Coming out.

It’s the energy. In hot or cool weather, it’s the energy that drives second lines. It’s the energy that creates minor miracles for me. If you hear the music, smell the cooking, get pulled into the din, there is no way that you won’t come alive.  You’ll sway to the music.  You’ll dance. You will feel better than when you arrived.

Eventually, you’ll feel tired. But, it’s a good tired.

It’s a funny thing. When I first started coming out, I had no idea of what I was looking at. I just liked the color. The energy. The people. Eventually I learned a few things. I met a few of the people who make second lines go.  Even so, I don’t know everything. I will always still be learning and meeting new people.

I do know the customs and traditions. At least I know them enough not to get in trouble. As I was told many years ago, if you are new on the scene present yourself. You have to know to tradition. You have to know the people.

For me, that’s the same thing as travelling to distant countries, whose traditions are not western. I read about people who get into all sorts of trouble because they compare our way of living to their way of living.

It doesn’t work.

I could tell you all sorts of stories about that. They never happened to me because I’m pretty mellow. But, the things that I’ve seen. Whew.

I’ll tell you one story. I was leaving Thailand, so I went to the airport to check in. Another American was at the window next to me. In those days you had to pay an airport tax. Today, it’s tucked into your airfare. It was 50 Baht. About the equivalent of USD $1.50. No big deal. The guy at the other window started yelling at the agent.

She was horrified.

Then, he started cursing the king and the corrupt country. Now the gate agent was pleading with me, with her eyes, to help.

I did.

I tried to calm him down. I told him what the price was in US currency. I told him that in Asia, screaming gets you nowhere fast. I told him that if he kept attacking the king there would be huge trouble

Trouble came in the form of two heavily armed Thai soldiers.  They handcuffed him. They were about to turn on me when the gate agent told them in Thai language that I was helping her and I was being kind. The soldiers nodded and put their hands together in a “Y” to thank me and to apologize. Oh, “Y’ing” looks like folding your hands in prayer.

They took him away, kicking and screaming. I don’t know what happened after that. But to insult the King in Thailand is to bring all sorts of hell upon yourself. At that time, the king was loved by all Thai people. I knew him as a really good photographer and jazz musician. He played clarinet in a New Orleans style.

Anyway.

These are some of my favorite pictures from the Good Fellas second line that started on Earhart Expressway. You may be wondering if the name has anything to do with the famous aviator, Amelia. It does. We are a little flying oriented down here. Our airport is called Louis Armstrong, but the destination code is MSY, after an early aviator — Moisant — who crashed in a pasture and was surrounded by scarred cows. That’s where the airport is today.

I made these pictures by just walking around until the second line started. As I’ve said in the past, after a while the actual second line feels a little similar to earlier work, so I try very hard to make something different, or unusual. Of course I photograph the main event.

I invite you to open the little pictures. There is good stuff going on in each of them.

Through the front door.
Dance, dance, dance.


Looking up at me.

If it’s Sunday there is a second line being walked somewhere in New Orleans.This one was Good Fellas. The King of Kings division was walking for cancer awareness. Even though they didn’t say it, I’m pretty sure that they lost a member to cancer.

I know. I said that I was dropping out of the second line business. I said it was not for any reason other than time allotment. That’s true. I forgot that it is my time. I can use it any way that I like. More importantly, as a friend of mine says, it is like going to church. Miracles do occur out on the street. My hip and back stop hurting. I move freely. I dance to the music. I can keep up with the parades, which are usually moving pretty fast. I have no idea why. But, it happens every time.

So why shouldn’t I go out?

They didn’t exactly trust me.

I’m not going to stretch this out. Maybe two days. This one, featuring the children waiting. And tomorrow, a few scenes from the reason I came out. The second line.

It’s back to archive pictures, with a break for Halloween and probably another break for another second line. For once, Storyteller is starting to take shape and form. That’s intentional.

Hey photographer…

The pictures. I walked into a beauty salon where the King of Kings was preparing to walk. I asked one the leaders if she minded. She just wanted a business card. I decided to focus on the little ones. The children. The toddlers. Their eyes were focused on me. That was great. I knew, while I was making pictures, what on first post would be. That is rare. I didn’t even make very many pictures, once I knew my intention. I worked slowly because slow is smooth and smooth is fast.


A little stumble.

Just smile.

Sometimes that’s all you can do.

That’s why I published these two pictures of a little guy, who is starting out young, making his way down the stairs at the Good Fellas second line, last Sunday. This is probably his first second line. His confidence will build as he prepares year after year.

This is probably the last of my pictures from the event.

No worries.

There is another one on Sunday. The big one. The Young Men Olympians. This one will be about a million divisions long and will take at least four hours to complete. It’ll probably sideline us with some kind of heat related ailment.

Oh well. We do it for the stories we can tell.

Smile. It’s good for us. For me, I lost two photographers this week who were mentors to me in my early days. My work is influenced by them, even now. My thinking is influenced by them. That’s why I figured out where to stand so I could photograph both divisions of this second line.

One passed from cancer. The other slipped and fell in his backyard. He hit his head. He lasted a few days and then… gone. I’m alright. It just means that I have to work very hard this weekend. You know why.

On the other hand, a photographer called Burk Uzzle is getting a lot of photo press. If you don’t know his name or work, you should. Especially if you are a photographer. You can go to his website at http://www.burkuzzle.com and check him out. His way of thinking is inspiring. His work is inspiring. His website organization is inspiring. I don’t know him personally. I knew his brother a little bit when I worked in North Carolina. Burk is the real deal.

On the right track.

The pictures. I was waiting for the social clubs to come out at the base of the stairs, rather than on the bridge itself. Aside from positioning myself to be in two places at once, I was shooting into heavy back and side light. I knew, for the children, that the crowd would for a natural scrim against all that extra light. At least, I hoped. Turns out that I was right. Thankfully.


Getting ready.

It’s exactly what you think happened… if you look at the entire sequence.

He looked at me. I looked at him. We nodded to each other. Up he went. Right over me. Imagine that. All of this to brass band music since they were passing by right at that moment.

The pictures. I suppose that if there’s a take away, it’s that sometimes photography takes a little bit of courage even when you think that it doesn’t. It’s one of those things about making a picture in which you are apart of that comes into play. Just don’t fall on your camera or your smart phone while you are trying to snap a shot. Heh. See what I did there?

Up and over… me.


The band plays despite the heat.

Brass bands.

You know me. There is something special about them. The minute that I hear them,  my poor hip and back feel better. I move easier. I move freer. I move faster. I dance with them. I am more flexible. I am convinced my pictures are better than usual.

I’ll get to the pictures a little further down, below the tuba picture.

A musician friend of mine who lives in the Pacific Northwest once described brass band music as being chaotic.

I suppose.

What do you expect? The musicians first heard the music on the streets. It’s very likely that they learned to play their instruments in high school. Different high schools for each of them. And, they rarely rehearse. The members come together on the street right before the second line begins. If they don’t have enough members on the scene, musicians from other bands show up to fill in the gaps.  Cell phones are working overtime.

Yeah. They all know the same songs because the music is among New Orleans standards. But, each of them might play a song slightly different. Yes. That breeds chaos.

That’s just wonderful. After all, at her best, New Orleans is the home of wonderful chaos.

Isn’t that what many of you come to the city for?

The tuba starts it. Always.

The pictures. I think you have to be in the middle of something to be able to make the best pictures. These pictures were made with a wide angle lens or a very short telephoto… like 70mm. The scene sort of envelopes me.

I have the same theory about music. I never use ear buds. Even when they are free. I sometimes use over the ear cans, when I have to be quiet or I want to hear a certain detail. Mostly, we just have a bunch of speakers that put us in the middle of the music. We can hear. We can share.

I feel the same way about pictures. Standing on the sidelines is the same way. Sometimes you have to. And, that’s fine. I don’t imagine the NFL would be very happy if photographers worked in the huddle or the line of scrimmage.

But, when you can you should try.

It’s a whole different sense of place. For me. For you.

This works even with travel pictures. For instance, I recently saw a picture of Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Everybody makes a picture like that. Then I saw one from inside the steeple. Whoa. That was something. I imagine getting permission takes some time and effort. That’s tough enough. But, what if you want to work around golden time and blue hour. Good luck. But, oh, what a picture.

That has me thinking. Hmmmmm.

The drummers pound out the beat.


Taking it to the streets.

Gold and Brown.

Those are the Good Fellas colors for the 2018 – 2019 second line season. You could see them coming.

Joyful colors. Fall colors.

They came down the long ramp at the Eiffel Society. You could see them there. They came down the stairs. You could see them there. They hit the streets. You could you see them there.

Like Mardi Gras Indians, and the Baby Dolls they wear suits. Not costumes. Costumes are what “civilians” wear for Halloween. And Mardi Gras.

That matters.

Guys like me can wear shorts, light t-shirts, running shoes. These guys can’t. They won’t. Their suits are heavy. Their collars are heavy. Their feathers are heavy.

Heavy equals hot. At least this time of year.

Even in cooler months, their sweat drips down their faces. I’ve said it before. These guys are my heroes. I can’t do what they do. They’d laugh if I told them that. For them it’s just part of their deal. Their honor. Their pride. Their dedication to their neighborhood.

Read below for picture information.

The tuba starts it at the Eiffel Society.

The pictures. Yesterday I wrote that I finally got smart. I guess I did. By staying on the ground I was able to photograph the children’s division. Then, I circled back and worked my way through the crowd to make these pictures.

See those two Good Fellas on the long bridge? Photographers go out there. One is on the bridge in the picture. Likely, he’s working for them. If you are out on the bridge when the second line comes off and onto the street you are trapped behind them.

That’s a good teaching point.

Never put yourself in a place in which you can be trapped. A few years ago, friend of mine opted to work from a construction bucket. The kind you see on electric power trucks. The truck broke down. The power to the bucket failed. The bucket was stuck about 25 feet in the air. By the time it was repaired, the entire event that he was covering was over. He made one good picture and a lot of similars, but that was it. He was angry. His editor was disappointed.

All in feathers.


All eyes.

Good Fellas Second Line.

The children go first. Then the adults. It’s a two division second line.

Thankfully.

Even though the second line walked forever, it was on the smallish side. A good thing, because as a friend of mine wrote about another outdoor event in the city, it was 184 degrees out. Not really, but by start time the air temperature was 98 degrees. My car’s sensor which reads ground temperatures said it was 102 degrees.

Not too hot. If it’s in the middle of summer.

But, it’s not.

It’s fall. In three days that calendar says it’s fall. I read a group on Facebook that is all about fall and pumpkin spice everything. They say it’s fall. Sure it is. The light is getting low. The shadows are getting long. But, it’s 184 degrees outside, or 98 degrees. Whichever you prefer.

The picture. Normally, I’d get on the long bridge runs outside of the Eiffel Tower to the street. Yes, yes. We have a small one in New Orleans. But, I always feel trapped up there. It might not be healthy for me with my ailing hip and back. Moving very fast is not really an option these days.

Instead, I worked from ground level. A great choice. I managed to photograph both divisions — children’s and adults — in their entirety as they made their ways to the first turn at Jackson Avenue. That was my stopping point. My plan was to jump to the next stopping point. Unfortunately, my head was spinning by the time I returned to my car. With discretion being the better part of valor, I decided that heat stroke wasn’t worth more pictures.

Speaking of more pictures, there will be plenty of them from the Good Fellas Second Line as the week progresses.


Coming Out.
Coming Out. 

Good Fellas is the only second line that appears on an overhead walkway or catwalk. The parade members come out of a place called the Eiffel Society, make a left turn when they reach street level and start walking.

The Eiffel Society is, in their own words; a club, a bar, a garden, a gallery, a catwalk and a stage. They serve drinks and food. They play a lot of music. DJ style. According to their website, it is the original cafe that was once perched on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It was shipped on a boat in boxes and assembled from 11,062 pieces like a giant set of Legos as part of the 1984 World’s Fair. It stands 14 feet tall and is located on St. Charles Avenue only a few blocks away from our house.

I don’t think it’s like Legos. It’s more like an Erector Set, which I don’t believe is made anymore.

That’s really all I know about it. Except that it changes hands fairly frequently and while it may be sort of a local landmark, it sure looks weird. It’s out-of-place. And, time.

The only second line that uses it as a starting point is Good Fellas. That’s sort of cool although that catwalk can get jammed up pretty easily with spectators, photographers and videographers. In fact, if you get behind the second line, you’ll be stuck behind it until you work your way through the crowd at the base of the stairs. For the way that I like to work that’s like death.

The picture. I often like you to see the subject and the surrounding area. That’s what you get in this frame. Mama and her babies. And, the catwalk. The rest is pretty simple. See the picture. Take the picture. Almost no work in post production. I am testing something to replace all forms of Adobe software. So, maybe no more Photoshop. No more Bridge. No more Lightroom.

We’ll see.


A little moment.
A little moment.

We talked about moments yesterday.

Here’s another one. This one doesn’t have as much to do with the second line, as it does with the people who come out for the parades. Or, in this case, was taken to the parade. I doubt that he brought himself, especially since I know that his mama was standing right next to him. And, he seems a little young to be hanging out by himself.

What more can I say? A child and a red balloon. That’s pretty good, right?

The picture. F8 and get in everybody else’s way to take the picture. Actually, that dark shape behind this little guy is another photographer. I suppose it could be said that he was in my way. Or not. These things are free for alls. We are used to it.