Looking for subjects for my various projects — abandoned railroads, abandoned furniture, and unique examples of water — leads me to other places and things.
Like this one.
This is a gated fence, probably for road workers, that has been broken wide open. By itself, it’s meaningless. In the context of what you are looking at, it’s very dangerous. Beyond that guardrail in the mid-ground and in front of that bright grassy area, lies a two lane expressway. It’s an entry point where drivers are starting to put their foot on the gas pedal.
I’m was shooting from a residential area. Imagine if a child found this place. Or, a dog being chased by a child found this place. It could be a true tragedy.
I attempted to address it, even though his would be a great place to work during the blue hour. Deep blue, silhouetted trees, speeding cars. Wowie zowie. A picture in my back pocket.
The folks who maintain the road say it’s the property owner’s responsibility. The property owner says that it’s not on their property.
Crossed pointing fingers. Nothing gets done.
As a country, we are doing pretty well with that now. Aren’t we?
I reckon that yesterday’s post about spring was a fairly good one. That’s a good way to go out.
I’m not leaving. I’m just a little tired of photographing nature when I’m not even a nature photographer. I suppose it shows. Real nature photographers go places. Even if they stayed around here, they’d head out to the swamps, to the gulf, to the bayous that aren’t in the city.
I don’t even know the difference between most flowers. You know me. I describe flowers as a pink one, a yellow one, a blue flower. I make pictures on dog walks.
But, I am a fairly good street shooter being born and bred as a photojournalist. And, I don’t mean the kind of pictures that pass for street photography these days. You know the ones. Pictures taken from far across the street. Pictures taken of people from behind. Pictures taken of the street. All are fine if they are done for a reason.
But, most of the pictures I see on Facebook or Instagram are not done for a reason. They are made by people who are scared of other people. People who just “got” a camera and out the door they go. They declare their work to be street photography because they don’t know what else to call it. Or, themselves.
Why can’t they just say, “I’m a photographer and these are my pictures.”
I’ve just called myself a street photographer. Sort of. I wander the streets and photograph what I see. In my town. My city. If that makes me a street photographer, so be it. I don’t really care. I take pictures. For myself. For my clients. For my agencies. For you.
The pictures I make for myself are usually the ones I like best. That’s what you are going to see here. At least until the end of April. Maybe longer. Some will be “little” pictures like this one. Others will have a depth to them that makes them a “bigger” picture. We’ll see.
This picture. I started this little portfolio with beads on a fence because it says New Orleans. Even though most beads are thrown for Mardi Gras and a couple of other seasonal events like St. Patrick’s Day and so on, the beads don’t just disappear. They can’t. They are everywhere. These beads are fairly new. They haven’t faded yet, to the dull silvery-gray color that is the base of all plastic beads. With our extreme weather they will. I’m not sure how much experimenting I’ll do with this collection. As I said, these are more about photojournalism than not. The rules — well, my rules — say that you can’t do what I did with yesterday’s flower and call it street photography.
If you recall, I discovered a lot of “missing” photo files. Some were hidden under terrible collection names like “New Orleans General.”
That’s no help.
In my own defense, some of those collections were made 15 years ago. Along with most photographers, I hadn’t yet realized the importance of creating a good working SEO. For me, that is due in part to how I archive my pictures. I never keep them in one place. That was brought about by image losses caused by Hurricane Katrina. Instead, they live on portable hard drives and on a cloud. By cloud, I mean somebody else’s server.
Today, I keep my images filed with far more complete EXIF information, more complete captioning, and with a consistent labelling system. I’m pretty sure there will be no more “lost” images. Notice my phrase. “I’m pretty sure.” To be any more sure is like saying never. You know what they say about that. “Never say never.”
This is a new picture. It was never lost. I made it walking to a second line. I saw it. I stopped. How could I not take this picture?
There is a broader discussion happen right now about all those Mardi Gras beads. In fact, I’m going to a panel discussion about just that and how Mardi Gras has evolved over the years. The crux of the discussion is about cheap plastic beads that are made in China.
Should various krewe keep using them? Should they be banned in favor of other more krewe centric throws and a few better, glass beads?
To me there is almost no good reason for throwing the cheap beads. They plug up our sewers. After the last big flood the city went all out to clean out the traps and the sewer connections. The workers pulled out 34 tons of beads. That’s a lot of beads. That’s a public issue.
There are personal ones as well. We have tubs of beads stashed in a closet. We never look at them. We don’t even think about them. Yet, they accumulate year after year. We used to take them to a workshop to be recycled. They don’t accept them anymore because there are too many of them. Sometimes, I use them as the base to illegally fill a pothole. Stuff a tub of beads into the pothole, step on them to make sure they won’t sink and fill the top with this asphalt-like stuff you can buy in bags from Lowes or Home Depot.
Oh, the illegal thing? That’s what the city says. If our neighborhood NOPD see you, they pull up, park their car to block you from oncoming traffic and turn their red and blue lights on. In return we give them water, coffee or something freshly baked. They get it. Did I mention that we like our street cops? They rarely over react.
I’m going to publish “found” pictures for about the next week or so. I’ll take a break for Halloween and the things I saw. I’ll start that a week before the big spooky day. I’ll come back to this series immediately after that.
There has been a fair amount of rain. Not quite the deluge that the weather folks have been hollering about, but enough to cause parades to be rescheduled — forward, not back — and for one to be moved from Saturday to today.
That’s all fine. It gave me time to think about my Mardi Gras coverage. When I first returned from my time in the high desert, I photographed as much of the parade season as I could. Then, I noticed that a lot of my pictures had a sameness about them. So, I started picking and choosing parades a little bit. Until last year. I started out like a flash. And faded toward the end. They say that most things are not about how you start, but how you finish.
That is so true during the last days of Carnival. Every day builds up a little more, and more and more. Until it peaks on Mardi Gras Day.
I peaked well before that last year. Not this year. The rain gave me a good excuse not to work on the earliest days. To be sure, I work in the rain a lot. The wet stuff had nothing to do with it. I realized I wanted to be strong at the finish.
So, I’ll really start today with the Krewe of Barkus. Dogs. A parade for dogs. Maybe 3,000 or 4,000 dogs. Some in the krewe, some just registered for the parade and some just joining in. Obviously, the parade is important around here. With luck we won’t get rained on.
The next ten days are important to me. Hopefully, we’ll mostly be dry.
The picture. Very ironic, this one. Brand new Mardi Gras beads hung on an old fence. That’s normal. But look in front of the beads. Trash cans. Normally, when you catch beads, they either are saved in a closet or attic or given away to a charity recycler. Or… they head straight into the trash can, These folks made it easy on themselves. This is very efficient. Imagine that. Efficiency in New Orleans.
Oh yeah. I just saw it and pressed the button. I made the picture a little moody in post production.
The Battle of New Orleans. January 8, 1815. The last battle of the War of 1812.
This is where it happened. The big battle. I showed you one picture yesterday. Somewhere along the line, my touring buddy posted a few pictures of the battlefield on his blog. He wrote something like he’s interested in how I saw the same scene.
This is how I saw it.
There is a reason for this. Most art is driven by some kind of technology. Even painting. Painting? Huh? Really?
The availability of certain kinds of brushes affect the technique which affects the final painting. Paint formulas and color certainly change the look of the work. Think about the color blue. It was the last color to be invented. How were skies painted before that?
More than any genre of art, photography has been affected by technology from the time the oldest surviving permanent photograph was made in 1826, by Niecephore Niepce, until a second ago, when somebody took a picture of something. Probably a selfie. Or, a bad food picture. With their smart phone.
Think about that.
Unless the selfie is printed on paper, it does not exist anywhere except in the form of ones and zeros. That’s how it is today. Unless I print these two images that’s how they exist too. Very fragile ones and zeros. People who leave all their pictures on their phone or a cloud will be very unhappy one day. You’ll see. Look what happened to Delta Airlines the other day. One power failure and the entire system crashed.
Some people say that unless the image is printed somewhere it isn’t a photograph. I think that too. That’s why I make big Blurb Books. It’s a very good way of printing a year’s worth of work. A portfolio. Sort of inexpensively. It also forces me to edit (cull) ruthlessly.
I let extreme technology help create these two pictures. Remember, yesterday I wrote that I had to work at the worst time of day and light? Bright sun at about high noon. I messed with a color picture. I wasn’t all that happy with it. So today, I decided to take a different direction. I think this is a better solution. Sepia with a bunch of extra photo manipulation technique. I tried to make the pictures look like they could have been taken in 1815. And, left to rot on the battlefield.
They were built in 1940 as part of the Wagner Act, a Federal plan to subsidize housing for low-income families. They were low-rise, built of brick in the super block configurations that were considered attractive and modern in their time. By the 1970s most of them had deteriorated to the point where they were uninhabitable. But, families still lived there. I call the area Treme, but it is really located in the 4th Ward and is a sub-district of Mid-City. Treme is located in the 6th Ward.
They were closed after Hurricane Katrina, but were the first to re-open because they did not flood. They remained in terrible shape and spawned a large amount of crime. The 2000 Census said that there were about 2,450 people living there. In 2010, there was roughly half that number. The mayor at the time was Ray Nagin. He wanted to redevelop them as early as 2003. Hurricane Katrina pushed the process along. In May of 2009, he announced a plan to demolish all of the housing projects throughout city and redevelop them into mixed use housing. Demolition began in 2013. The former mayor is a guest of the Federal prison system. For ten years.
Another statistic. Prior to Hurricane Katrina there were 3,000 occupied housing project units throughout the city. As of the early 2015, there are 706 new replacement units.
In January 2015, the remaining housing units of the Iberville projects were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Many of the residents who lived there never came back. I’ve been reading quite a bit about where they went. Well, housing project residents in general. They are scattered all over the country. Even when they returned, rental property was scarce. And, expensive. It’s only gotten more expensive. Many relocated somewhat locally. To Jefferson Parish, on both sides of the river. Some live in St. Bernard Parish. Some live further upriver. They might come back for second lines and Mardi Gras. There is a good, but very long piece at www.slate.com. about just this issue. I can’t seem to copy the direct link. If you are interested go to their history section and look at the story for August 25, 2015. It’s yet more Katrina coverage. But, this is worthy of your time. You’ll come to understand why my photographs of the ruined places and second line parades are very intertwined.
The pictures. I liked the gallery approach well enough that I repeated it. It should work a little better for you. Storyteller should upload faster. Anyway, the pictures:
You know what those are. Mardi Gras beads. They are hanging on a piece of fence that surrounds what used to be a small strip mall. There was food store, a drugstore and a doctor’s office there. The doctor made a big deal of accepting all kinds of payment vouchers. I don’t know what the plans for the little mall are, but it’s pretty well covered in graffiti.
Rising. Construction goes on. The brick building is one of the original remaining structures. One of the historic ones. It’s been cleaned up considerably.
Most of the entire project remains behind fences. Please open the picture. When you do, you’ll be able to see the old buildings on the left. The newly built structures are on the right. Wasn’t I clever? I composed the picture so the fence post would divide the old and new. Pat. Pat. Pat. Right on my back.
I took a stroll in the French Quarter. I just photographed what I saw. This old wrought iron fence is one of the things that I stumbled upon. Fleur de lis as symbols are everywhere in this city. Some guy even stenciled them in gold on all the city trash cans. At least the ones in the Quarter.
I would have worked a little more on this particular scene. But, the poodle wouldn’t let me. For those of you who have been around a little while, you know that he thinks that he is the boss. I know that he is right. Understanding that is best for both of us.
I said that I would do more nature work. I did. Sometimes I can’t help myself. I just seem to head right for the junk pile. The abandoned stuff. Things that are falling apart.
This picture combines both subjects. Nature and dystopia. It also supports Neil Young’s words, “Rust never sleeps.” Either does nature. It just seeks stasis. It reclaims the silly stuff we’ve done to it.
I found this old abandoned and broken house in St. James Parish along Highway 18, which is River Road when you get further downriver near New Orleans. The house has been left on its own for a long time. There is no outdoor paint to speak of. There are two layers of fences. One is broken and falling down. The other fence doesn’t protect anything. There is still furniture inside that dates back to the 1920s. It’s ruined. That’s why it’s still there. I’m not sure whether the church next door is the owner. But, if they don’t own it, the house lies right on the property line.
The church is St. Philip Catholic Church. It is an old white structure that is still used for services. There is a wonderful cemetery behind it which was not our intended destination. You’ll see more pictures of this old house and the cemetery as the month wears on. Just in case… it is located in Vacherie, Louisiana. According to Wikipedia, Vacherie means cow shed in French. According to the French – English dictionary we use, it means a dirty trick. I dunno. Maybe it means dirty, tricky cow shed.
At any rate, Vacherie is plantation country. Oak Alley, Laura, Felicity and St. Joseph plantations are still there. We didn’t go to any of them. That wasn’t our intent. For once this week we were determined to stick with our intent. Oh, and for fans of the cable series, True Detective was made here.
I didn’t do much to this picture. I didn’t have to. Nature did it.
So. A friend of mine suggested I return to the scene of this crime and photograph the changes. I reckoned I could do this maybe once a week. The changes might be tiny, but at least I would know when they happened. So, last week I returned to “the place.” It’s across the street from most of the pictures I published yesterday.
What did I find?
A big change. The chain link had been curtained off so that you couldn’t see what is going on inside. Why they did this is a mystery to me. There is about a three or four-foot space from the houses to the fence. Nothing happens there. The houses haven’t been tagged. There is no way that any more damage could be done to these houses. Oddly, this is the only place where the fence has been draped with plastic. I guess someone at some level of some kind of control must have seen the picture I published about two weeks ago. Or, somebody complained. Or, or, or….
So. I made the picture anyway. Then I took a walk along the parameter of the fence. I found a hole. So I did what any five-year old boy would do. I looked through it. Yep. I was right. Nothing changed. So, I made the upper picture. I had no choice. This is documentary work. In case you are wondering, the bottom picture is new. It is not the same picture I posted a couple of weeks ago. It just looks like it. I like the quality of light just before dusk. Maybe I should go back during business hours and ask somebody why they needed to waste time and money hiding the view. Does it really matter whether somebody sees inside?
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