You know that they make me smile. After all, a pack of them allow us to live with them. They aren’t Beagles, but still.
After this miserable week, which isn’t over, I needed something to make me smile. So, I dipped into those lost archives and found something that would do the trick. The funny thing about this Krewe of Barkus was I don’t remember photographing it that year. Obviously, I did. And, I worked from an odd place for me, which makes me think that during Mardi Gras 2020, I should work from here again. Or, near this location.
That’s the thing about photographing something until you are bored with it. Review your archives. Find something you’ve done in the past, but have forgotten about, and think about doing something similar. But, better. Or, a little different.
I have to laugh. Look at the two people in front. Look where the woman has her hand. I don’t know about you, but my head as never been used for a hand rest. I guess the guy doesn’t care. And, everybody is having fun.
I made many pictures of these folks, from standing in the street to deciding to mounting the guys’ shoulders and getting back down after they caught a few beads. They were laughing. So was I. I moved from this scene to a couple of others, as I normally do.
I changed the series. I said I would do that. I’m going to post a little “lost” Mardi Gras work over the next few days. Because I want to. I haven’t seen some of these pictures in a long time. When I cull for my agencies or for Storyteller, I pick the best images. At least, as I saw it then. But, there are sleepers. Pictures that I like better now.
That’ll happen. That’s why I say that you should let your new files or film marinate. The further you distance yourself from the emotions of actually being on the scene, the clearer you’ll see the images that matter. Don’t be like me and let the images sit for a couple of years or so.
I didn’t go out for Krewe du Veaux last year. In fact, I didn’t photograph Mardi Gras as much as I normally would. I have to think about it for next Carnival Season. My physical health is one issue. But, like everything else in the world, the crowds keep getting bigger and bigger. It’s getting harder and harder to work myself into position.
I’m thinking about this now because like an athlete who plays a particular sport, I have to train and then get parade ready. It’s better to do that than to try to “play myself into shape.” That only works for the youngest of athletes. We’ll see how it goes. At least the dogs won’t let me walk less than 2.5 miles a day, every day. Of course, that’s not exactly speed walking. All of them, especially the all seeing dog, like to poke around, smell stuff and amble toward their destination.
The whole place is glowing. Neon. Color. Reflections.
As a wise man once said, “when the weather turns bad, the pictures get good.
And, so they do.
These so-called lost files having been showing me the way. I’m glad that I’ve worked through this little series. There is so much more that I could show you. But, as I say, just because I made a lot of pictures doesn’t mean I have to dump them on you. Sheesh, a friend of mine from here and on Facebook just posted 54 pictures on Facebook. I don’t think I can count that high. Give your viewers a break. Cull that down. Just show your best work.
Lucky Dogs. See that hot dog on a bun looking food stand on the corner?
I participate in a food group on Facebook. It’s about New Orleans food. There’s been a changing of the guard with the admin folks. Now, we have people asking the same old questions, when all they really need do is go to the group’s archive section and search. Whenever somebody asks about inexpensive restaurants in the Quarter, I always respond, “Lucky Dogs.” (Wow! It took me forever to circle back to that.)
The truth. I wouldn’t eat from one of those stands if you paid me. They hit the streets about 11am. When I made the picture it was about 10pm. I’d venture to guess that some of the hot dogs in the steamer ave been there all day. They might not hurt you, but surely they are tough, chewy and don’t taste all that good.
They are a New Orleans institution.
That’s great. But, who wants to eat in an institution?
The picture. F8 and be there, except that it was probably more like f4 and stand very still.
That’s the story. On the anniversary of Elvis’ death. The day when he really did leave the building. RIP Elvis Presley.
It certainly didn’t stop these two women. They were soaked through and through. What did it matter if they got even wetter? Besides, when was the last time that anybody saw Bourbon Street without crowds at night?
And, she’s wearing flip flops. Normally, that’s just an act of craziness. If twenty people don’t step on your toes, consider yourself very lucky. Besides, you don’t want to know what covers that street on a normal night. By the end of the night, Bourbon Street truly stinks. I’ll leave it at that. Y’all have good imaginations.
The picture. It’s one in a series of “lost” pictures. That rainy night in the French Quarter sure added a lot of magical qualities to the image. Water. Reflections. Wet people. All I had to do was be willing to get wet. And photograph what I saw.
Wet weather is a way of life down here in the swamp. We live with it. We live in it. We get wet. We dry off. We get wet again. Sort of like in the heat and humidity of summer when four or five quick showers might be the order of the day.
I was talking to somebody about the heat and humidity of summer. We agree. While it gets mighty uncomfortable, we build up to it. But, for tourists, it’s brutal. They come from someplace milder, or at least dryer, and they just die in our summers.
That’s a reason that hotels and restaurants are so inexpensive during July and August. They’ll do anything to attract customers. In fact, many restaurants close for a couple of weeks during August. Not only do they lose money by being open, but it’s a good time to do the deep cleaning and other maintenance that they put off during their busy seasons.
This picture is a pretty good example of our attitude towards weather. He’s been to a grocery store and he’s headed some place else. His only concession to the rain is that he is walking his bike. He doesn’t want to hit a slick patch and end up on his butt.
My only concession to the rain was to stand under an overhang to protect my gear. Me? I don’t care if I get wet. If I wasn’t carrying cameras I’d be out walking in the wet weather.
The real trick was image exposure. I had to balance my need for blur with the falling rain. So, I focused on the rain and let everything else fall where it may. Actually, I didn’t focus on anything. I’m fairly fast at manual focus. But, rain? Oh no. I let the camera do its thing. Even with that, the rain isn’t all that sharp. I doubt with low light and such narrow parameters that anything can be truly razor-sharp. I don’t care. As Henri Cartier Bresson said, “Sharpness is such a bourgeois concept.” For those of you new to photography Google him. He is the father of the decisive moment and one of the first photographers to switch to “miniature” cameras. He used 35mm Leicas. Film cameras. Follow the links from him to other photographers. You’ll learn a lot.
The French Market. Years ago, this is where people came to buy food. Fresh vegetables. Fresh fruit. Fish. Shellfish. Different meats. It was one of about nine city markets that were scattered around the neighborhoods.
There is a small section that does sell food. Mostly it’s cooked. Mostly it’s packaged. But, down at this end all sorts of souvenirs, low-end stuff from China and mass-produced African clothes and masks are sold. Oh, and as we get close to Mardi Gras, all kinds of real cheap masks and beads can be found here. I almost forgot t-shirts. Lot’s of very cheap t-shirts.
It’s tourist central. I
I don’t know why.
You can go to almost any city on the planet and find markets like this one. They pretty much offer the same merchandise. Trust me on this. I’ve been to a lot of places. When we get bored — really bored — we go shopping. With the exception of some small adjustments due to local preferences, or laws or the lack of them, most of these markets are all the same.
Of course, I go to the one in New Orleans. It’s good for cheap props for a shoot. If I’m asked to photograph something about travel, I hire a couple of models who are more like actors and have them go shopping. When I do that, the French Market is a giant stage. It’s not as easy as it sounds. There are release issues. There are people getting in the way. There are people who don’t want to be photographed, and who tell you that just as you press the button. And, so it goes.
The point in all of this is that everything changes. The French Market went from a real live city marketplace, that became deserted and broken down, to a small tourist zone within a tourist zone. What it’ll morph into next is anyone’s guess. If climate predictions for the future are accurate, it could become paved river bottom.
I started thinking about this because there is going to be a talk next week on “The New Green Deal.” You know. The legislation championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Before I write further, let me say that in general I like her. She brings much-needed energy into the House of Representatives. She has a couple of big flaws — she doesn’t understand finance and she tends to shoot from the hip like you know who — but on balance I think she’s smart, fairly well spoken and has something I admire a lot. Street smarts.
The talk is being given be regional people. I don’t believe that AOC is coming. This will disappointed people who want to heckle her for flying down here and using oil. Even if I disagreed with the legislation entirely, I’d still go to the talk. After all, we live in a place that could be under water in 25 – 50 years. Given the speed at which the climate is changing, I’d bet on the former. You’d think others would be interested too. We are all in this together. Oh no. Not from the comments on Facebook. Before I get in an argument with somebody I don’t know I do a little trolling. There were the usual suspects. Folks with big trucks, RVs that they use one a year, big boats that they use a couple of times in the summer.
There was one young woman who broke my heart. She is a recent graduate of LSU’s engineering department. She works for Entergy, the folks who provide all of our power. They are Fortune 500 company and fairly well thought of. She said that she was giving this event a “hard pass.”
I asked her why in the comments. She replied that all of this was nonsense and she was from Louisiana and storms and floods are normal. True. But, they are getting more frequent and more violent. After a little back and forth, I realized that the saying is true. “You can’t change people’s minds on social media.” Everybody is hunkered down in their silo. So, I closed with, “I’m sure that your boss’s boss’s boss will be there because guys at the top are opportunistic and want to capitalize on big changes.”
What I said is the truth. The big owners might not care about you and me, but they care about our cash. Cash. Either we spend it. Or, we hold it back. And, that’s what it’s going to take to save our planet. Our lives. Our children’s lives. And, their children’s lives.
The picture. Roaming around the Quarter does yield some pretty good pictures. This was at the end of one of my walks. I was dodging rain, but I was watching the wonderful light. I chased about as far as I could. I got to the French Market and everything was closed down. You know. Rain and a slow day. Then, this guy comes by on a bike. Five or six shots later and I had it. That, was luck. Photographer’s luck.
New Orleans is a musical place. It’s often likely that you can hear music as you are passing by a street corner, as I was when I made this picture, that is equal to the sounds you hear in many clubs.
Sometimes, the guys on the street are warming up for their club appearance. Sometimes, they don’t have a gig, but they just feel like playing. They want a little audience and whatever you toss in their tip cup might pay for a meal or a couple of beers. Doesn’t matter to them. They are going to work eventually.
On the other hand, some of the street musicians really are paying their bills by playing on the street. Many of them are quite good. They could play on paying gigs, but they make a lot of money on the streets. One makes enough money to buy a house and car. You know, the markers of a successful life. Or, not.
As you know, I haven’t been in the mood to work much. Part of it is caused by my health issues. Part of it is just kind of being bored with what and where I work. But, I’ve got a couple of ideas now. Let’s see what I make of them.
One more thing. I owe a couple of you some well thought out replies. I’m a little upside down in time, but I promise I’ll get to them.
Most people think of the French Quarter as being loud. They think of people always partying. They think of the typical New Orleans craziness.
Let me tell you, we ain’t all that crazy.
We don’t spend much time in the Quarter. When we do, we rarely walk around on Bourbon Street. It’s usually too crowded. With partiers. And, bad guys. And, it stinks. Literally.
We do like walking in other parts of the Quarter. Like this place that I photographed. It’s way down river on Royal Street. People actually live here. People make their homes here. There are no bars. No clubs. Tourists rarely come down the street this far. It may actually be safer than the more heavily populated areas of the Quarter. There’s nobody to mug. Nobody to rob. Well, there are. But, they are very street smart.
If I ever lived in the Quarter, this is about where I’d do it. But, that’s not going to happen. But, it sure is nice to walk around this part of the Quarter. It’s also much harder to photograph. No matter. Making a successful picture when there isn’t a lot of action going on defines a “street” photographer. Or, it should.
One more thing.
I made this picture without a tripod. I rarely carry one when I work on the street. It’s too cumbersome. It takes too much time to set up. It attracts too much attention. That’s the last thing I want. You just have to learn your craft. The trick is to expose for some mid-tone. I used the street signs. It gave me enough detail in both the highlights and the shadows. I also knew that I was going to correct the exposure issues in post production. They say GIGO. But, not if you plan for it. I thought about what I was doing before I did it.
Housekeeping. I’m going to refocus Storyteller back to where it sort of began. About the photographs. A little bit about New Orleans stories.
I think some of the NOLA stories I tell you are confusing, especially to people who come here as tourists and mostly stay in The French Quarter. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, they usually stay in hotels and eat in restaurants. The chores of daily living are done for them. For the most part, they are protected from our random and violent crime. When it rains, they don’t have to deal with flooded streets.
They don’t know what it is to live in a city that is very hard on the people who live here. I suppose that can be true of any place. But, most places aren’t described in the loving terms that people use to describe New Orleans. Or, really the Quarter.