I made this picture a few days ago. I posted it on Instagram. That meant it popped up on Facebook and Twitter. But, you didn’t see it.
It’s a picture that surprised me when I assembled and layered it. So, you get to see it. My apologies to those of you who saw it on other social media. At least you get a chance to see it again.
That’s some ego, eh?
I generally call this picture a colorful mess. And, so it is. That’s what it makes it a lot of fun.
A local political note. Last night was a great one. Governor John Bel Edwards was re-elected by a very slim margin. This means three things.
He won in a very red state. For sure, New Orleans is blue. That’s about it.
The President of The United States came down here three times to campaign for the Republican candidate, Eddie Rispone. Many people thought that this election was a referendum on the president. Think about that.
The election was very close. About a percentage point. That’s why every vote matters. I don’t know, but it seems to me that my vote could have put him over the top. Or, my neighbor’s vote. Or, the family two blocks down. Don’t ever say that your one vote is meaningless. It means something.
Even though we are five days from Summer Solstice, and the longest day of the year, those of us who live in the south have had summer-like weather since some time in May. We had a few cooler days, but for the most part we feel the heat of 90 degree days. And, we are moist from the humidity.
Even though I seemingly jumped the gun, I didn’t. You understand.
The foreground of the picture is composed of summer weeds and leaves. It is photographed against a background of almost pure bokeh. The out of focus part of the picture. Everything is backlit.
Truth be told, this summer has been a heat-filled bit of drudgery. As I’ve written, it’s hot mostly everywhere.
Then I saw this little scene.
A nascent picture that almost brought me back to the days of my youth. A time when summers didn’t seem so hot. When summers seemed to be an endless time of sand lot baseball, trading baseball cards, and a little later, hanging out and listening to music with friends.
Like everything, change inserted it’s pointy little head. I grew up. Moved away. Worked. Made millions of pictures. Did whatever it is I did. Now, I’m here.
Sheesh. I can file for Medicare today. August 1, 2018. You can do it three months before your big retirement birthday. Then, there’s retirement. Turns out that if you want maximum social security benefits, people born when I was, must wait until their 66th birthday. But, you can start a year early and only lose a few dollars a month.
Artists, in general, never really retire. We can’t. We aren’t made that way. We might cut back. We might hustle a little less, but we don’t stop. That would probably kill most of us.
Obviously deadline and dates have brought me to this discussion. On the other hand, a lot of us are talking about it. A guy who helped me with the more musical part of my career just traveled home to see his 91-year-old mother in Connecticut. He’s on a journey through his past. He’s not liking it. At least, he is finding some of the things of his youth. Carvel soft ice cream. Thin pizzas that are only made on the East Coast. White clam sauce over pasta.
I’ll leave this here. For now.
The picture. I looked up. There it was. Funny how that happens. I brightened it up. I added some color. I made it into a summer’s day long ago. If I look hard enough I can see a baseball flying over those bushes. You can look too. Maybe your youthful summer will appear.
I made this image last night. I showed my neighbor today, before I was ready to show you. The first thing that she was drawn to is that little ghost-like shape near the middle left on the bridge’s trestle. She saw it as a spirit. She called this picture, “Voodoo Bridge.” That’s the title of this post. I don’t have a better idea.
I saw this image as an illustration of something that I always say about nature. She never loses. She seeks stasis. Eventually everything goes back to her.
I was further influenced by something I was watching on Amazon Prime about Alexander the Great and his explorations. Apparently, he travelled into the current Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. It’s mostly desert today. But, once upon a time it was green, filled with water. Cities, towns and villages flourished. About 1,000 of them. Today, they are relics. Piles of stone.
My neighbor saw the picture differently. She saw it as something mystical. A little spiritual. And, haunting. In many ways, I like that better.
Which brings me to one of my muses. The late Beatle, John Lennon. Whenever he was asked what his songs meant, he replied, “Whatever you want them to mean.”
There you have it. The artist brings everything to the work. The viewer makes his or her own meaning from it. That is the beauty of it. Many artists don’t like that, especially after they’ve taken the time to make a statement through their art. Too bad. That’s the way it is.
One more thing. A kind of housekeeping note. For as long as I pursue this path I’m not going to talk so much about technique. For me, and many of you, the pictures have become transcendent. Art is art. Besides, if these new works were paintings, I doubt you’d ask me what kind of brush I used. Or, what brand of paint.
Yesterday morning was one of those times. The light. The color. The subject came together. In front of my face. Yes. The dog was with me. It was her walk. But, I’m not sure she saw this. It’s well above her normal point of view. It’s likely that she did. She sees everything. But, this isn’t one of “What the Dog Saw” series. This is what Ray saw. In the morning.
This picture is simple. See it. Shoot it. Process it. Bring the color up just a bit to keep the picture within the range of how I saw it. And, done.
For just about everywhere in the country that means wildly changing weather, often in the passing of an hour or less. Further north that means tornadoes and hail. Down here in the south that means bright and sunny one minute, darkness the next, and sideways rain just behind. For about ten minutes.
Yep. People see, feel and hear the hard rain. They seek shelter. Ten minutes later they stick their hands out to feel the strength of the rain and usually just go back about their business.
This place is Arabi. In St. Bernard Parish. For the most part, the neighborhood looks about like many places in New Orleans. 1800s houses. Victorian gingerbread. Shotgun houses. Doubles. Camelbacks. Smallish mansion-looking houses.
There is also some heavy industry. See that bright blue building and the brick building behind it? That’s Domino Sugar Corporation. At least the plant the processes sugar almost directly from freighters. There’s one in the background on the right. And, that concrete fence that forms a nice leading line? That’s the levee. On the other side is the Mississippi River.
But, for me, those are just objects the help to establish the picture.The real picture is those layered storm clouds. And, the ominously colored yellow light. I didn’t make that light to suit the mood. It was the mood.
One of these days, I’ll have to walk the neighborhood. And, take pictures of whatever I see. Although it sits on the border of The Lower 9th ward and a completely different parish, it is fairly safe. That’s something these days.
Art. They say all art is about the maker. That most meaning is brought to that same art by the viewer.
Mistakes. I’m great at making them. I may have pretty much made a year old mistake. Most of my 2015 work that you’ve seen ‘s either Mardi Gras culture, Dystopian views of the city, or my kind of nature photography — which is really cheating because well, let’s just say that it is.
A friend of mine recently passed through. I took him out shooting. With a camera. Not a gun. Sheesh. I gotta be careful with every word. The first time was mostly for a smallish second line in Central City. We explored the Bywater a little. The second time was out to the Lower 9th Ward. Those places interest me. They make me happy because in the last five years I’ve watched them progress. But, to the first time visitor they look broke down, ruined, forgotten. Like one of our nicknames, “The City that Care Forgot.”
What I did’t do, stupidly, was direct him to Uptown, to Lakeview, to the places where recovery really has taken hold. We live Uptown. In the Garden District. Yes. Sure, our streets look like Berlin 1946. Our water pipes need serious work. And, our power lines? We’ll let’s just say if two squirrels meet on a power line, we might not have electricity for a couple of hours.
But, it’s a seriously pretty place. The people who rate such things, say that we are the best neighborhood in the country. Not, the most pricey. That’s in the Bay Area or up the Hudson River near New York City. Just the best. I don’t care about that. I just know that one neighborhood in New Orleans probably doesn’t look like another. Even in the general area called Uptown, the neighborhoods differ dramatically in just a few hundred yards.
In an exchange of comments and on his blog, my buddy — he is among a lot of others — said that New Orleans is a tourist place. For people who want to party hard. Well, yeah sure. The French Quarter is certainly that. But, as I always say to visitors, “Get the hell out of Quarter and see the rest of the city.” Or, at least view the Quarter from a different point of view like the Steamboat Natchez pictures. I don’t see a bar or club in that picture. He also said we are run down and dirty. Hmmm. Everywhere? We’d better move. Right now.
By the way, he’s not the first or only person to say that.
I said earlier this year, at around its turn from 2015, that you sort of guided me to what this blog should be. I took your comments very seriously. But, as they say,”Never tell God your plans.” So we got sick. With some weird upper respiratory cold-like thing. It took forever to get healthy. I’m much better now.
It’s time to do what I said I’d do. Prettier pictures of places that you can come see when you visit. Places away from the most common of tourist locations. How’s that?
I awoke today with just about everything that can beep or buzz, beeping or buzzing. David Bowie left the planet. It’s the big, trending topic on just about all social media. In traditional media too. It seems like it’s the conversation of everyone on the planet that he just left. I’d show you a couple of pictures of him. But, my newest are twenty years old. And, still I don’t own them. Let that be a lesson to you all.
I did the next best thing. These pictures. I made them yesterday at the Lady Jetsetters 25th Anniversary second line parade. Look at them. They’ll tell you just about everything you need to know about anything. It wasn’t my doing.
Funny thing. When I took them, I didn’t think I’d done much. I shot them pretty much on auto pilot. I’m sick. Maybe I made myself sicker by walking three miles photographing this parade. But, well. I dunno. I had to. You’ll see more pictures as the week goes on. They are subtle. Or sublime, which is a tricky word. Go too far into that direction and boredom sets in.
So, back to David Bowie. If you use Spotify, go there. They produced a play list, set list, song list of his work. It’s very, very good. If you are of a certain age, the memories will just come flooding back.
No matter what, listen to his last album. “Black Star.” It was released on Friday to incredible reviews. It is transcendent. No question. Especially “Lazarus,” when he says goodbye. It’s not sad. It won’t bring you down. Quite the opposite. After all… it opens with “Look up. I’m in heaven.”
You know, in the past three months, we’ve lost a couple of great musicians who meant a lot to me. Yes. Of course, I’m sad today. Just as I was a few months ago. But, I’m also humbled and very, very grateful to walk on the planet at the same time that they did.