Once again.

A

nother day. Another block. Another time. Another house.

This is a place that I know for certain was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. I’ve watched it over the years. It follows the laws of nature with the overgrowth. In the winter, such as it is in the Gulf Coast, you can see more of the house as the vines and plants die and turn into branches.

In mid-to-late summer the house looks as you see it. Overgrown and almost beautiful in its ruined state.

Even though I’ve photographed and watched this house over the years, I have no idea what happened to the residents. If a house is still standing over the years, it usually means that the person who lived there moved on, either in this world or in the next.

If the move was made in this world, it means the owner doesn’t have the money to restore it.

The owner’s family usually comes into play if the owner passed on. If that’s the case a potential buyer has to jump through the usual New Orleans hoops in order to find the past owner and line of succession. Even then, the past owner might not really be the owner, but the child of the past resident who may be the child of an even older relative. And, so on.

This house was probably built in the late 1800s to the very early 1900s. If the house was passed on without a deed transfer buying this house could prove to be lost impossible.

That’s why there are so many derelict houses in New Orleans.


With his friend, a jealous monk.

T

here’s a story behind every door, but I don’t know what they are. A good guess is that this place received some of Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters, but not that much because a lot of Central City is above sea level which makes it that last great ungentrified piece of land in the city.

There was talk a few years ago of Central City being developed fairly quickly because parts of it are near to the train station and The Super Dome. Prime land you know. Unless you count a couple of restaurants and a failed grocery story-cafe complex not much has happened.

That’s how it should be.

Between storms and gentrification in every other neighborhood of the city this is the only place where original dwellers can continue to live. In a time when social aid & pleasure clubs have to drive from places way upriver in order to participate in their former neighborhood’s second lines that’s saying something.

How long this will last is anybody’s guess.

If I had any brains at all, I’d buy this house, restore it and lease back to someone who lives in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, tracking down the owner, or owner’s survivors or worse — looking through tax rolls, or deeds — is a big undertaking. I did that once. Of course, in that neighborhood the original deeds were written in French. I don’t think Central City, let alone this building, is that old.

Of course, I think of all this just as we are getting ready to pull out and leave the city. Unlike the post-Katrina years, we aren’t thinking of coming back. Hurricanes, potholes, shooting and car hijackings be damned. It’s time.


Light through the window.

M

ore changes. I knew that I wanted to design some kind of gallery. I’ve done it in the past. Good luck with that. Now the gallery template is divided by columns so the images are divided into long thin columns. A casual viewer wouldn’t know what they were seeing unless they they opened each picture.

I suppose that’s one way to get you to spend more time on the page, but it seems kind of funky to me. And, not in a good way.

Anyway.

You can’t keep a good man down, they say. I suppose who they is talking about. Good man, indeed.

Being stuck inside the house has pushed me to look at things a little differently.

T

his is about light. The key component of any photograph.

This just may be a little more focused on light than normal since it is light that makes thee three pictures.

I saw the pictures. Or, they saw me. I pressed the button and that was it.

Editing was simple. Darken the images and make them a little contrasty.

Window blinds at night.

The first thing I noticed was how the blinds carried the outdoor color. I decided that I’d better photograph it. So, I did.

The next thing you know, I was playing with the files and this image is what came of it. I think it’s sort of pretty. It inspired me to make pictures of other things that I might not normally think about photographing. The two pictures, one above and one below came from looking out the window, as the sun was dropping on the horizon line.

I like them. I hope you do too. Who knows what I’ll see next.

No widows, no waiting.

In case you missed a few…

Deep and Dark


S ometimes you can’t sleep. But that was okay because I slept too much the night before. While I was laying there my past came into view. Both good and bad memories. I intentionally forced the bad ones away. Who wants to try to fall asleep with bad things in mind? There were a lot of […]

Midnight


M ystical, magical and very blue. This was really a test. What happens if I turn a white statue blue and add leaves? Now we know. It looks like this. Sort of mysterious. Sort of like the garden of good and evil. This is another picture that took some time to make. I think about […]

Questions


S pace. The final frontier. This picture was assembled from bits and pieces of other pictures. I’d say it was layered, but it wasn’t exactly that. Normally, I lay one entire picture over another. This time I laid a portion of a picture over the base and blended until you can’t see the edge. It […]


Returning.

I

talk a lot about nature just wanting stasis. This is a great example of that. The house was damaged during Katrina. The doors and windows are boarded up.

That didn’t stop nature from retaking that little piece of land.

Maybe one day the owner will return or there will be a new owner. They’ll start removing the new growth only to find out that by doing that the house was weakened, often beyond repair.

Yep. That’s nature.

And speaking of nature, her virulent cousin Covid-19 came into play yesterday. Jazzfest was cancelled for the third time in two years.

That leaves musicians, support crew and staffs as well as artists and cooks without work. Some of those people make most of their years bank during the two weeks of Jazzfest.

This hurts hotels, restaurants and clubs. This hurts the city’s tax base. As these things pile up it means that we are further and further away from recovery.

If that didn’t make Sunday bad enough, a friend to us all passed. Action Jackson worked for WWOZ, probably the best jazz radio station in the world. He anchored the culture. I remember meeting him years ago. He was making video. I said, but you work for a radio station. He said, “Aw man, you never know.

He battled cancer for almost four years, almost never missing a beat on the street. He was 59.

He was right. You never know.

H

ere are two mantras to live by. They came to me when I was trying to talk to the universe. I heard them a long time ago but I forgot them.

“Important things are simple. Simple things are hard.”

And.

“Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

That’s about all you need to know about anything.

Don’t even bother thinking about it. Just put them in play.

How demanding of me.

Oh well.


Old time, good time.

This is a dramatic change.

Mostly, I’ve been posting faux nature pictures as they relate to the season. But, I downloaded an upgrade to my OnOne editing and processing software. I just had to test it. I had to take it for a spin. You know, kick the tires.

I remade an image that I photographed about five years ago. While I won’t be tinkering in this way with the pictures I select, I was able to start an end of decade project.

Remember, 2020 is not only a new year, but a new decade.

That started me thinking about the dawn of this millennium. That’s a story in itself. At least, I started that out properly, by standing on The Great Wall of China as the clock struck midnight. I’d like to say it was a sort of lonely experience which would have been perfect. But, there were more people — Westerners and Chinese — standing up there than at any Mardi Gras parade.

Anyway.

Back to this picture. I tinkered with my upgraded software for a couple of hours. It was two things. A learning experience without a sharp learning curve. And, a lot of fun.

If you ask me exactly what I did, I couldn’t tell you. There was a lot of back and forth. I actually think I went a little too far. I may reprocess it in a slightly more restrained way once I learn more about the software.

I remember submitting the original image to an agency. They were looking for something “spooky” for an ad campaign. They really liked this picture. They asked if I had a property release. I replied that I didn’t need one. The Art Director started to say something, but I cut him off. I said, ” I don’t need a property release because I own the house.”

Yes. I did. We did.

We bought it for pennies on the dollar because the entire back of the house fell off. Three stories just peeled off the house in one big sheet, which broke up when it hit the ground.

We applied for, and received, state and city grants. They came with two requirements. We can’t sell the house for ten years. And, we needed to place a historical plaque on the front of the house.

Flash forward four years. The house is restored to its former glory.

There are a lot of period pieces that have either been restored or internally modernized.

It’s painted using New Orleans colors of the time period, which are not as bright as you’d think. Around here you can go to any Sherwin-Williams paint store and ask for their color chip chart for a certain period of time. Pick the colors and they mix them to 1887 specifications. The year the house was born.

It is leased to a nice young family who treat it as their own.

This house is the anchor to a completely rehabbed, but not gentrified, neighborhood. What was once a run down and Katrina-flooded street is now restored. The people who live there are truly neighbors.

So.

The city got a restored neighborhood. Young families along the street got new homes. Some rent. Some own. We got to test our general contracting and work skills. And, we own a lovely second property in an up and coming section of town.

Everybody wins.


Falling apart in Central City.

I saw this place on the way to the second line. I’ve seen it before. It just never quite looked so dramatic. And, I never stooped to make a picture. Even for a few minutes.

This time I did.

I photographed it at about 4pm in what was pretty bright sun. Not a great time. I decided right then and there that it would be the template for something else.

This is what I did.

Basically, I made a mess. I tinkered. I played. I went forward. I back tracked. I think that I turned a broken place into something spooky. I’m also thinking that without those fleur de lis on the fence this picture might not stand on its own.

I probably should go back at around dusk. Or, at least when there are heavy storm clouds blowing around. The problem with the dusk idea is that the neighborhood scares me a little bit. It’s one thing to be there when there are hundreds of people having a good time at a second line. It’s another to be out there on your own. With camera gear. You never know.

The more I look at this picture I think it would make a good album cover. I would have to square up the way I made it, and crop it some, but I could see one of our brass bands hanging out there.

Hmmm.

And, one more thing. It occurred to me what drew me to this place. Bad juju. This is a left over Katrina house. Today is August 29th. The 13th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall at Buras, Louisiana.

We try to forget this as we go about our daily business, but, as a friend tweeted, it’s in our DNA. I doubt that we’ll ever really forget.


A little bit of everything.
A little bit of everything.

The neighborhood.

Just a street in Mid City. Not far from the old laundry building. The buildings are sort of typical of some older houses that have been handed down from generation to generation. And, survived the storm. Survived bad weather. Hot weather. Humid weather.

So is each generation’s stuff. Typical. It survived. What were grandpa’s things was once papa’s. When he passed, it became his children’s. And, so on. It gets displayed. Proudly. On the street. In no particular order. It looks chaotic. But, it’s not. If you look closely, you’ll see that everything is in its place. Even if that place doesn’t make sense to you.

The pictures. They found me. I was leaving the laundry building and was just sort of looking around. This isn’t particularly hard. You just have to keep your opens open. You just have to see. Most importantly, you have to clear your mind. Turn your brain off. And, just photograph.

Easy? Right?

Classic neighborhood stoop, Mid City, New Orleans
Classic neighborhood stoop, Mid City, New Orleans


Ruins in Hollygrove.
Ruins in Hollygrove.

Before I write anything more, a quick word of caution. If you are a Mac user, DO NOT download the latest their operating system called El Captain. It was bad from the original download. Now, two versions later, it’s worse. It’s slow. It doesn’t recognize other manufacturer’s software that I need to do my job, and it only took 27 hours to download. Yes. We have a very fast internet connection.

Now that, I’ve written that and gotten it off my chest…

I return to the scene of the crime — a past photographed location — every couple of months. I like to see the progress made in a particular neighborhood. This is a still unrepairedd house left over from Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters. It is located in a neighborhood called Hollygrove. You’ve been there with me in past stories. When I was there taking pictures, everything was fine. Three hours later it was a crime scene. A man was shot and killed there. I don’t know when the odds start turning against you, but it’s starting to feel that way. I’m very situationally aware –that’s the proper term for “I have good alarm bells in my head” — but life turns on a dime.

The picture. The actual image is pretty clean, but I added a ton of work to it in post production. The funny thing about this house is that it doesn’t look like a New Orleans house. It must have been a fine home pre-storm.


Sign of the Times.
Sign of the Times.

I was on my way to the Saturday second line and looking for place to park, when I stumbled upon this little scene. So, I parked across the street.

I saw that sign.

Cease Fire. That campaign is at least four years old. It seems as appropriate to today as it was back then. Nothing has changed. Not on this street. Not in this neighborhood. Not in the city. Or, the country. If anything, things have gotten worse.

But, that’s not the point of this post. We live in Gun World. It appears we have to just deal with it. Get a little numb. Or, get a little stupid. Take matters into our own hands. Shoot a few shoplifters. Or, shoot the victim. By mistake. Yeah. Good guys with guns. Can’t shoot straight. Don’t train to react appropriately. Just carry a gun. Point it when you feel like it. Squeeze the trigger whenever.

Uh huh.

At least the sign in the picture refers to bad guys. Gangs. Drug dealers. Sheesh. Now, I’m not sure who worries me more. The bad guys. Or, the good guys trying to help me. And, you wonder why I don’t like being on the streets so much. Anymore.

That still really wasn’t the point. So how about this? The picture was made in Central City. In New Orleans. I added a lot to it in post production. To make a point.

Which point?

I dunno. You pick.