ittle pictures. Details. Something to show the texture of a place. You’d think they would be the easiest to find and see.
Usually, you see them on the way back from whatever caught your eye in the first place. In a design piece they are often called point pictures which is the opposite of a hero picture. Alone, these pictures can’t carry the page. But, together they have some power.
Sounds like human beings doesn’t it. It takes a village. There is no I in team. Stuff like that. That’s why The U.S Army’s old advertising campaign of a team of one, never worked. There are no teams of one. And, before I forget, Happy 246th Birthday U.S. Army.
I’ve given some thought to another approach to using little pictures. What if I compiled a collection of these and printed them huge and turned them into a kind of art statement?
I’m starting to do the ground work to some new projects. Maybe this could be a component in one of them.
here really is no secret technique to making these photographs.
The key is to not edit yourself in the field. See it, shoot it. Don’t think about it.
Try your best to keep pictures like these clean.
This is no time for fancy post production and modifications.
You might want to work on these at their biggest magnification. There is no telling what’s hiding in the background.
Art, in its best form, is supposed to make a connection. It is supposed to make your viewers or readers feel something. A lot of people have been doing that to me.
A friend of mine lost her dog last week. The dog was old and it was time. She wrote such an elegant blog post the it took me three tries to read it without tearing up.
Padma Lakshmi has a new show called, “Taste the Nation.” She picks up where Anthony Bourdain left off. It’s a food show only in that food is the point of understanding. She interviewed her mom while they were cooking together. Her mom is talking about how she came to America. Both mother and daughter are fighting back tears. A vision came to me. I could see my little Polish grandmother cooking and teaching me how to cook. In a railroad flat. In Brooklyn. Whew.
I was reading a column by The Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell. He and I go back aways. We knew each other when we were journalistic pups. He wrote about teamwork and how you get there. The example that sticks most is about The Washington Nationals who won The World Series last year. They were invited to The White House. Some went. Some didn’t.
When it was time to start playing baseball and defend their world championship, they checked their politics, egos, race, spiritual beliefs and everything else at the door. They became a team. His working theory is that we, as Americans, forgot how to do this. We must defeat or control the Coronavirus. Everybody is walking to the beat of some other drummer. In order to win we must check our political beliefs, our racial beliefs, our spiritual beliefs and our anger about everything, at the door.
If we can’t do that, this country may not survive. There. I said it.
I said that I wouldn’t be talking about these outside issues. I would only focus on photography and art.
Outside influences are what propels an artist to make new, and maybe, better art.
I suppose that you can write around a group of pictures to influence their meaning. I’m not doing that. This group of pictures is about one of the few times New Orleans comes together and acts as a team. Second lines and Indian events.
Making the photographs was easy. I made pictures of what I saw. I didn’t do very much to them in post production because this work is kin to photojournalism.
There are a couple of pictures that I’d like to talk about.
In the photograph called “all joy” look at the woman with the giant hoop earring. When I lived in the 7th Ward, she was a little girl who lived a few houses down from me. When we saw each other, we grabbed each other and started hugging and laughing. Caring.
In the photograph called “Paying Respect,” I photographed Black Masking Indians greeting a frail looking man on his porch. He is a retired Indian. He’s about 90 in the picture. The Indians stopped, danced and chanted for him. Respect.
It’s those feelings that I hope you feel when you look at the pictures. Open them up. See the details.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy every bowl of gumbo.
That’s what second lines are really about. Of course there is music, paraders, social and benevolent societies, food and drink. The real point is to say hello to friends. Some who you saw just yesterday. Some who you haven’t in seen in a long time.
It’s the hug and smile that makes this picture. Nothing else.
It is my job to work close enough that I can make a fairly powerful picture, and far enough away that I don’t disturb them. The debate about consent rages on. I’m out of it. I have only one question to ask. If I had stopped these two men to ask their consent, would I have caught such a wonderful moment?
That’s my job as a photographer. To make powerful photographs. I’d go so far as to say when I photograph faux nature images that I’m not doing my job.
This was probably the last second line of the season. The weather turns too hot and humid to walk after the first week in July. We resume during the second week of September.
The joyful dancing woman and I had been flirting photographically for the past couple of weeks prior to my making this series.
She knew that I was there to make pictures. I knew that the man in the pink shirt is her husband. She introduced us. At the time, they were a family of four. She’s in her mid-thirties. Doesn’t look it, but she is.
I haven’t seen in them in a while.
If we ever get to come back out, hopefully I’ll see them and their children.
It’s funny about doing this street work. You meet people, say hello to them every Sunday and when second line season ends you go your own way. After a two month break for the hottest time of summer, if you are lucky you see them again.
I was walking and I saw a balloon drop out of the sky from nowhere. It was sort of stunning. It was so unexpected. I made a couple of pictures. It floated away.
Just like that.
Sometimes, that’s how things happen. It’s up to us to accept them, exploit the moment, or do nothing. For me, the last option is unacceptable.
I’ve had two occasions in the last few days to offer my “wisdom of age” to guys younger than myself. Normally,I don’t think it’s my business, but they asked.
The first guy is very overweight. He had an electrical heart issue. That was fixed. Now, his blood pressure spikes for no apparent reason. His doctor gave him a couple of options. He asked what I thought. I told him it was really simple. He only had two choices. Live or die.
Yes. It’s that serious.
The other guy wants to move really badly. He doesn’t know where. He likes the beach. He is getting older. His life is slipping by. I suggested that he travel some. To see if what he thinks that he wants, he really wants. And, then do it.
This has been going on for years. We’ll see what happens.
Now that I’m old, I see my options fairly clearly. I’m starting to get clarity on a couple of issues. I’ll make up my mind in the next day or so. Then, I’ll do it.
Time is always short. No matter how old you are. Use it. Don’t waste it.
Zulus. Chefs in their whites. Indians. Voodoo priestesses. Priests and ministers. Political leaders. And all the rest of us.
We walked. We talked to each other. There was a lot of kindness in the crowd. We came to celebrate a humble woman who believed the food could bring us all together. Who was far more than the queen of creole food.
Pure art. The picture is as I saw it. Very little post production on this one. It’s meant to be soft and gentle. It’s meant to be a break from real life. A little peace. A little quiet.
I could stop right here and wish you happy Friday.
You know me. Lately, that hasn’t been my way. Lately, I have the need to talk, er, write.
This is about joy. Joy from anywhere. I started thinking about this after watching and Amazon show called, “The Grand Tour.” It was created after the original Top Gear team left the BBC. It stars Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. Last nights show was the final episode, not of the series, but of the entire thing.
History. Clarkson got fired from the BBC for punching a crew member. Over a sandwich, I think. The other two realized that two without one didn’t add up to much, so they asked to be released from their BBC contracts. Clarkson went through some behavior modification counseling and the three of them joined Amazon. The new name reflects what tours of the world used to be in the 1800s. They were called a grand tour and used to last for months.
The original version was Clarkson’s brainchild. Prior to the arrival of Top Gear, car shows were boring. I like cars, but I never watched them. Once I saw Top Gear during its first year I was hooked. Comedy reigned supreme. Things crashed. Things blew up. Things burned. Richard Hammond almost got killed (for real). Only his short height saved him from losing his head.
Last night they said goodbye. Clarkson, who can be a giant knob as Richard May would say, fought back tears during their entire announcement. They played some highlights, some of which were borrowed from the BBC, to the tune of the original ending of Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” For me, that has always been a leaving song, especially the end piece with Eric Clapton and the late Duane Allman playing intertwined guitars over a piano.
I was in tears.
They’ve done this for 17 years. I’ve seen every episode. Think about that. I’m 65 now. I started with them when I was 48 years old. They’ve made me laugh and laugh some more, even during the dark days immediately following Hurricane Katrina. When I say laugh, I mean laughing out loud, rolling on the floor.
The audience was crying. They talked about their favorite shows.
Finally, the three of them made another announcement. The talk show, the in studio work and their local race track scenes were ending. The show as we knew it was ending.
But, they love Amazon and Amazon loves them. So, Clarkson claims. Instead of thirteen weeks every year, we were going to see what they do best. Long treks in some foreign country with either junkmobiles or the best of the high-end Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche cars. Those are the episodes that to me, and I’m pretty sure, most of us liked best. We won’t have to wait a year to see new work. It’ll be released as Amazon continuing series.
My heart jumped. I immediately felt better.
One more thing for you to know.
I borrowed that from them. Since they really drive the cars, catch on fire and get in crashes, they decided how to move on if one of them was killed. They would briefly tell the studio audience what happened and would immediately move on with…
It struck me that with the Mardi Gras Indians showing of their new suits around the first day of spring, this whole thing is about rebirth. Shedding old skins — their 2018 suits — and showing their new finery, just like a butterfly bursts from its cocoon.
It’s also about the joy of reunions. Even though New Orleans is a fairly small city, we don’t see each other all that often. We are busy. We are working. We are doing family things. We are running errands.
Sometimes we run into each other. If we are part of a group who photographs every second line we might see each other weekly.
As I back away from weekly second line coverage, that is the one thing I loath to give up. The camaraderie. As a friend of mine says, “it’s like going to church.” In many ways it isn’t. But, in most ways it is. Going to church on Sunday has many components. One is community. Another is prayer. What do I say about working? “The work is the prayer.”
I think I’m done with Super Sunday for this year, except for some oddities.
On most Sundays, you can find me at a second line. This one was important to me. Because, the work is the prayer. The whole world seems to need a whole lot of prayer right now. You know what I wrote yesterday. That’s what this work was for.
Second lines are joyous. They are happy events. The are celebratory. That’s what I needed. Probably, you did too.
They all Danced.
They all danced.
The pictures. The actual making of them is easy. See them, press the button. Done. Oh, and a little work in post production. Very little work. Mostly, it’s a question of getting there. And, staying there.