Into the green, out of the black.

C

onversation.

It took me a while, but I finally figured something out. I say that photography and music are very similar in approach. And, they are.

But.

There is one huge difference. One that matters most.

Conversation.

When a musician plays with another musician they create a musical conversation. They talk to each other through their instruments. Think about the famous guitar duels between, well, any couple of guitar players and you’ll understand.

Stephen Stills (his birthday yesterday) and Neil Young come to mind. Their duels are stuff of legend.

But, they are not duels. They are a musical conversation that has lasted almost 60 years. It’s probably one reason that they remain friends despite all the ups and downs of their various bands. Today, even though neither of them play live much, they seem very happy to see each other when they share a stage.

That, and age.

The things that seemed so very important in their youth don’t seem to matter much now.

Funny how that happens.

Conversation is important. That’s a large part of what fulfills you. Visual artists of any genre don’t have this. We mostly work in solitude. Sometimes with assistants, but mostly alone. Our fulfillment comes from the inside.

Doing that is hard.


Colorful tree and other stuff.

D

id I tell you that I hate WordPress? I hate it more everyday. They keep trying to dig money out of my wallet for services I don’t want.

But, what I really want to talk about is The New York Times.

They seem intent on prosecuting former wars with information everybody knew about except for them.

I once worked for a newspaper whose newsroom joke was, “If it’s news, it’s news to us..”

That seems to fit the Times to a T right now. First, I know what they are trying to do. They want to win as Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting so they are doing an extremely long take out on drone warfare, bad intel, collateral damage and not being transparent with the American people.

Oh really?

All of this has been covered again and again in movies, books and long form television. Sure, some of it is fiction. But, fiction is based on the truth.

And, since when is the military supposed to be transparent about combat moves?

I even have a problem with the so-called phrase collateral damage. A war is a war. Trust me, those of us who have actually been in a war want nothing to do with one.

But, consider this. The United States hasn’t won a war since World War II. Fighting a war means total war, not picking and choosing.

I don’t want war, but as long as you are going to use drones and other methods of intelligence gathering you are going to have twenty year long wars when nothing but death is achieved.

The New York Times should know better. But, young editors needs stripes so they can move up the editing chain. Hopefully, they will learn as they go.

I fear not.

I

made this picture out of a couple of others. I don’t care and neither you should you.

It’s just more crap on a soon to be defunct WordPress page.

You know one of my reasons for leaving. I think that I laid it out pretty clearly next door.

There is one more reason. The best one. I haven’t taken a good picture in months. And, months.

And, I don’t think that I can. My day is done.

That’s too bad.


In another land.

E

very time. Every. Damn. Time. Whenever the boneheads at WordPress think that they are helping, they don’t. Yesterday’s post didn’t trigger untilI saw that it didn’t. Today.

It took and act of God to upload the correct picture today. And, those drop caps? They are hidden behind a pulldown for typography. If that’s not enough, there is a little dance you have to do between the letter you want to enlarge, and the drop cap button.

It was so elegant less than a week ago.

Now? More to learn. For no good reason.

After yesterday’s post of too many pictures, I thought I would take a little break and go minimalistic. Literally and figuratively.

The picture reminds me of something Japanese. It’s gentle and a little magical. It’s wispy without too much fragility. It’s hard to believe that I made it, with my heavy hands and all.

That’s all I was really gonna say.


All the air.

T

his picture was made of a little of this and a little of that. I mean it. There are three pictures in there lurking somewhere. None of them were made at the same time. One was made in New Mexico. One was made in New Orleans. And, one was made in Shrewsbury. The last two locations are found in Louisiana. Heh.

I’m at a place in my life were experimentation and rebirth are the most important things. As much as I complain about not being able to photograph second lines, Mardi Gras and Indian events, I’m not sure that I want to do that.

I want to move forward. I once asked a well respected art photographer how he knew when a project was complete. He said when he started repeating himself. I asked how long it usually took for him to get to that point. As usual, it all depends. But, after four or five years he knew that he was done.

I photographed New Orleans culture for a decade. The pictures are repeating themselves. I think that I’m done. For sure, there are a couple of pictures I’d still like to make but I’d have to earn my drone pilot’s license. I really don’t have any interest in that.

So.

I’m working with older pictures in an attempt to add something to them. I’ve done layering for years, but in most cases the images were similar. Now, I’m combining images that have no real relationship to each other.

Let’s see where this takes me.


Emerging from the foggy bottom.

L

et’s see if this thing works today. In many ways, I’m becoming afraid to post. It’s become what bad thing is WordPress going to do to me today.

I don’t know why I care. It’s not the most important thing do on any given day.

I read an op-ed column in which the writer tries to understand what is causing so many massive protests. He suggests a couple of potential reasons; the pandemic and the failure for government to take care of us.

Let’s talk about the last one and then get a little more granular. See, I know contemporary buzzwords.

Hurricane Ida left us with a lot of damage. I applied to FEMA for grants. We received the emergency grant of $500. That’s for food and hotel rooms. But, I didn’t receive the business grant of $1,500.

Almost immediately I received an email from the SBA who wanted me to apply for a low interest loan. I ignored it. I received another the next day, and the next day and the next day.

It seems the U.S. government wants me to take out a loan. I finally called someone at FEMA who apparently was used to dealing with brain dead monkeys. Every time that I need to make notes she asked me very carefully if I had a piece of paper and something to write with. After the third time, I asked her why she would think that if had those things the first time why I wouldn’t have them now.

That’s what she is trained to do.

She told me that I had to be apply for a SBA loan in order to qualify for more FEMA aid. Oh, okay.

In order to do that you join a general government aid website. Then, you join the FEMA website, and finally the SBA website.

If that doesn’t make sense, in order to read an email that FEMA sent you have go the general website. No email can come directly to me at my personal/business email address which is Ray@Laskowitzpictures.com.

I gave up.

Just last week I received an email from a human at SBA, wanting to know why I hadn’t applied for a loan yet. I told him in no uncertain terms why I hadn’t.

I’ve been dealing with federal crap since 1970. I’ve had enough.

I think I’ll start a protest march against FEMA. I know plenty of locals who would join me.

Then just because I can, I think I’ll start another march… against WordPress.

Are you reading automattician?

R

ound two. In which the idiot (me) thinks he can get through writing this blog unscathed.

While I was editing the other side, it came to me that I am going to fight my way through governmental interference and apply for an SBA loan.

Yep. With interest below one percent I’m going to apply for the full monty. $40,000.

I need it to buy a computer. That’s gonna be some computer.

I also wanna buy a hat. And, socks.

S

o, the picture.

I started with the background. It’s a bush full of pink flowers. I made it as over processed as I could. Then, I layered another flower over that.

When that was sufficiently mixed up, I added the trees to that.

I wasn’t sure at first. But when I tinkered with it, I was.

That’s why you get to see it.


Southern spring.

A

little something pretty for a Friday afternoon. I made this picture a while back, sometime in spring. I did the developing and post production and promptly forgot about it.

I found it looking for something else just as I did yesterday. I reckon if I keep doing that I won’t ever have to take a new picture again.

What would be the fun in that?

Besides, I’d just go crazy.

I just have to find safe places to work. There are plenty of stories I’d like to tell around this place that don’t require me to be part of a crowd.

And, that makes me happy.

After thinking about it I realized that I added 2+2 and really did come out with 4. The twos are simple. I can’t be in crowds ever, or at least until the pandemic has been managed. The second two is my realization that it maybe years before that happens.

That’s pretty depressing.

Understanding that helped. So did a little stiffer med. I feel better now. I have one problem with it. I sleep a lot. I suppose it could be worse. A friend of mine started on a new medicine and within about nine months she gained 40 pounds. She’s working on that now.

I suppose that everybody has something.

F

lower, flower on the wall. Who’s the fairest flower of them all?

I’m pretty partial to this one. It has a lot of names. Around here people call it a Swamp Iris. Oddly, something very close to this grows in the high dry mountains along the northern Pacific Coast.

I wouldn’t have thought that it could survive in such different locations.

But, what do I know? I name flowers by their color as in that’s a red flower, that’s a blue flower…

I managed to lay the flower over grass that has crepe myrtle blossoms and fallen leaves on it.

Judging by the amount of little broken branches on the ground I must have photographed the lawn after a storm.

I tinkered with it and used a filter that approximates frosted glass.

And, there you have it.


The wheel.

T

his is it. The very first one. The very first experiment in layering. I made this picture in 2010, in Albuquerque, New Mexico on my kitchen table.

According to the EXIF data, I made it with an iPhone 4, in December. That means the weather was cold and there may have been snow on the ground.

Normally, that’s not a good reason to stay indoors. Albuquerque doesn’t get that much snow so the city doesn’t own the usual snow plows. Often, you get trapped indoors until the snow starts to melt.

Anyway, I must have been a little bored so I did some experimenting. I’ll get into that on the right hand column.

The subject matter is two items. An indoor fern and a box with watch parts and a razor blade.

For a while my dad played with watch making. He thought that he might like to do that as a job. He’s like me. Either he didn’t have the patience or he lacked really fine motor skills.

So, he gave it up and put watch parts, repair tools and some broken watches into a tool box and into the closet it went. Many years later, I found it in the same closet.

I didn’t do too much with it until that cold December. I opened the tool box and thought, “Wow! I could something with this.”

So, I did.

W

hen I started working on this picture, I had no idea where I wanted to go. For sure, I didn’t know what I was doing.

I know why I photographed the watch parts. I have no idea why I photographed the fern.

Anyway.

Somehow an idea formed in my brain that I could use both of the pictures together.

I didn’t know it, but that was the start of my adventure with layering.

As I recall, I didn’t do much of it for a long time. I started playing around with archive images.

Before I knew it…

This layering is relatively simple. Layer the fern over the watch parts. No adjusting because I didn’t know how to do it.

I did do some finishing work using OnOne yesterday, but that’s it.


Nearing some end.

With the all seeing dog on the mend I hit a wall. I wasn’t making new pictures. I did the next best thing. I worked on older pictures, experimenting every step of the way.

The good news is that the dog in question is feeling better. She took me for a walk this morning. I put the brakes on about half way through a normal routine because I didn’t want to tire her out.

So.

I did make some new pictures. You’ll see one tomorrow since I was already was working on this one.

Of course, even getting this picture here took an act of God. It started when a client forced me to use some alternate way of uploading PDFs.

It took me the better part of two days to fix all the issues including working in the safe mode to clean out the bad data.

This guy still wants to be a client. That’s fine. My basic billing rate is triple what I normally charge. Shut me down for two days and his accounting department is going to have questions.

Anyway…

Finally, a picture that can take some technical talk.

I built this one sort of backwards. Normally, my pictures are full of color.

This time after layering the images and getting them approximately where I wanted them, I worked backwards.

I removed color. I removed contrast. I almost came close to just leaving the dots in the file. Them I built the image up a little and that’s what you are looking at.

It’s a picture for late spring as we near summer. The brightest colors are fading. Others are starting to appear.

The mystery of life.


Over and over.

Art or not, I like this photograph. It was the last of the New Mexico pictures that I was showing you earlier. I decided to make it into something more after claiming that my PAD pictures were akin to photojournalism.

So, I held it back.

It’s been living on my desktop staring at me, reminding me, nagging me. The image won. They always do.

I’ll discuss how I made it on the other side, the right hand column.

Under the heading of all the news that fits, there are some things going in the city that are scary.

There has been a rise in violent crime of 50% year to year. Shootings are up by 23%. There have been 12 shootings on upper Bourbon Street near or on Canal Street in the last two weeks.

One shooting was big enough that I read about it in the London newspapers. It was national news. You probably didn’t read about it because it’s likely there was another mass shooting the next day.

Somewhere.

Talk about a short news cycle.

Granted, the French Quarter is a touristy place, but the 100 and 200 blocks of Bourbon Street are gangland. There are armed wannabe thugs hanging out there, especially at night and the early morning.

If you are visiting stay away from there. Besides, there isn’t much to see.

The city’s response is to add another 150 cops there. That’s understandable because tourism is the city’s lifeblood. But what about other neighborhoods, of which the Quarter is just one?

In my hood we pay for armed private police. Most of them are former military and some are former M.P.s. No, they weren’t working in English parliament, they were military police.

They are armed, but they can’t apprehend anyone. They can put the cuffs on someone, but they have to call the NOPD in order to make an arrest.

I feel relatively safe right now. Most strangers are transients. They are either tourists taking pictures or people just passing by.

Right now nobody is passing by. Our street is finally being repaired. The construction crew thought the best way to fix it was to tear it all up. The street is all dirt with holes everywhere as the city pipes are being repaired to replaced.

As messy as it is, that’s a good thing. And, they are ahead of schedule, The original plan was to begin work in 2032. There are a lot of political and business heavyweights who use and live on the street. The former mayor’s aunt lived there.

What do you think happened?

His aunt was 82. She passed before any of the work began.

I was afraid that with the original schedule, the same thing would happen to me. I suppose that it still could.

And, so it goes.

Balloons floating through the air in the quiet of early morning.

That wasn’t enough so I added a foreground.

That still wasn’t enough so I added what picture editing apps call bokeh. I think they are just round circles that have been softened so that the fit into the picture.

Besides, bokeh is something else entirely. It’s the quality of the out of focus area of the picture.

For a while it was a really big deal. Brand new photographers were trying to take bokeh pictures. Others were discussing how to add it when it didn’t exist in the picture.

The conversation turned silly, even though the very best out of focus areas are creamy, but in which you can still recognize the shapes.

I have friends in Japan. The word bokeh is Japanese, but they said nobody uses it there.

Oh well.

Another western appropriation shot to hell.

Anyway.

After I added all of that, I fine tuned and tinkered a bit. Finally, I was done. So was the picture.

The picture has a sort of explosive quality to it, don’t you think?

Stay safe. Stay Strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Get your jabs. Look after each other. Be patient. Float around in all the air.