I

showed this picture another similar one to a friend of mine who plays in the gallery world. He said these pictures are worth a lot in that world.

I suppose, but I really don’t see it. I made these pictures because they were there to be made. Eventually, these pictures will become parts of a book. I certainly never saw them as having interest in the art world.

I’m not even sure they are worth much in the so-called photography fine art world. So-called because a photographer claims to be a fine art guy and shows a picture of a sunset or something just as banal as that. How is that art of any kind?

All art is autobiographical. The viewer brings meaning to it. That’s how it works. How is a sunset that 239 people photographed autobiographical?

I like sunsets well enough. I rarely photograph them because most are mundane. But, when the sky goes crazy I’m out there with everybody else. I never think of that work as fine art. If that is fine art what is Van Gogh or Degas?

There is a group of galleries that do show and sell photography as art, but it is nothing like a sunset picture or a snapshot of a flower. The photographers who they represent are artists in sheep’s clothing.

I just don’t see my pictures of broken buildings as a match for them. Maybe they are.

I’ve always wanted to be an artist. Heh!

T

here isn’t much that qualifies as technical in this picture.

But, there is a technique to making a picture like this.

Most of these abandoned places are in funky neighborhoods. You have to be careful.

You need to use situational awareness.

Look in all of your car’s mirrors before you get out. When you get out head straight to your subject with that photographer’s swagger I wrote about a few days ago.

Then, pull out your weapon and fire a few rounds in the air. That’s how we greet each other in New Orleans.

Of course, I’m kidding.

Guns bring more guns. Never shoot one in broken neighborhoods or any neighborhood. Just look into a passerby’s eye and nod pleasantly.

There have been times when I’ve done that only to get a reply back, “Hey Mister Photographer do you remember me? You took a picture of me at so so second line. Do you think I could get a picture?”

Then, in this case, he said there are too many dealers — and he points to a group of houses — and then said, “I’ll just hang wicha while you take pictures.”

He had my back. He got his pictures.


One night, lonely.

S

ometimes the pictures are better along the way rather than at the event I was going to.

I was going to photograph Krewe du Vieux which is one of the earliest parades of Carnival. The parade was as I expected, too crowded and nowhere to do work arounds. Oh yeah, with the exception of a few pools of light, everything was in shadows.

I made some okay pictures at the parade, but this was the best picture of the night. It’s prime French Quarter. It’s got a food store that mostly sells alcohol, a bike and a guy in a hoody waiting to do God knows what.

I think this was the beginning of Mardi Gras 2020, which means two months before we were blamed for holding a massive super spreader event before anybody knew what CoVid 19 could do.

It was so weird back then. In many ways, I’m glad I stayed out of the crowds as best I could. Which brings me to…

We’ve been watching a Netflix produced three season show called “Formula 1-1, Drive to Survive.” It’s a deep story about the story of Grand Prix drivers and the teams behind them. It’s very, very good.

We are into the third season. 2020. It took us right back to the confusion of the early days of the pandemic.

The first event starts in Australia, where the drivers and teams have just started hear about this new virus. They had no idea what to do.

Quick backstory. The drivers are great athletes. The train in all sorts of ways to handle the stress of driving a car at 200 mph without dying. They are smart as hell. And, they are personable.

Back to the story. One driver finds out that the virus is called Corona Virus. He walks over to a hospitality tent, pulls out a bunch of beers, hands them all around and he kiddingly says, “This will take care of it.” Corona Beer.

Anyway.

The first five events are cancelled. Everybody goes home. The first Grand Prix is held in Austria. Everything has changed. The teams are wearing masks. The drivers, who normally sign autographs with whatever pen they are given, tell their fans they can’t use other people’s pens.

Keep in mind, this is real life. There are no actors.

One more story.

In 2019, there is a heartbreaking accident. It starts out with Lewis Hamilton (at the time he was four time world champion and the face of Formula 1 Motorsports. He’s now six time champion and still the face of the sport.) He’s casually talking to some media and looking up at a monitor. He says, “Oh wow,” and stops the interview. His eyes were wide open.

There was a horrible accident. When Netflix didn’t show it, I knew. There was a fatality. A young driver racing in the Formula 2 category was killed.

The next scenes are heart rending. Drivers, like anyone who does something dangerous, are brothers. It doesn’t matter if they are normally competitors. They gathered on the track, in circle. They prayed. They shared stories about the driver. His helmet was on a stand. One by one they put their hands on it as they left to go to their cars.

Then, they drove as hard as they could.

Y’

all know what I’m going to say about this picture. There’s nothing to it. Except that I can hand hold a camera in available darkness.

You probably can’t.

One day I won’t be able to hand hold a camera at night. That might be now since I haven’t tried in a long time.

We’ll have to test that out one night.

But, not tonight.

I have other work to do since I slept on and off until 2:39 pm.

That’s what watching Netflix will do.

It was some start to my very busy schedule. I’ll start tonight and work tomorrow and catch up.

I think.

Let’s get back to the picture for a minute.

One of the reasons I learned to hand hold a camera is because of a theory called, “Shoot and scoot.”

That means if I keep moving there is a lesser chance of being mugged or killed for my photo gear and my wallet.

Think about it. Using a tripod forces me to stay in one place, maybe for too long. On the other hand, it could be used as a weapon if the timing was right.

I’d rather not need to do that.

So, I make a few pictures and move on. I tuck my camera under my shoulder so that in low light it’s not easily seen.

It’s worked for a long time.

Then, there’s the swagger theory.

It works this way. Working photographers sometimes develop a pretty good way of walking, like a swagger, but not. It works best, when you’ve got about a third of cigar in your mouth and are surrounded by smoke.

Nobody messes with that.


Down on the corner.

Yesterday was rough.

Today is better. Much better.

I thought that I would post a picture from a couple of Mardi Gras ago when I was walking to photograph Krewe du Vieux from the French Quarter side, rather than down in The Bywater where it begins.

I’m pretty sure that this was the best picture of the night even though it had nothing to do with the actual event.  It’s a very typical French Quarter scene made in front of a food store. I happened to stop on the corner to let a car pass by and saw this. I waited until the guy in the hoodie was in the light and made a picture.

That’s all it was. Luck. Photographer’s luck.

 

 

 


A hungry neighborhood.

Chinese food. In Central City. Once. A long time ago.

Once it was a corner food store. Now, it’s just one of many abandoned buildings. I’m not sure of the condition. From the outside it looks like it’s falling down. Once you are inside, well you never know. It could be functional.

This picture is the by-product of the plans I told you about yesterday. As I stroll through my archives I find pictures. That you haven’t seen. That I’ve forgotten about. You may get a steady flow of them unless I actually go out and make some Christmas pictures. I should probably do that. The Avenue is really pretty this year. And, I have a couple of ideas.

That’s the important thing. Ideas.

Making a picture is often pretty easy. Figuring out what to photograph is the hard part. Or, as an old friend used to say, “Taking the picture is easy. Getting there is hard.”

If you read yesterday’s Storyteller, you know that I’m full of ideas. That’s good. It wouldn’t be so good if I was just sitting here and wondering… what to do, what to do, what to do?

The picture. I’ve probably passed this old store a hundred times. Finally, I had some pretty light. I made the picture. It was waiting for me. Yes. I enhanced it. That yellow sign was pretty faded. The work took a little masking. I haven’t done that in a while. But, it was fun. That’s another reason…


Super fresh meat.
Super fresh meat.

I’ve been to this place. I’ve explored it inside and out.

You’ve seen it. A couple of times. This is the building that’s collapsing on itself. Some of the second story is laying on the first floor.

Every now and then while I’m passing by, I look at it again. The lowish sunlight intrigued me, so I stopped and walked around. I did exactly what they told me never to do. I shot directly into the sun. It almost blinded me, but the camera was fine. The sensor too. I helped it out a little — well, a lot — in post production. I wanted the building to look as falling apart to you as I saw it.

The thing to really check out is the sign. Look closely at the little symbol-thing to the left. It took me a couple of seconds but I realized what it is supposed to be. A T-bone Steak. Now, isn’t that attractive? Mouth watering, indeed.


Inside the old food store.
Inside the old food store.

I went back.

I found a way inside. That wasn’t so hard. The side door was open. I walked in. It’s a little weird entering a big building. You never know who or what is lurking inside. I generally creep around quietly. But, I’d rather have a little backup. Although, I’m not exactly sure what good that would do if things went south.

Before I write further, please drop to the bottom picture. Remember that? I showed you that place about a week or so ago. The top three pictures are from the inside. I made them maybe two days ago.

You know how I like to tinker with pictures to give the viewer a sense of what I felt. Check out the top picture. Looks like I did that, right? Wrong. It looks just about how I found it. I didn’t have to do anything. What you are seeing is a building rotting away.

The second picture is a little weird for me to look at closely. That was the food store. See those boarded up doors way up in front, in the middle right? Where the light is peeking through? The last time I was inside, I walked through those doors. Although the store was already abandoned, it still looked like a store. The doors were still made of glass.

You might also notice that big square of light on the floor. The roof is three stories up. That means there is a hole in the roof and the two floors in between. Normally, that means fire damage. There aren’t any burn marks.

The third picture shows how I really entered a couple of days ago. See? It really wasn’t all that difficult.

You know what the bottom picture is. You’ve seen it. Not all that long ago.

A lot of graffiti.
A lot of graffiti.

Holes in the walls.
Holes in the walls.

Falling down... sooner to later.
Falling down… sooner to later.


Falling down... sooner to later.
Falling down… sooner to later.

If it seems like I’m coming and going, that’s because I am.

I made this picture leaving yesterday’s second line and on my way to some place else. I’ll show you a few more second line pictures as the week passes.

I’ve actually been inside this place. When it was alive. When they owners actually sold groceries. And cigarettes. And beer. A lot of beer.

Cheap wine, too.

I’ve been inside after it closed. After the storm. I photographed it from the inside out. Now the front door is boarded up. The walls are falling down. I’m willing to bet that the city will soon condemn and demolish it.

Too bad.

I’m also willing to be that at one time, it provided somebody’s living. It probably gave them with shelter too. Live upstairs. Work downstairs. A lot of people lived that way. The original work from home plan. Except they actually worked on something tangible. A grocery store. A restaurant. A barber shop. Small businesses like that.

The picture. Whew. I don’t know where to start. First, it’s a drive by. I tried to get out and take the picture, but I couldn’t find the angle. The building was best photographed from the driver’s seat.

I did stop. Right in the middle of the intersection.

Some guys hanging out on one of the stoops must have been wondering what I thought I was doing. This neighborhood, and street, has been plagued by a number of drive-bys. Of another much more violent nature. When I saw them studying me, I held my camera up out of the window so they could see it. They nodded in response. I don’t want them diving for safety. Or thinking that they had to defend themselves. Especially that.

Post production. Oh my. It’s all done using OnOne software. Right from the RAW file. That was a little test. They are making a big move to be the only software a photographer needs. It works just fine. No Adobe. Yippee.

Then to post production. First. I exposed it sort of backwards. I exposed more for the shadows because I knew they would disappear once I started tinkering with it. Digital capture normally really digs into the shadows and opens them up. By exposing for them I ran the risk of really blowing out the highlights. Then I used a whole lot of manipulations techniques. I tried a couple of times. I failed a couple of times. Finally, the picture sort of found me.  It’s messy. Dirty. Trashy.

That’s what I was after.


Kim's Supermarket
Kim’s Supermarket

Failed plans. In New Orleans, neighborhood corner grocery stores are called, food stores. This one was a super market. The name change didn’t seem to matter.

Central City, New Orleans.


Back to the 7th Ward.
Back to the 7th Ward.

For those of you who have been around for a while, you might recognize this place.

It’s falling down at a very rapid pace.

If you look between the two windows, you’ll see a giant rusted metal sheet. I think it covers a window. There used to be a painted of Our Lady of Guadalupe attached to it. She’s gone. The window to the right of that metal sheet used to be boarded up. The boards are broken. The window glass is broken. It’s gone. There used to be a formal dining room chair out there on the sidewalk too. It’s gone.

This building was a store at one time. Likely, a neighborhood “food store.” The diagonal door was the entrance to the store. Plywood covered the old original doors. Most of it is gone. I can’t even begin to say what’s going on upstairs. I’m trying to decide if the places where the wood siding has fallen away is brick or that kind of asphalt fake brick siding that was popular once upon a time. If it’s brick — it might be because there are bits of broken brick in the street and sidewalk — somebody is going to get hurt someday when a piece falls out of the sky.

This place is a great example of demolition by neglect. I imagine that one time when I pass by, some of the top floor while be on the bottom floor. Yes. This place was hurt by the flood waters of Katrina. But, it was headed down the road to ruin many years before that.

The picture. Well, I just had to tinker with it. I had to make you feel what I felt when I saw it again. I may have gone a little too far. That’s okay. You get the point.