This weekend and week is about as rough as it gets. First came Peter Fonda. I didn’t know him, but his work influenced me. Then came Nancy Parker. I met her once at the Krewe of Zulu on Mardi Gras Day. A true sweetheart. Next comes Governor Kathleen Blanco. I met her at some event. She helped rebuilt the city after the destruction caused Hurricane Katrina. She stood down the president when he wanted to nationalize the state in the aftermath of the storm. She was the aunt to a very good friend of mine.
It didn’t stop there.
My oldest friend in New Orleans died on Sunday. She had breast cancer. It was in remission until it wasn’t. She was 48 years old. She leaves a husband and a 12 year old son. They both adored her.
Today, I hurt.
I suppose that I’ll go to the celebration of her life on Sunday. From there I’ll go to the first second line of the 2019 – 2020 season. I wasn’t sure if I’d photograph that. I suppose the decision was made for me. My vision was clarified in no uncertain terms. You know, the people in the Mardi Gras culture call this, “home going.” I guess. It doesn’t hurt any less.
The picture. It’s old. Most of you haven’t seen it. It’s me. Today.
You know what I say. The work is the prayer. It had better be.
The day looks good. My country doesn’t look so good. Normally, we’d have a leader who would guide us through mass murders. In my lifetime, every president has spoken to calm the country. To bring us together. To let us know that he has our backs.
Typically, they travel to the scene and talk to us from there.
Not this president. He tweeted a couple of general thoughts. He didn’t stop playing golf. He went dark. His supporters are trying to spread the blame. They said just about everything but the truth.
Here’s the truth.
Guns are too easy to obtain. That’s legally. They are even easier to obtain on the streets. Illegally. There are more guns than people in The United States.
The President of The United States is a racist. He’s hateful. He’s bitter. He seeks to polarize my country. His speeches and tweets are designed to denigrate “others.” People who aren’t White. People who are immigrated from someplace else. With brown skin. With black skin.
He’s given unspoken permission for every white power extremest to come out of the sewers where they’ve been hiding. The two mass killings on Saturday and Sunday are examples of that.
Our Congress isn’t helping. They are too fearful. Bought and paid for. Too compromised. The Senate Leader Mitch McConnell will not let bipartisan legislation come to the floor to be voted on if it affects positive change. His new nickname is Moscow Mitch. He blocked legislation to prevent the Russians from interfering with our elections.
With Karma being the bitch it is, he fell at home yesterday. He broke his shoulder. Knowing what I know about joint breaks, he’ll live the rest of his life in pain. Damn.
The only option is to vote all of these people out of power. Vote POTUS out of power and then send him to prison.
If I sound angry. You’re damn right I am.
It’s bad enough that this president is trying to bring down democracy. But, too many people are dying because of his words. Because of his racism. Because of his corruption. This must change.
So damn hot. There is a twitter tag called #neworleansheat. New Orleans heat doesn’t like us. And, we don’t like it.
I made this picture at about 7:00pm. The all seeing dog wanted a walk. I convinced her to wait until she couldn’t. Off we went. I made this picture at about our apex.
By the time we made it home, I was walking in a haze. Everything was shimmering. I felt like I was walking through water. I looked at little dogaroo. Her tongue was hanging out to the pavement. We made it home. We drank a couple of hundred gallons of cold water.
I was feeling a little weird. On one hand, I felt peaceful. On the other, I felt a little disoriented. I wasn’t hungry. I took a break. I laid down. Eventually, things cleared up.
Be careful, you will suggest. I thought that I was. That’s why we walked so late. That is, until I checked the temperature.
At 7:15 pm.
Oh, and that bad feeling?
It might be closer than I thought. We have a tropical depression in the gulf that is going to turn into a hurricane or one of those lingering heavy subtropical storms that flooded upriver Louisiana a year or so ago. Depending on which weather model you watch, we are in the middle of it. Or, not.
To make matters worse, the gulf water is hot. In the mid-to-high eighties. That fuels storms. And, in Mississippi gulf waters there is such a bad poisonous algae bloom that you can’t go in the water, you can’t eat anything caught in the water. Hell, you probably shouldn’t even look at the water.
This was caused by diverting Mississippi River waters from the north into Lake Ponchartrain. If that wasn’t done, we, in New Orleans, would have been flooded. The water from the lake flows down river until it arrivers near the Mississippi State border.
Meanwhile, the clown in the high tower was blabbering about how good the environment is doing. All the while, he is gutting environmental restrictions. Oh, he finally admits that there might be something going on. But, get this, Americans aren’t causing it. It’s a global thing, idiot in chief. Last I looked, America is part of the globe.
No. There isn’t climate change.
If you believe that, I gotta a lotta junk that I’ll sell you. You’ll probably think it’s gold bullion.
And, about the cold water that dogaroo and I drank? I fill all the dogs’ bowls with cold water from the refrigerator because cold water directly from the tap is 84 degrees. How refreshing is that? It’s wet. That’s about it.
If the picture says hot, or early morning heat, then I made another summer project picture. If it doesn’t, that’s okay. I made a picture that I like. A lot.
My pal on the internet scene, Montana Rose, posted a picture yesterday that she said she made by accident. I was going to comment on her site that all of my pictures are made by accident. I might be exaggerating. Still, I do make a lot of pictures on the way to some place else.
This time, I saw some shadows dancing on a wall . I turned around to see what was causing that. I saw this scene. I couldn’t frame. I couldn’t compose. Sheesh, I pretty much couldn’t see. I just turned around and pushed the button a couple of times. I knew I made some kind of picture. I didn’t know what.
It wasn’t until I arrived in a darker place that I tool a look at the LCD, “Whew,” I thought. “Ain’t that something?”
For at least the last five years, I’ve been trying to make at least ten very good pictures that are about summer.
I haven’t succeeded yet.
I probably won’t again this summer.
I know, I know. With that attitude I have assured myself of failure.
It’s just a realistic statement that takes into account how difficult it is to make ten good pictures about anything over the course of a year. Sheesh. I’ve been at this for just under fifty years. I’ve made a lot of good pictures. I don’t make bad pictures.
If you were to ask me about my great pictures, only three come to mind. Fifty years. Three great pictures. That ain’t a great ratio. I’m sure there are a lot of better shooters than I am, who have made far more memorable pictures that I have, but, if you ask them, they’ll say about the same thing.
As I’ve been putting older work, mostly from Asia on NGS’ “Your Shot.” I’ve been thinking, “Me?” “I took that picture?” “It must have been a better photographer” I’m not being overly humble. I’m just surprising myself by looking at old, almost forgotten work.” Still, those images don’t crack into my “excellent category.”
That’s one of the great things about getting older — among damn few good things — you have the wisdom of perspective. You understand that most pictures shared on Instagram are nonsense, especially when they are posted as professional work.
The picture. Make no mistake. This isn’t one of the ten great summer images. This is just a tree that I photographed in early morning light. It was backlighted so it caught my attention. It reminded me to start looking right now. Right this minute. For summertime pictures.
Man. I’ve got a lot to do in the next twelve weeks or so.
I was going to talk about New Orleans culture, but a fire got in the way. You know where. In Paris. France. Notre Dame burned. Early on, it looked like it might be a total loss. Now, we know it’s not. Already 400,000,000 Euros have been pledged to its rebuilding.
Just as important, after reading a long comment from a researcher who studies Notre Dame as well as other Gothic structures throughout Europe, I know that there is a cycle of boom and bust for the cathedral. For instance, the steeple that fell was built in the 19th Century. At one point, it was derelict and restored. Of course, the medieval wood is mostly gone, and the roof is cinders, but most of the art is safe. The walls are safe. And, the bell towers are intact.
It likely will be rebuilt again. In 100 years, people will be talking about the fire of 2019 while they are looking at it.
However, yesterday’s sadness was about more than the burning of what amounts to a Catholic Church. 856 year years of history was being stripped away. The heart of a city was burning. Art that should never die, was thought to be dying.
The core of the matter was something was burning. In many ways, the fire was a symbol for the past few years of upheaval and violence. For, the nasty turn to the right-wing. For the hatred of people not like ourselves. And, something even more than that. I cannot put my finger on it. But, it hurt. And, it scared me.
It may be because I live in a French city. After all, New Orleans was founded by the French. True. The French Quarter actually looks Spanish. That’s because when the city burned for the last time, it was the property of the Spanish who rebuilt it in their architectural style. But they city was split, for a time between The French and The Americans. That’s what Canal Street is about. The middle of the neutral ground was the boundary between the two countries.
Never-the-less, I feel better today knowing what’s left and what’s to come. What’s to come is elastic and flexible. Something we all need to be if we are going to make our way through the challenges of the future.
The picture. That’s what you really came for, yes? It’s a parade through the French Quarter. I chose to leave it even after the terrible news of yesterday. After all, that’s what we in New Orleans are about. This is one of those F8 and be there pictures. Except it was more like f 2.8 and I almost got run over. More than once or twice. Oh well. Whatever it takes, right?
Time passes. Seasons change. The world keeps turning. What seems important today is meaningless tomorrow.
I never claimed to be a nature photographer. In truth, I’m not. I photograph what I see. For the last few years a lot of what I see has many elements of nature. I suppose it could be attributed to my dog walks. Whether it is the pack or just the dog who sees stuff, we tend to walk in places that they like. That means nature rather than urban. True, we live in an urban environment, but they head straight to the places that they know.
I tried an experiment a few weeks back. I took the all-seeing dog to Treme, where I has a little business. When that was concluded, I took her for a walk. She walked around a very long block. But, she didn’t like it. I thought that the new smells, sounds and sights would interest her. They didn’t.
Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to a long piece in the New York Times about city folk moving to the country, primarily in the Hudson Valley just Upstate from New York City. I found the piece interesting, but the people who were buying property were all creative hipsters.
But, I’m a lot older than the oldest person interview. One thing I that I know about this particular class in New Orleans is that they are incredibly ageist. They don’t like me. I’m happy to return the favor if that’s what they want because I’ve long said that I am a mirror. I don’t believe I can convert you to anything. And, you can’t convert me. I’d prefer to be good to everyone, but if you attack me… well, you know. Don’t open a window that I can jump through.
The seasons are changing. What a metaphor. The picture is about the last one I can take of fall in the swamp. We are four days away from winter. The scenery around me finally looks like it. Most of the leaves are on the ground. The weather has finally turned cold. Well, cold for us. I doubt that we’ll have the kind of winter that many of you will have. Snow. Low double digits. Maybe even single digits. That could happen down here. But, not for very long.
As you know the season is changing for me too. I turned 65 in November. That’s one of those “big” birthdays. Based on statistics, I know that I have about fifteen years left on this planet, give or take. I have a friend who is about 72. He lost his main source of income, which was stock photography. To be sure that he and his wife aren’t destitute, but they are thinking very hard about moving to Mexico. They want to go out on their terms and with some sort of class. My musicians friends, who are about 70, are producing heavily at the end of their careers, know that time is short.
I’m a little younger than most of them are. Imagine that concept, “younger than.” Sheesh. I can’t say that about many people anymore. That said, I know my time is short. Fifteen years might seem light a long time, but the first 65 years went by like a snap of my fingers.
So, when I talk about changing websites, or taking you with me if I do, I’m not in any pain or mental agony. I just want what are some of my last moves to be productive. Artists of all stripes never really retire. There are just somethings we don’t want to do any more. Since you know that music is important to me, I look at all the musicians with whom I grew up. Many are playing farewell tours. Some are saying that their next tour could be their last. Some won’t do more than a few shows a year in places that they know and like.
It’s not the music from which they are retiring. They love playing music. It’s the nonsense of touring that they can’t stand. The process of marketing their new work is even less appealing. That’s the same with photographers. A friend of mine often quotes this saying, “sometimes the hardest part of taking a picture is getting there.” That’s mostly what I’ve left behind. The marketing, the sales and the constant contact that eat up about half of my day. Days that are getting short.
For sure, I have some traveling left in me. But, to places that I want to go.
Belorussia. I may say that I’m Russian. That’s just short hand. I’m really Belorussian on my father’s side. I’m haunted by not knowing much about my family. I doubt going there will help me locate anything, but I’ll feel like I really tried.
A long road trip through The United States. It’s been years since I’ve toured the country and looked into our nooks and crannies. Sure, I travel for business. Both businesses, in fact. But, I never have the time to go out and really explore.
Hong Kong. Yes. I used to know it well. You can’t help spending six years in a place and not knowing it. I want to see what’s changed and what’s the same. There are photographic places that I didn’t know about while I was there that make great statements about our planet. Actually, I knew about them. I just didn’t see them as I would today.
All of these places would be great picture producers. That’s part of my journey. That will always be part of my journey.
It’s Sunday. I wrote way too long. Sorry about that.
It’s getting longer.
I was walking the dog who sees stuff when it occurred to me that you might be worried about me. With all this talking of passing. No worries. PLEASE. I’m just planning for the future. I’m not worried about it. I’m not even scared of dying. Make no mistake. I don’t want to die. But, as they say, nobody gets out of here alive. The way I figure it, I’m already playing with house money. Besides, every time I photograph somebody who lives into their nineties, I think to myself that I don’t really want to live like this.
Fall looks and feels like fall. Golden light filtering through pine trees on a chilly morning makes it so.
It seemed like summer just wouldn’t let go. We’d have kind of cool day then a warm day. Then a violent storm blew through. Its winds were strong enough to break a lot of tree limbs. In some places there were tornados. But, not near us.
The storm brought cool, dry air. The dogs were excited. I am excited. I really needed a break from the warm soup that we call air.
The picture. I’m trying very hard not to repeat myself. I think this picture does it
Even though I have a lot more pictures of trees, I think it’s time to bring this series to an end and post something different… like a fallen leaf. Kidding. You know what I mean.
This picture had some help. Certainly, the light was about right. But, it wasn’t quite so golden. Slipping the slider around gave me the color of the light that I wanted. A little more work in post production and this picture emerged. A nice early spring, late in the day, photograph.
I don’t have much more to say today, so I’ll give you all a break. After all, you never know when I’ll started chattering around.