A kindred spirit with a stranger’s face. That’s how it starts. A friendship. An album. A project. A life. This photograph.
I keep stealing words from a friend. She’s gonna want a word with me. Eventually. But, not right now. For me, the words are just a good place to begin. That means something to me too. But…
I found these flowers planted near a little pocket park. They don’t belong here. They aren’t native to the area. They are like me.
I got into one of those conversations.
The ones that make me crazy. The ones where somebody who was born and bred in New Orleans says that I’m not from here so I don’t know about things.
Normally I would explain that I’ve lived here for twenty years. Not this time. Since I’ve emerged from whatever funk I was in I’ve been feeling my oats.
This time I looked that person straight in the eye and said, “Thank God for that.”
Try as he might he couldn’t get me to move off of my position. He gave up when I said, “Why would I want to have your inbred southern ways?
No, not the end. I don’t really feel that way. But, don’t push me. I’m glad that I’ve lived all over the place. I’ve been lucky to absorb bits from many cultures, from many races. I feel at home in many places. I’m from many places. I’ve gotten to know many different kinds of people.
You know. The words that I began with. A kindred spirit with a stranger’s face.
I mean that.
Yellow flowers in New Orleans. Maybe. But not this shade. Not this bright.
These flowers are especially bright because they are backlighted. That’s what caught me eye.
That’s also what caused such extreme contrast. Little phone sensors just can’t deal with it.
There is an HDR setting. I used it. This is the result.
Oh well. You know what I always say. Perfection is for angels.
Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Notice all the light.
Life in a cartoon. Any choice that I made that turned out good was a lucky guess. Well. That sounds terrible. I have to be honest, I almost feel like retiring from the photo business. And, from the art of it.
I was scrolling through Facebook when I came to a local NPR post. Gwen Tompkins is going interview local photographer who won the Michael Smith Award. That’s a big deal around here. He’s had more shows than many people who seek them out. I say this without jealously, he’s a terrible photographer. His work is marginal at best.
I’ve applied to that contest. Nothing. Crickets. If not me, I can tell you about ten photographers are more worthy than this guy.
I don’t get it.
I really don’t understand why my time in New Orleans has been so unacknowledged while I thought that I was being very productive. Maybe my work isn’t what I thought it is.
That’s a hard pill to swallow.
I suppose that I can accept that, especially since my early career was so good. I spit out good pictures without thinking about it. The awards came too. They don’t really matter, but everyone needs a pat on the head once in a while.
It’s time to come to a reckoning. I make pictures pretty easily. It’s all the other stuff that is time consuming and hard work.
Maybe I don’t want to work that hard anymore.
Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Enjoy every photograph because you never know when they will come to an end.
This picture is supposed to be my art. For sure, this is something that I enjoy.
My heart isn’t t this stuff. I photograph and tinker with it because right now there is nothing better to do.
I could blame it on the virus. I could blame it on the dogs who demanded walks. I could blame it on my broken physical state.
Or, I could accept that this is about the only kind work I can produce these days.
I dunno. This is just see it, photograph it. I am a photojournalist at heart. That’s what I was trained to do. That’s what I did.
I’m not really whining. I’m just thinking out loud. I had a great career once. I had fun. Time passes by.
Oh yeah. Three layered pictures to make one. The spooky tree is the base. The orange blood-like splotch is the second image. The red grass like area on the left is the last and it is really red grass. Don’t ask.
The rest is all tinkering. Eventually the layered pictures come to a place where I like it.
Gulf Coast. Fall. Florida too. This is one reason why people move down here. Mild autumn and winters. Some flowers die or hibernate. Many do not.
You’ve seen these flowers earlier this year during spring. Here they are again in autumn. Apparently, they thrive in cooler weather, which a Gulf Coast summer is not.
I say this with no snark, but while you are cold and snowy in the north, we are mild and colorful. I freely admit that I like cold and snow. My poor spine does not.
That’s what happens as you age. If we wanted to stay somewhere along the Gulf Coast, we should probably move to someplace like Destin or Tampa, both of which are in Florida. For us it would probably be Tampa because we do like an urban environment.
There are a couple of other places too. I’m not talking. I don’t want to casta bad spell on those options.
Oh. More about the flowers. They appear to be growing on Elephant plants. I think that’s wrong. They are growing between them. They are their own flowering weed. I prefer wildflower.
The flowers are greatly enlarged in this picture. They are no bigger than my thumbnail.
Seeing. These yellow flowers called out to me from about 50 yards away. They are very bright. They are also brand new, which means that they haven’t faded.
It’s kind of the same old thing for me. See it. Photograph it. Develop it.
That comes with a lot of practice. Don’t be afraid to photograph everything.
When people look at me as if to say what are you doing, I usually say out loud, “don’t you wish you were taking pictures?”
Pictures are fun. Not work.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Look after each other. Enjoy all the flowers.
I just can’t seem to do that. Have a look at the picture below this little bit of text and tell me why I just had to go further. Puleeese.
It just seems like a lot of extra work for not much return.
The top image was layered three times. I used the same image and sort of stepped and repeated it. It’s interesting and experimental, but for pure colorful power, the bottom one is the picture. I wasn’t even going to show you the bottom version until I saw them side by side. I wanted you to see what I did.
What do y’all think?
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Stay on higher ground. Look after one and other. Speak your mind. Enjoy every bowl of homemade gumbo.
There would be no photography without it. After all, we know that photography means painting or writing with light. In many ways, this picture is the essence of it. The bushes are wet, the sunlight found the water droplets and this is what we have. I’m sorry to say that even though I compressed the image my own way, WordPress did a number on it.
That’s just part and parcel of the way WordPress treats photographers and our work. If you are a writer WordPress suggests free sources of pictures. They have also created their own library. It’s free too. Why can’t they suggest as a way of community building that writers develop friendships with photographers and do special projects together?
Oh. I know that’ll take time. It’s easy to go to some free stock collection and find a picture that is good enough. It also inhibits learning the necessary skills to collaborate on high end projects. Sure, it’ll work in today’s bottom end print and digital projects. But, who wants pictures or words that are just good enough?
I may be an old dinosaur, but just good enough isn’t good enough. These days everything seems transient. Art, writing, muic, video projects. One day that will change. Mark my words. Covid 19 is the driver.
Eventually, even though new ways of working at everything will open up more time, many people will think, “I just don’t have the time to waste on this junk.” If I’m going to invest two hours or so on a film it had better be worth that. Same with music.
Same with photo books. Very few publishers are printing photo books these days. So, photographers are publishing books that are the visual equivalent of naval gazing. There is a guy online who’s got a little power. I followed him among about 30,000 other photographers.
I finally gave up.
The work he champions are out takes for guys like me. I finally washed my hands of it all when he saw pictures from an old friend of mine. He said somewhat incredulously that “this guy can really shoot.” Gee. Ya think? He’s only been doing it for 50 years. He’s been National Geographic’s golden boy for 25 years.
Even one of my mentors has gotten in the act. He did a short video on Instagram. He discussed another photographer’s book. He asked us to buy it. He suggests we should all buy each others’ books. Huh? Talk about navel gazing.
When I went to the other photographer’s website, the books were for sale. $400. Right. Let’s see. Say there were ten of us. I’m going to invest $3,600 to make $3,600? Now, you understand why so many photographers are broke.
This is not a rant. This is my way of heading back to photo discussions.
I want us all to think about quality and what it means to us. I want us all to understand that unless we have some other source of income, photography was a business.
Yes, was. I’m not sure how most photographers can sustain themselves during the pandemic era. OTH, you might as well keep going. 40,000,000 people are without jobs. Many of those jose aren’t coming back. Quite a problem, eh?
When everything is in the last phases of autumn where you live, you can count on me to make it better. I can show you how we in the subtropical south see things. Trust me. I’m not laughing at anybody. I’d rather have some real cold weather. I know. Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.
A young artist friend of mine travelled to Michigan with her long time boyfriend. They are staying with his family. She saw snow for the first time. Ever. She’s a Louisiana lady. She was so delighted. She made me smile.
Oh. I’m back at the ageist wars. There is some guy who calls himself Father Monk. He wrote this long screed (Do we still use that word?) condemning Boomers on Facebook. He exempted some of us. If we protested during the Vietnam War we were good. If we lived our lives in certain ways of which he approved, we were exempted.
Like we need his approval. I couldn’t help myself. I replied, closing with my new hashtag, #OKKid. He didn’t like that.
After I did that, I blocked him and everybody who came after him to attack me. These folks forget that we are old, we likely hurt in some way which makes us grouchy, and we have a lot of experience.We learned something in “our” war. Guerrilla tactics work.
Seriously. This is just fun for me. I’m not sure about them
The change has to come. Maybe from a little seed. Maybe from a terrible tragedy. Like gun violence. Like the three mass shootings that we had last week. Like the horrific number of shootings in Chicago. Like the never ending gun violence in my home city. New Orleans.
When I made this picture, I knew what it was about. This is a little bitty baby tree, growing from seeds after a storm.
We’ve had the storm. The storm clouds haven’t broken. The man in charge won’t do anything. I watched his speech. Did you? He looked drugged. He mumbled. He thought one of the shootings took place in Toledo. No, Mr. President. That’s was Dayton. Dayton, Ohio. In a state that you need to carry if you have a hope of being re-elected.
I’m not sure that’s going to happen.
Aside from his hate filled racist rhetoric, he killed my retirement fund yesterday, with his “easy to win trade wars.” The Chinese reacted in the only ways they could. They stopped buying grain and soy beans from American farmers. And, they let the Renminbi (Yuan) drop to a conversion rate that is higher than it was when I used to roam around Asia.
I can afford to travel to China since goods, services and lodging are much cheaper for me. But, after the stock market reacted, my retirement fund tanked. Now I might not have the money to travel.
What to do?
Since our government leaders seem to be stuck in place, it’s up to us. It is always up to us.
Look around the world.
Puerto Rican citizens forced a corrupt leader out of power.
Hong Kong people are striking in every possible way. On Monday, they shut the whole city down. By forcing the MTR (subway) to stop, the Hong International Airport was forced to cancel 200 flights. My fear is that with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army — Chinese Army) mounting up in Shenzhen, just across the border, they may enter the city. There will be serious bloodshed. I lived in Hong Kong for a long time. Those are my people.
All of that said, maybe it’s time for us to strike. To shut everything down. To force our politicians to act. To act now, because waiting 18 months to vote is too long. People are dying. People are afraid to go shopping, to go school, to go hear a concert, to gather in a crowded place.
One of my jobs in my other career is to predict the future. I think about our local events.
What about Mardi Gras?
What about French Quarter Fest?
What about Jazzfest?
A guy with a gun could kill hundreds before he could be stopped. I’m having second thoughts about making pictures during those events.
Even neighborhood second lines — the thing that is near and dear to me — could be compromised. If a deranged white power dude wanted to take out Black People that would be the place to do it.
The whole thing sucks.
That’s why we have to step up. Somehow. Some way.
Doing nothing will kill more of us.
A few notes.
I promised that Storyteller would be a politics free zone. It would be a place to talk about art. About photography. About seeing. And, about some technology.
I’ve broken my promise to you. I’m so sorry.
But, if I say nothing I’m as culpable as the people doing us harm. So, you see, I have no other choice. I’ve got to speak. I fear that in the future — I don’t know when — Storyteller may publish pictures of events I don’t really want to photograph. But, my journalistic roots won’t let me ignore the events of change.
The rain brings out the best in them. Makes them glow. Makes them sparkle. Makes them shine. That’s everywhere. Doesn’t matter where in the world you happen to find yourself. Especially in The United States, where most of the country finds themselves in a horrible heat wave.
Or, in New Orleans, where another storm flooded the streets. Three inches in about 30 minutes. They say that the pumps can’t keep up with the rain. Or, that the water has to reach the pumps in order to be pumped.
That’s what pipes are for.
What that really means is that the entire city has to be re-piped. Given that it took almost four years and a billion dollars to replace a few blocks of pipe, that’s probably not realistic.
We probably should learn to live with water. Like the Dutch do. Greenways. Permeable surfaces. Water features. Flowing man made streams. A way for the water to flow rather than pool. A way to capture rain water rather than pump it into the lake or the river.
Will we do it?
There isn’t enough vision in New Orleans. There aren’t very good leaders. The leaders are voted into office for the wrong reasons. Then the graft starts. In New Orleans, it’s a generational things. It’s a racial thing. It’s a gentrification thing.
Eventually, the city will sink into the swamp from which is born, a victim of subsidence, land loss and climate change. Won’t matter to me. I’ll be long gone.
A bit of housekeeping. Or, should I say, complaining? A rant?
A person who sometimes reads Storyteller came to a post via Facebook. At first I thought that she was trying to compliment me about my pictures and my words. I tried to humbly say that I can barely write in the English language. It went on from there. She wrote something about my big head. WTF? I can barely type without 100 typos in a paragraph. Write? Not me.
Sheesh. Some days I wonder if I can photograph.
It kept going on. I gave up. I am so twisted around the axel that I have no idea what she was trying to say. So, I downloaded one of her books from Amazon. One of the two books that some publisher scooped up. Maybe I could learn something about her that would clarify her comments to me.
The publisher says they don’t understand its low sales. I do. It’s unreadable. Right from the start. The book starts in the middle of a scene. What? How did the story happen? No backstory. Clunky writing. No beginning, middle or end.
I don’t know that much about the publishing world, but I do know something about the music industry. They are kin. A record label’s job, like a publisher’s job, is to fine tune the product. They design an attention drawing cover. They market and publicize the hell out of it. Hopefully, they blow it up.
Two things. One is timing. That’s fairly unpredictable. The other is excellence. The content has to be wonderful. The reader or listener knows when something is good. They tell their friends. Word of mouth spreads the good word.
Bottom line. Content – Marketing – Distribution.
Bottom line part two. She confused me with her comments because of the same reason I couldn’t read her book. She’s not a writer. She’s probably good at selling. That’s how she found a publisher. Still, they make her do most of their work.
Which leads me to a general observation. The internet set about to democratize and disrupt everything. It’s caused entire industries to crash. Anything creative — photography, music, writing, all of the arts — has been overrun with people who “think” they are creative.
In order to break through, they give away or sell their product for next to nothing. Most of these people aren’t creative. Many of them are just derivative. How many vampire books do we really need? How many books about mentally challenged people do we need? Or, historical novels that feature a bare chested beautiful man as the main subject?
Even if we really needed them, we couldn’t begin to read all of them, just as we can’t listen to all the poorly played, produced and recorded music.
Photographs? Don’t get me started. The worst thing to happen to wannabe photographers is Instagram. You can’t find the good work in the deluge of crap.
Most of these people don’t have the talent or the grit to really pursue and artistic life. They have partners or spouses who pretty much subsidize their lives. While I don’t believe in the “starving artist,” I’m pretty sure most of these folks are just looking for something to do because they are bored.
Are you one of these people? I don’t know. Put it to the test. Will buyers pay the proper rates for your work? Will the publisher or record label market you properly? Will they get your product in stores, in agencies, or on the radio? Will you get to do a late night talk show? Will you get reviews in high end media?
Then, you’ll know.
Either way, you’ll learn something. If it’s not what you want to hear, either you can keep trying (that really sorts out the wheat from the chaff) or you can move on.
I’ll get killed for this one. I don’t care.
This picture. It’s like most of my pictures. I stand in front of better stuff. I saw it and I pushed the button. It’s easy to me. I’m the real deal. I’ve done all of what I suggest to you. I’m battle tested.
I see everything. Little things. Tiny things. Details of huge things.
This little weed — at least that’s what’s it’s called by people who manicure their lawns — is smaller than a U.S. dime. That’s our ten-cent piece to those of you who don’t speak in American English. A cent is like… oh, never mind. 🙂
I think of these so-called weeds as just another flower. In nature. Like all flowers, they are built to spread pollen and therefore, themselves. They may hurt the greenness of some people’s lawns, but they don’t hurt me. Or, most other people.
This all came to me while I was watching a bit of a CBS new program called 60 Minutes. It was a rather long story that dealt with animal genetics, how to breed better animals, how to have an adoptee raised by other animal parents and whether less genetically endowed animals should be given some kind of birth control.
Of, fer gosh sakes. (This is a family blog)
Animals have been taking care of their own needs for years and years and years. They did it well before humans thought we needed to help them procreate. Or not.
This is technology and data run amok.
Of course, this is being written by a guy who dislikes zoos and roots for the animal when some dummy trying to prove something stands on a fence and falls into the lion pit. What can I say? I get along with alligators. And, lawyers.
The picture. I’d like to say it’s something the dog saw. But, she was busy. Taking care of one of her needs. I made it with my “ancient” iPhone 6 that has a kind of telephoto-macro function in the camera ever since the last patch or two of the latest operating system was installed. It’s not exactly macro and the picture did take a bit of cropping to get it where I wanted it to be, but it worked out fine for Storyteller.