The news is grim, getting grimmer. The virus is growing exponentially in New Orleans. I live in a country in desperate need of a leader. Many people, most not from NOLA, are trying to blame the mayor for not cancelling Mardi Gras. None of us knew. We certainly had no direction from the president or even FEMA. I’m not the mayor’s biggest supporter. I stand with her this time.
I followed my own advice. One day at a time. Doing what I do. Making art.
I started tinkering with the base picture which is a very tightly composed and cropped picture of a rose. You’ll see other versions of it eventually. I added the little tiny flowers on the lawn. You’ve already seen those. I started working on the color, brightness and glow.
I started smiling. I started laughing. This picture is so whimsical that it brought out my hidden happiness. I hope it works for you.
I have a couple of friends who call themselves street photographers. I like their work. But, I’m not sure I get it. The name, not their work. I get their work. I shoot portraits on the street a lot. Y’all know that. But, I just think of myself as either a photographer or a photojournalist. Sometimes, an artist. So. I dunno. On the other hand, a lot of guys who call themselves street photographers seem to shoot from about a million miles away, almost like they are afraid of their subject. Me? I like to engage my subjects. I talk to them. I hang with them. Sometimes I give them a couple bucks if they ask. Oh. Checkbook journalism. Hahahahahahahaha. How close do I like to work? Two of these pictures were made with a 16 mm lens. The horn player was made with a 55 mm. Like I said, I like to work close.
The pictures? F8 and be there, once again. Very little post production because pictures like these really don’t need it. Nor, should they have it.
Ervin Mayfield. He says that trumpet players are cool. He’s right. Especially in New Orleans where jazz originated. To me, jazz in any of its forms is a lot of fun. And, it should be. Imagine getting paid to play music on a stage in front of people who you are making happy. Other musicians do that too. Of course they do. But, in New Orleans you can listen to big acts play their songs right on the street and it’s no big deal. Irvin Mayfield and his band. I wrote about him a couple of days ago. He’s a local who has played just about everywhere and yet the Central City Festival wasn’t too small for him. That’s the way it is with a lot of New Orleans folk. Play in Madison Square Garden one night. Play on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard the next. Doesn’t matter. Just let people hear your songs. Sometimes smaller venues are better. The musicians get to experiment a little. After all, how many jazz bands use a banjo player? This one did.
Are these guys having a good time? Just look at them. You tell me. Keep this picture in mind the next time you are thinking about a career. Pick one that will make you smile. That will make you laugh.
I was going to change directions on Storyteller. I was about to publish more unrelated, semi-artistic pictures of something or other. But, then I received and email from Corrie. It said, “Sammy got down on his knee…” It’s the best email I’ve received in days. Weeks. Months. Of course I congratulated them. But, that’s nothing. What to do? What to do? Then I thought, “Hey. Wait a minute. I publish a blog that a few people read. I’ll just publish more Memphis pictures.” And, here they are…
Sammy and Corrie. I couldn’t be happier for you.
The pictures. You guys know me. I just stick cameras in front of things. Locations. People. One more thing. I’m not the most original guy in the world. My headline is Sammy’s. He posted it on Facebook a coupla hours ago. I couldn’t come up with anything better.
So it started for real tonight. Mardi Gras parades began to roll Uptown. As I’ve written, after many years of photographing Carnival, I was casting about for some different approach. It didn’t have to be a big change. I just want to make pictures that show some development in my work. I made a strategic decision. Rather than photograph the parade as I usually do with people jumping for beads and throws as floats and bands pass by, I thought I would work at the start of the parade. This turned out to be a pretty good idea. I was able to make pictures while bands practiced, float riders got set in their positions and baton twirlers stretched and got ready for a very long walk. It worked out pretty well. At least the images don’t look like every other year’s pictures. And, two by-products occurred. I enjoyed them both. The first was just being able to interact with the paraders. Once they start along the parade route the only communication is waving and catching their eyes. The second was really cool. I was able to leave very early. Yes. I know that’s not in the spirit of Mardi Gras, but I have an excuse. By parking in a place that would allow me to go around the parade. I could shoot at the start of the parade and drive to one or even two other locations. But, not tonight. I realized this after both parades — the run one or two in a row — departed and I started thinking, “boy, this is really early.” Before I try multiple locations I have to plan where I want to work. There are some locations where I might rather not be.
The pictures. This is just pure photojournalism. I work, I talk and I work some more. I push the button. And, that’s it. Once again, getting to the picture is much harder than making the picture.
So. I promised you that my first post of the day was just a test. It was. What is really cool about that post is that I did everything, except make the picture, on my i-Pad. This is very important since I’m trying to travel even more lighter these days. I reckon if I don’t need a laptop, the will cut my carry on luggage down to very little. I’ll test it next week from the road. Hopefully, it will work as well as I’d like. What would be extra cool is if I could just think pictures and not need a camera. Kidding.
Tonight. There is a big movement in New Orleans to legalize food trucks. Actually, it’s not to make them legal. They are. But, they are restricted. So it’s really an attempt to make the current rules a little less strict so that they can park in certain locations in the city for more than a few minutes. Some of the city council people are actually championing this. That’s all good. If you’ve read Storyteller for any length of time, you know that I really like street food in all forms. In all countries. So, of course, I really like the idea. In order to drum up public support, someone came up with the idea of holding monthly food struck festivals. Many of them are organized in Central City on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. That fits in very nicely with my long form project. I can photograph and I can eat. Pretty good, huh? There were ten food truck tonight. Ribs. Very high-end grilled cheese sandwiches. Burgers. Hot dogs from Dat Dog. Great coffee. Soul food. Falafels. Mexican food. And, so on. Get in line. Order. About ten minutes later you are eating. There’s pretty good music, too. And, plenty of tables on which to enjoy your dinner.
The pictures. Technically, I did pretty much what I always do. Content was important last night. A close friend of mine suggested that I’ve been framing too tightly and that I wasn’t leaving enough background information in the picture. So, I loosened up. That’s a big switch for me. I like to frame tightly and graphically. The other change was working more with the people whom I photographed. You see the results in each frame. Even though the top image of the man grilling ribs is graphic, we talked enough for him to ask me when he could shut the lid. I worked quickly because I think that he’s trying to feed people and I’m just making pictures. Oddly, chatting with people is easier for me than framing more loosely. For many photographers that’s reversed.
And so another year comes to a close. I thought I’d do some kind of wrap up. I was having trouble figuring out what to do. I was thinking about posting my Picture A Day project minus one picture for the 31st. But, who wants to see 364 tiny pictures at one time? I’d bore you. Sheesh. I’d bore myself. Then I thought about posting my best twelve pictures for the year. You know. One for every month. That’s a lot, you know. The late, great Ansel Adams said that he felt like he had a great year if he produced ten good pictures. I once tried to shoot five great pictures over summer and couldn’t do it. But, I’ve worked a lot this year and thought I might be able to pull twelve portfolio-level pictures together. Or, maybe not. But, along came WordPress. They saved me. I’m sure those of you who are my blogging colleagues received a set of statistics similar to mine. Numbers of viewers. Countries from which these viewers came. Most comments. Referring websites. Stuff like that. I also was shown a set of pictures that received the highest viewer response. There weren’t many. Four. To be exact. You’ll see them in a minute.
If there is one word to describe these four pictures, it’s confusion.
I publish pictures on Storyteller for a number of reasons. In many ways, the pictures you see on this blog are experimental. I hope to learn a little bit about what you think. I hope to gain a little artistic direction. Trends change. Styles change. I change. That’s all good. It’s growth. Growth comes from interaction. Enough about that. But, when you see these four pictures I’m sure that you’ll agree they are all over the place. No trend. No identifiable collection. I have no idea…
All of that said. So far, I’ve had a great time. I’ve made some new friends. I’ve renewed some old friendships. And, I’ve learned a lot about many of you. I’m grateful for that. And, I’m humbled by some of your comments. With that…
I’ve been photographing people for most of my career. A quick look at my history will tell you that some of my earliest work was published in the newspapers for whom I worked. Most of the images published in a newspaper are about people. It doesn’t matter what section of the newspaper that you find pictures — news, features, entertainment, sports and so on — they are about people. There are very few nature, wildlife, scenic or even cityscapes found on those pages. Not that there is anything wrong with those categories of pictures. I photograph a lot of those subjects myself. But, that’s where I first learned to make the kinds of portraits that I do today. My portraits are typically not posed, little momentsand slices
of life. But, they aren’t made on the sly. Even if we aren’t collaborating, the people whom I photograph know that I’m making their picture. The little selection of portraits that I am showing you were made all over the world. Hong Kong, Thailand, South Africa, Texas, Hawaii and New Orleans. The represent a broad cross-section of my career.