Florida Street Bridge.
Florida Avenue Bridge.

Yes. Time to get back to documenting stuff and playing with it in order to turn it into some kind of art. Or, something like that.

This is the Florida Avenuei Bridge located in the lowest part of the Ninth Ward as possible. It’s closed for now. That’s a good thing. It crossed the Industrial Canal near the turning basin. It is so far below sea level that every time I drove across it, there was leaks. From the bottom up. Not from overtopping. Heavy trucks used it. I always thought that one day, somebody would end up under water for no reason other than the bridge is too low and very old.

In case you are wondering, it was the levee walls that support the Industrial Canal which collapsed causing the devastation in the Lower Ninth ward during the storm.

If you turn right before you get to the bridge, you end up at a giant landfill. Then, a huge overflow canal. Some place, eh? People lived not 100 yards away from this.

Sometimes, as nature seeks stasis it also does the right thing. People shouldn’t live here.


Field of flowers.
Field of flowers.

You guys like flowers. I do too. So, here’s one more picture. I promise I’ll get back to some of my usual work… soon.

This field of flowers means something to me and probably the people who live near them. I photographed them in the heart of the destroyed Lower 9th Ward. Even though most of the former residents haven’t returned, nature has come back in full force. Sometimes, that means alligators and snakes. But on the beautiful day that I passed through what’s left of the neighborhood, I saw this field of flowers. Yellow. Green. Wonderment.


Spring comes to the Lower Ninth Ward.
Spring comes to the Lower Ninth Ward.

… I lied. Not a big lie. Not a whopper. A little one. I wrote that Spring was over in New Orleans. I ought to get out more. Before I blew that pop stand, I did my semi-monthly swing through the Lower Ninth Ward. I’m determined to follow its progress photographically as it tries to come back from the devastation caused by the storm. That storm.

Anyway.

What did I see? What caught my eye?

Wildflowers.

All over the place. Some were coming to the end of their season. But, others were just blooming. Okay. Okay. I was wrong. Spring isn’t over in New Orleans. Or… maybe I saw summer flowers. There. Take that.


CTC Stepper roll through the Lower 9th Ward.
CTC Stepper roll through the Lower 9th Ward.
CC Steppers second line parade.
CC Steppers second line parade.
CC Steppers.
CC Steppers.
On a bright Sunday
On a bright Sunday

As you know, I like to work from the inside out. I like to be part of the parade. In fact, I like to be part of almost any activity that I photograph. I like to work closer to the subject. I like to engage the subject. I like to give you a view that you might not normally be allowed to see.

But, it occurred to me… I haven’t shown you what it looks like when a second line parade rolls through a neighborhood.

In some cases it’s hard to show because the neighborhood is densely packed with houses and such. But, The CC Steppers walked through the Ninth Ward, including the still pretty much abandoned Lower Ninth Ward. You remember that place? When the levee broke during the storm, 18 feet of very fast-moving water literally ripped an entire neighborhood out by its roots. As I’ve written in the past, some of it is coming back. Most of it has not. That didn’t stop the Steppers. They walked through the width of the Lower Ninth. It was a point of pride.

So.

The pictures. Sure, I worked a little close while the parade was still walking on St. Claude Avenue. But, when they made the turn on Tupelo Street that would eventually take them into The Lower Ninth, I changed my working style. I switched to longer lenses in order to compress the image. I worked from head on and I worked from the side. I went back to wide angle glass when I wanted to make sort of a panoramic picture, which you see at the bottom of the four images. I like the top picture a lot. The second liners look like they are on a mission from God. They are.

One thing. Note the one way signs. Yeah. That’s New Orleans.


Broken and battered... the Lower Ninth Ward.
Broken and battered… the Lower Ninth Ward.

I’ve been posting a lot on various social media sites. This is an effort to step up my  online presence. I’m not sure that it really matters because nobody really wants to do anything with pictures except look at them and, er, “borrow” them. Looking at them is great. “Borrowing” them is not. I’m telling you this because I’m all turned around. Pictures that are normally only published on Storyteller have now been posted first on Google+ and Twitter. Given that I’ve been sick as hell, I’m very disorganized. But, tonight things clicked into clear focus — no pun intended — and I realized what a mess I’ve made out of my normal publishing order. Oh well. Stuff happens.

That’s the long way of telling you what’s going on. It’s also a way of saying that for me, Storyteller has to come first. It’s my informal online portfolio. I send people who are interested in working with me here, even before I send them to my website because Laskowitzpictures.com needs a refreshing. Seriously.

So. Some of my friends on Facebook will be seeing some of these pictures twice since I posted them there first. Sorry about that. I’ve just got to get this thing back into order. I’m like that. Very OCD. Sometimes.

Enough of that. Let’s talk about this picture. I made it on a very stormy day. It is a side of the hardest hit and flooded Lower 9th Ward. This neighborhood, or should I say sub-neighborhood, was once jam-packed with houses. The Lower 9th was a very vibrant neighborhood. Families lived there for generations. Now. Well, you can see. It’s pretty dead. It’s reverted back to nature. On this very far side of the neighborhood the only creatures that have come back are reptiles — yes, alligators — and snakes and other wild critters.

Please don’t misunderstand. As you move towards the river some houses are coming back. The houses are very well designed. Hip. Cool. Very modern. Maybe too modern. Very colorful. Like Disneyland. They were sponsored and paid for by actor Brad Pitt’s Make It Right foundation. Other people have joined in, as well. The buildings are spread out with lots of room to breathe, but it doesn’t feel right. At least, to me. But, that doesn’t matter. Some people get to come home. Most don’t. They live in Houston.

Yes. I stepped on this picture pretty hard in post production. I wanted to make it gritty and grimy. And, broken and abandoned. Torn and Frayed. Shattered. I want you to see what I feel. Now, here’s a caveat. I’m not sure that people should return. This land is so far below sea level that the streets leak as a routine event. Some streets are so buckled and broken that it would be easier to drive on some rutted desert dirt road. At least you wouldn’t meet a passing alligator.


Glowing in the Sun.
Glowing in the Sun.

Well. We started improving. Then we started coughing. Pretty badly. Now we are worse. The funny thing about viruses is that you can’t do much about them. Sure. There are OTC treatments. There is steam. There is rest. Lots of fluids. But, until you really start to tank and your virus turns into something infectious, there is nothing to prescribe. I hope to stop this silliness well before this turns into that. Yeah, yeah. Shades of Richard Nixon… “let me say this about that.”

First, I just really like aluminum trailers, whether they are Airstream or not.They reflect a beautiful quality of light at almost any time of day. But, better if the sun is low in the sky. Something like winter afternoon light. I suppose morning light might work, but it would be coming from the wrong angle.

Al the rest is easy. Arrive at the right time, frame the picture, push the button. Let nature do its work.


Watching the parade.
Watching the parade.
Shorty hits the street.
Shorty hits the street.
The musicians crank it up.
The musicians crank it up.
Greetings and hugs.
Greetings and hugs.

The pictures that you are viewing are from the first parade I photographed on Sunday. Even though, for me, the Mandela second line was probably more meaningful, this parade was the first one of the day. It was truly the more neighborhood-based parade. Most of the paraders and the spectators were local 9th Ward folks. Even the use of the word spectators is stretching things a bit since the parade and the spectators tend to turn into all one thing. Yeah. There is this little rope that moves with the main area of the parade. The place where the officers and dignitaries walk.  But, I can’t think of a time when that barrier meant anything to anyone. Even when the rope bearers try to enforce the line, people just step over it. This is, after all, New Orleans.

I’d like to tell you that this parade was something special done to honor a fallen neighborhood member or somebody like that, but in the “parade season” most of these events are an excuse to get together on a Sunday morning, hang out and have a moving block party. The bbq wagons come out. The whiskey man makes his appearance. Folks with fast and shiny cars show up. Everybody has a good time. It’s especially good when Saints aren’t playing or are playing the late same.

I hope this post gets a few more views. I’d like to think that I did really good work on Sunday, but hardly anybody is seeing it, at least at this level. Yeah, sure my representation will represent it and some other readers will see some of these picture, but still… Yeah, yeah. The more I read the more I’ve come to understand that even the so-called SEO and social media experts can’t predict anything with any reasonable rate of return. They are like the weather people on your local television news station. They’ll tell you that good work will rise to the top. Really? So what’s good? Another cat picture? Another sunset? A selfie? I dunno. Maybe y’all can tell me.


Falling down in Holy Cross.
Falling down in Holy Cross.

Long term readers of  Storyteller know this place. It’s on the far downriver side of Holy Cross. You’ve been inside. This was the place with green wooden walls and the old American flag on the wall. Remember? I’m a creature of habit so I decided to cruise by and see if anything changed. It did. The flag was torn off the wall and tossed in a pile on the floor. You can’t do that to an American Flag, So I, er, liberated it. You didn’t read that here.

So.

For those of you who are new to this blog, here’s a quick bit of background. We had a big hurricane. Katrina. You know that. But, sometimes people who aren’t from New Orleans sort of forget. That’s natural. Bad things happen on a daily basis sometimes. Many of you watched in amazement as the city flooded. CNN was good for covering that. It’s likely that you saw the Lower Ninth Ward pretty much be wiped off the map. You probably didn’t see the neighborhood closer to the Mississippi River in any of that coverage. It flooded. But the water didn’t rush in as it did next to the Industrial Canal. Homes were destroyed. Lives were changed. But the area was recoverable. That area is on the river side of St. Claude Avenue. It is called Holy Cross. It is named after a Catholic church and school. It’s a very different kind of New Orleans. As you get closer to the river and the levee, the neighborhood almost has a country feel. And, a lot of it has been restored. New people have repopulated the area. There is a pretty nice vibe in the neighborhood. But, as you travel more downriver, things aren’t so good. There are still a lot of abandoned and boarded up buildings and houses.

This is one of them. A few months ago I stopped here and went inside. That’s what I’m referring to when I talk about the American flag. At the time, it was hung on the wall. This time, the low winter light got the better of me. I worked from the outside, in. This is the result. Oh, the rainbow? Photographer’s trick. If you stop down your f-stop as small as you can and shoot directly into bright light, like the sun, this is what you get.

Those brick buildings that look so nice? Jackson Barracks. It as a Louisiana National Guard installation that sits squarely on the border of Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes. It took on a lot of water during the storm. I think around fifteen feet. But, it is a necessary base, so a lot of money was poured into it after the water was drained out of it. I’m not sure why. It’s active. But, not very busy. But, the old military collections have been restored as of a few months ago. That’s fun to look at. You can see a tank. A cannon. A Huey helicopter. And other stuff.


Stormy Weather
Stormy Weather

Finally. A new computer. I am sooooooooo behind. But, most businesses like mine are calling it a day at around noon so people can get into the chaos called Thanksgiving travel. That gives me a little time to catch up. No, no, no. I’m not working tomorrow. But, this computer is the fastest one that I’ve ever owned, so maybe I can compress two days into maybe six hours. We’ll see.

Enough about that.

We had two days of storms in New Orleans. It rained hard. It misted. There was a little ice. And, it is very, very cold. Nothing that unusual. Wait. Did I say that? It’s very unusual for Southeast Louisiana.

So.

This is my favorite bridge. You know. The one that connects the Lower Ninth Ward from The Upper Ninth ward where it spans the Industrial Canal. It really isn’t the subject of the picture. The rainy conditions are. In order to do that, a drive by shot was needed. I swear that one day…

I will likely publish something tomorrow. But, if something gets in the way, Y’all have a great Thanksgiving. Be grateful for whatever this past year brought you, good and bad.