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.
It comes at a time of change. It comes during a time of #MeToo. It comes at a time when our children are demanding change in gun laws. It comes at a time when women are demanding to be treated truly equally. It comes at a time when the so-called president of my country thrives on chaos and destroying the rule of law and just about everything else that makes my country great.
Take a short break from all of that, and celebrate the women in your life. Celebrate the women bloggers you read and with whom you interact. And, celebrate the children in your life, especially the young girls who may look up to you.
“And try to find a peace within, Without stepping on one another
And do respect the women of the world, Just remember you all have mothers
Make this land a better land, Than the world in which we live”
— “Yes, We Can, Can” — Allen Toussaint
The picture. It’s one of the pictures from the Ladies and Kids second line. I made it as they were coming out the door of a club where they were preparing. At first glance I almost passed it by. I looked again. It’s not the smile of the woman in the middle. It’s the smile and the look of joy in the woman’s eye in the corner of the picture. The one that fills half the frame. The one that’s unintentionally cropped in a slightly strange way. The one that is slightly out of focus. The one that I made by accident in a crowd of onlookers and photographers.
The technical stuff. I could look at the metadata. I suspect that the basic data is somewhere around f 5.6 at about 500. There were lighting problems with this one because we were shooting almost directly into the sun. That’s where the ladies and children came out of the door. Oh well. You can’t always pick the perfect location and light. Just like real photojournalism.
Forty years or so. I know, I know. What does this picture have to do with Earth Day? Not much. Except I made it on either the first or second Earth Day at a festival. For the life of me, I cannot remember what this tube was supposed to teach. I do remember that the children loved running through it. If you think about it, this child is probably now in his or her late forties or early fifties today.
That’s a point reference for just how long this day has been going on. Along the way, there have been some real world gains and losses. The two most current are; yesterday England powered the country without coal for the first time since the 1800s. That’s something. On the other hand, the current United States leadership wants to bring the country back to the 1800s. The president is trying to revive the coal industry. Even when the industry itself doesn’t really want that.
You know me. I don’t get very political on the pages of Storyteller. But, I live here. On Planet Earth. With all of you. It’s the only home we’ve got. I’d like to see it live on. Healthily. For my children. Your children. Their children. Their children’s children.
The picture. Well. It’s forty years old. I made it on black and white film. Tri-X, most likely. I scanned a print and worked on it digitally. That combination seems to be a real winner. One of these days, I’ll actually get all of my archives scanned. Or not. My archives are deep. Likely, my children’s, children’s, children couldn’t complete the job. If they had an interest.
A long time ago. In Blacksburg, Virginia. 1980 to be exact.
I have a lot of thoughts about this picture. First, I took it just as my time in Virginia was coming to an end. Second, everybody in the picture including these boys’ moms who are cropped out in the background, knew I took the picture. Third, rust never sleeps.
It was a little hard to work at this time. New River Newspapers had been sold. The new owners bought our competitor and included that in my responsibilities. They were tight-fisted and didn’t really care about journalistic quality. I was on my way out. I was looking for a new job. In order to find I new job I had to keep producing. So… Wash, rinse and repeat.
I think about the emotional climate in 1980 when I took this picture and that of today, in 2016. When I photographed this scene, I stopped and talked to the mothers, I got their IDs and their children’s IDs. They were excited to be in the newspaper. Today? Not so much. With all the fear in the air, I might likely be stopped. Detained. Questioned by the police. That’s where it might stop, especially since after working 90 hour weeks for two years, I produced a lot of pictures. With credit lines. A lot of people knew my name, if not me. But, the places I worked were small towns.
Finally. Rust never sleeps. Neil Young wrote that line. It’s as right as rain. I took this picture 36 years ago. These little five-year-old boys are now around 41 years old. If you’re not paying attention, time passes in the blink of an eye. I hope they are still friends.
The picture. Nikon FM and a 180mm f2.8 lens. Kodak Tri-X film at ISO 400. Just remember, this picture is 36 years old. It’s not new work. I write this is response to somebody who thought she was paying me a compliment by saying how much my work has improved because she like the black and white work. I can only think one of two things. I’ve actually regressed in almost 40 years of taking pictures, which is certainly possible. Or, she’s convinced herself that black and white work has more gravitas since anybody today can take a color picture. Even my dog.
Do you think that I’m kidding?
I attached a little GoPro video camera to her collar. I hit the start button and let her walk around making a video of her world. I hate to say this, but it looked better than a lot of stuff that I see on YouTube.
I did my best yesterday. Because I had to. It’s a long story that could be best summed up in the saying, “The work is the prayer.”
I’ll tell you a little more. I’ll start with the back story of how these pictures came to be.
I’m working on a big project. I can’t talk much about it because in the advertising world everything is secret until it’s not. I was asked to sign an NDA. I did that. Suffice it to say, the project logistics are complex. The actual shoot is not. I called an old friend of mine for help to coordinate the travel planes. Flights and hotels. He made a career change a couple of years ago when he took a newspaper buyout. He decided that since he likes to travel, that he would build a travel agency. He’s starting to do well at it. So, I asked for his help.
I’ll do the rest in a timeline style.
Thursday. I discussed all of the particulars with him during the evening. Once we worked through the details, he said that he would email the completed tentative schedule on Friday.
Friday. Nothing arrived during normal business hours. He’s located on the West Coast so I added that time into my plans. I finally contacted him and just asked kiddingly, “Did you forget about me?” He replied that his wife wasn’t feeling good, had pretty bad stomach pains, and that he had to take her to the hospital. The doctors were running tests and he would know whether invasive surgery would be needed or if he could just take her home because it was nothing. I told him Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ Rule Number One. Family first. I told him not to worry about it. I told him to take care of his wife. I would sort out my travel plans.
Saturday. I didn’t hear from him. That didn’t surprise me. It was the weekend after all.
Sunday. I went to the second line. A kind of new one called The Winning Team Second Line and walk. It started late. So, I worked the edges which is what I really like to do. Then I received an IM (He mostly uses Facebook to communicate) from him. I looked at it and thought, “Cool. He managed to get the planning done.
No. That wasn’t it. This is what it said. “My wife died at 8:40am.”
I IM’d back immediately to express our condolences. We IM’ed back and forth a little. He’s in terrible shock. Trying to take care of the business of taking care of his wife’s funeral. Luckily, he has a lot of friends and family on the West Coast.
These pictures are for him, his wife, and his family. He actually came from this neighborhood. Central City. The pictures are about pure joy. That’s the only way I know to counter abject sadness. It’s not much. But, it’s what I do. What I can do.
You know what the pictures are about. They are all pretty straight forward. I’m going to post a couple of days worth of this work. I made enough good pictures to do that. See what happens when I’m really motivated?
All of you know is this. We all say it. But, yesterday it hit me like a three-pound mallet. Life is short. Do something with it. Life turns on a dime. Don’t waste the good times. And, for certain, don’t wallow in the bad times.
Yesterday was such a terribly sad day. The world mourned.
So, today there is only one thing to do.
Put on your red shoes and dance the blues
To the song they’re playin’ on the radio
While color lights up your face
Sway through the crowd to an empty space. — David Bowie, 1983
The pictures were made on Sunday at the 25th Anniversary of the Lady Jetsetters second line. I think you know the rest.
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