starts from a building. Could be a house. A bar. A club. A cafe. This time, it just sort of started in the middle of the street. The band started it playing. DAM — Dignified Achievable Men Social & Pleasure Club — just sort of assembled and started walking from the middle of nowhere. The ladies — CIA Ladies Social & Pleasure Club — where not pleased. They ended up walking through what amounted to an uncontrolled crowd. Then things fell into place. I’d say, “like normal.” But, this is New Orleans. We aren’t normal.
I’ll post more pictures throughout the week. Sunday was a good day. You should see the pictures.
I’ve shown it to you a few times. Well, not this scene. There are broken bricks and bits of glass in this picture. There used to be a graffiti covered building here; made of concrete, brick and iron. Homeless people took shelter here. Sometimes they lived here. They even cooked here. One of them offered me a meal. How’s that for irony? Me? I have stuff. A house. A car. A computer. Money to spend. That guy apparently had nothing, but a little bit of food. He wanted to share it with me.
That’s a whole other line of thought. Not for today.
There used to be a building here. As we say down in New Orleans, “It ain’t der no mo’.”
When I got to this location I was confused. I usually find my way around by local landmarks. Like buildings. When I realized where I was, I got a little bit angry. Then, I got a little bit sad. I liked that building. It could have been restored. Gentrified. Sheesh, hipsters could have turned it into expensive condos. Or, it could have be repurposed to give people living on the street a home.
This picture is a great example of why I get emotionally, mentally and psychically tired when I work the way that I do. I’ve never seen anybody take a picture of this scene. Yes. Sure. We all photograph Jackson Square. We all photograph St. Louis Cathedral. Inside and out. But, I’ve never seen anybody include the wrought iron fence that surrounds Jackson Square. Not even me. Certainly not in this way.
When I get my mind, heart and soul in synch and I’m in the zone, I see things I normally don’t. This is one of those pictures. I was passing Jackson Square on the downriver side heading back into the center of the Quarter and I looked up. Wow! There it was. How many times have I passed this way? I have no idea. A lot. But, on this night with all my senses functioning I saw a picture that was hiding. Hiding in plain sight. Of course, this level of mental focus is exhausting. A couple of hours at this level and I’m done.
Let this be a lesson to you.
Seriously. Pictures are lurking everywhere. They are usually right in front of us. And, we don’t see them.
The title comes from an old Stephen Stills song that he recorded in 1972 with one of his bands called Manassas. It was a pretty song then. He re-recorded it live with Crosby, Stills & Nash in 2012. It’s stunning now. It guess that it had to marinate some. For 40 years.
The song goes like this.
“There’s a place. I can get to. Where I’m safe. From the city blues. And it’s green. And it’s quiet. Only trouble was. I had to buy it…”
The legend goes like this. Stills took a break from a musical career that was spinning out of control and moved to England. He bought a house that was owned by Ringo Starr who bought it from Peter Sellers. It came with a gardener. Johnny. He was made famous in the movie called, “Being There.”
Anyway. I rediscovered the song. I’ve been playing it a lot, for many reasons.
One day when I needed a little break and felt like taking “little pictures,” I wandered around our garden and took these…
Most of you know that last week was a bit rough. Anytime you attend two funerals in one week, you know it’s rough. But, today the sun sort of shined in a little different way. We were out looking for pictures, when I decided to pass through Treme. There are local jazz musicians hanging out there and plenty of run down stuff. Both subjects that I like to photograph. When we made the turn onto the street where I wanted to look, we started seeing little groups of people standing around talking. They were dressed well. Uh oh. We missed a second line.
It got really good. We parked and started walking towards the funeral home. I saw three men sitting and talking. The man in the picture was one of them. I asked if I could take his portrait and I asked what we missed. He nodded yes and his friend said, “A second line for his brother, who just passed.” My heart was in my mouth. I expressed our condolences and the man in the picture said, “There’s no reason for y’all to be sad.” We told him there was and told him about our week. The three of them asked us to sit with them, gave us drinks — ice tea — and we all talked.
Uno Mundo. One world. We may all be a little different. Culture. Color. Talents. Lifestyle. The way we think.
At the end of the day, I know one thing to be true. We all have the same emotions. We are happy. We are joyous. We sing. We dance. We pray. Some days we are sad. And, luckily, some days we find each other and hold on. We needed today. I didn’t know it at the time. But, we did.