Mardi Gras Indian suit detail.

On Super Sunday.

I told a friend of mine that I was toast from chasing Indians around Central City. That’s not true. It’s worse. I’m toast because I’m really sick. So, I’m later than usual. Much later.

I did manage to download, back up and edit everything. But, I am not ready to finish many pictures.

I selected an image that likely most of you won’t see, even with my work. An extremely close detail of the labor intensive work that goes into making a suit. Everything you see in the picture is done by hand. Each bead is strung and sewed by hand. The velvet is hand sewn. As were the feathers.

That’s why each new suit takes about a year to make. For sure an indian takes a break from time to time. Life gets in the way. But, this is an almost daily labor. A labor of love.

Because.

For the most part, after all this work is done and the suit is debuted on Mardi Gras Day or Super Sunday, last years suit is destroyed. A few are preserved through various museums, a few indians have large enough spaces to save them. But, most suits are either burned or cut to shreds and tossed in a dumpster.

It’s hard to imagine that art like this is worthless. But, it is. Even if a suit can be sold, it’s likely the return will be much less than the investment.

What can I say?

Unless you are at the top of the art ladder, it’s hard to make money doing whatever your art may happen to be. The photography world has been decimated by “everybody is a photographer.” I get that. I don’t agree with it. But, I get that.

But, not everybody can sew like this.

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Dancing days are here again.

It could be something else. The picture.

It reminds me of the fifth Led Zeppelin album. Houses of the Holy. Mostly, it’s the sky. An odd shade of popsicle orange. It is a little weird. Mysterious. Spooky.

Another of my portraits on the scene.

I made it prior to all the events of St. Joseph’s Night, when Mardi Gras Indian tribes roamed the streets of the city hoping to show off their pretty suits.

This little guy isn’t quite dressed for his tribe. One day, if he works at it, he will be.

Just like me, he was interested in what was going on in the cemetery as light began to fall. I asked his dad if I could photograph him. After he said yes, I let his dad direct him… kind of. When I was done, I handed his dad my business card. Maybe one day, he’ll ask for a print or two. Always free to the people who I photograph. Charging them is not how I earn my living. Without them in the picture there would be no picture. It’s a fair deal all around.

The picture. Well, this’ll teach me. I passed it over when I was curating the images to show you the next day. Here we are almost a month later. I was recurating pictures for another collection when I saw this one.

It was a little technically deficient because of the back light and how he was standing. I tinkered with it. Somewhere way back in my brain a bell went off. The color of the sky reminded me of something. Something from 1973. The aforementioned Led Zeppelin album. From back when albums were albums.

That got me thinking that I should listen to it. I haven’t for a long while. So, I did. Man, is it good. It’s a transitional sort of album. Listen to it if you get a moment. It might not be what you are thinking.


In black and white.

Slowly.

Ever so slowly. Because, I’m still recovering from a long and gruelling weekend.

The story so far. I’ve managed to download, backup and curate the images from four events. But, I seem to run out of steam early in the afternoon. So I cherry pick for you. At other times I sleep. I did way too much of that yesterday. I have a couple of big projects that need doing. They are going to need doing for the rest of the week.

Of course, my images must come first. So, today I think it’s this work. Walking the dogs. And, hitting the gym. That may not sound like much. But developing and fine tuning this work is very time-consuming. At least ten hours. Dog walks take about an hour and there are at least two. The gym also takes about an hour. Obviously, I won’t complete the photo work today.

That said, here’s my Super Sunday picture for today. I like it because of the black and white, highlighted by the touches of red. I think this guy is a Wildman. But, he turned away from me so quickly and got lost in the crowd that I couldn’t talk to him. Or, he could be repping something else. He comes very close to being masked as a skull and bones member. That’s sort of a violation of street code. Know who you photograph. Since Storyteller is distributed to Facebook and Twitter, maybe somebody will jump in and tell me. Please.

Anyway.

I’m sort of struggling with next steps. A lot of you here and on Facebook really liked my Sunday art work. I think that’s my direction forward. But, I’m a photojournalist at heart. And, the crosses at sunset seemed to confirm that with a lot of you. What do y’all think?

Trust me. I do listen. Tim suggested that I photograph the funeral first and I did. He helped me gain clarity. Sometimes, you just need to listen to somebody outside of your family.


A little experiment.

Tinkering.

Sometimes it’s best to just do whatever it is that you do. So, I did it. I try to do something photographic every day. Sometimes, I don’t actually make a new picture. Sometimes, I so some experimental post production. Sometimes, I read about photography. Sometimes, I continue the never-ending work of archive organization.

I’ve done a little of everything in the last few days. I’m mostly staying home and working on stuff. I started this picture last night. I finished it this morning. The two-day workflow wasn’t because what I was doing was hard. It was mostly because I wanted to let the first bit of post production sort of marinate overnight. I didn’t really think about it. It just sort of wandered around my brain.

And, this came out.

Along with a very weird dream. About a smudge pot. The house in which I grew up. And, my dad ignoring the smoke pouring out of the house and mowing the lawn. Don’t even try. It’s beyond explanation.

Anyway.

This is a portrait of a Mardi Gras Indian, or a Black Masking Indian, depending on your point of view. I made it last Super Sunday. In Central City. The picture started out in color. It was a pretty good picture.

Could I leave well enough alone?

Oh no.

I just had to mess with it. In terms of software, it’s a combination of things. Stackable. Snapseed. And, Efex Pro. That may have been overkill. Sometimes, the process of one steps all over another one.

Oh. I’m reading a book at the same time. It’s called “Gene Smith’s Darkroom Sink.” It’s one of a series of research books on the life of the legendary photojournalist, Eugene Smith. It’s a mix of photography and music. That’s a story in itself. And, it’s about Smith’s loft on the 6th Avenue in New York where the who’s who of jazz musicians gathered in the late 1950s and early 60s.

Luckily, the author doesn’t take himself too seriously. He wrote at one point, that it was a good thing Smith had a career because it gave him (the author) something to do for the last twenty years.

There you have it.


Out on the Westbank.

Super Sunday on the Westbank.

No. Not the West Bank in the Middle East. The one in New Orleans. I mention that because I’ve had the question asked of me. You just never know.

I made the base picture — a Mardi Gras Indian Wildman — a few years ago, when I had the energy to photograph two second lines and a piece of the Westbank Super Sunday, all in the space of about four hours. Luck was with me. I made no wrong turns. I found a good parking space three times. Normally, I’d make ten wrong turns and have to walk about a mile because parking was tough.

The rest of this image was layered from more contemporary work. Once again, I started on my smart phone and finished on my main machine.

You’ve all been very kind. You seem to like this new approach. I’m not as confident as you are.

I am starting to miss actually documenting things in the manner of a photojournalist. Life on the streets is rough and getting rougher. There were three shootings yesterday resulting in two deaths. This seems like a broken record with me, but it’s scary.

They are happening in places that I wouldn’t expect. In fact, in a space of 24 hours last Sunday there were 8 shootings resulting in two or three deaths. That included a shooting on I-10 near Treme. Some of the comments on NOLA.com were hysterical, like this one. “You don’t even have to be in New Orleans to get shot, you could just be passing through.” Or, “New Orleans, so many options to get shot.”

Oh.

If I disappear for a couple of days, no worries. With luck I won’t. It just means I’m without power. I could cheat and use my phone to post. But, I try to conserve battery power in after storm days.

A fairly strong tropical storm called Cindy is about to make landfall. Luckily that will happen further up the Gulf near the Texas – Louisiana border. We should be on the outer bands of the storm. Strong wind and some heavy rain. Maybe around 4 to 6 inches.

By the way. The last storm named Cindy was twelve years ago. It was the first of three storms that year, the most famous of which is Katrina. Cindy was originally classed as a tropical storm, but was reclassified as a hurricane, mostly for insurance purposes.

Just sayin’.


Breaking through to another place.

Another day. Another experiment.

I wrote yesterday that I discovered a number of images that would work well with some of the background pictures that I’ve been making.

This is one of them.

In the picture’s metadata I added Mardi Gras Indian. That’s so people might find the image on a Google search. He is really a member of Skull and Bones. Another culture-based krewe. No worries. I added Skull and Bones too.

I’ve been learning a lot about how to make what amounts to a new kind of portraiture for me. A lot of it has to do with colors. Either both pictures — or all three, as in this case — have to have complimentary colors. Or, they have to be totally contrasting. Anything in the middle gets muddy and usually doesn’t work. At least not to my eye.

Me? I like this picture. It’s all about nature. Preserving it. Protecting it. Becoming one with it. I guess I see my new portraiture in two ways. The images are portraits. They are also illustrations. They also accomplish one more thing. They are more closely aligned with how I see color. Bright. energetic. Powerful.

If you try this at home, don’t follow exactly what I do. Yeah, sure. Use the techniques I’ve been discussing. But find your own way. Make your picture. If any of you try this, I’d love to see your work. I am always amazed at how many ways there are to do a thing.


As I see them.

My version. Of Mardi Gras Indian energy.

That’s what this latest experimentation is about. Getting the images I see in my head out to you. The viewer. I suppose looking at the images I posted over the last three days, you could be wondering what is wrong with me. I wonder that myself sometimes.

But.

I was watching a video called “Long Strange Trip.” It’s about the Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia, one of the founders and perhaps the band’s face, based the whole experience on having fun. The entire Grateful Dead mystique was based on fun. Fun as defined by you. His fun might not be your fun. And, so on. But, that wasn’t for him to say.

I agree.

Right now my fun is trying to make myself understood. In a different way. Using my own visual language. So that I can explore. And learn. And change. And grow.

The picture. Do you really want to know? It’s three pictures combined into one. A Mardi Gras Indian. Some long swamp grass. And, those little bud bits. They are adjusted. Moved around. Tinkered with. Toned. Layered. And blended. Those streaks that look like firework tails are really the swamp grass. The little glowing bits and flower buds. The indian. Well, you know. His feathers help make the picture stronger.

And, that’s it.


The eyes.
The eyes.

I had another post written and scheduled. Then I read this.

“Years ago two mayors, Michael Bloomberg and Mr. Giuliani, were in a group discussing what the memorial should be. Mr. Giuliani wanted something big on that “sacred ground.” Mr. Bloomberg argued for a school, not a monument. “I always thought the best memorial for anybody is to build a better world in their memory,” he said. “I’m a believer in the future, not the past. I can’t do anything about the past.”

And, this.

“Many of them had no idea what was happening, and none knew what the attacks would lead to. The years of unending warfare, the disasters overseas, the new way of living: see something, say something, fear everything.”

Both quotes are from the New York Times. From their opinion page. Today’s opinion page. They were discussing September 11, 2001. The Worst Day. The day everything changed.

I agree with Mr. Bloomberg. I can’t do anything about the past. But, I can do better going forward. That’s not an indictment of me. No. We can all do better. We can all do better at whatever it is that we do. That’s how you honor those who died on September 11. That’s how you honor anybody who passed before you.

A lot of people have been writing about their memories from the Worst Day. Mine are like most other people’s. I was getting dressed. The morning news was on in the background. I looked up and saw one of the towers burning. The sound was low, so I didn’t hear the commentary. I thought it was odd that a movie was playing when normally I would be watching the news. I did whatever I was doing and glanced up again. Peter Jennings was talking. I thought why is he doing the morning news? And, then uh oh.

You know the rest.

Anyway.

Back to the picture. It has nothing to do with my writing. Yeah. I know. There he goes again.

Except.

It’s what I do best. It’s what I was given to do.  It is what I do. It defines me. And, that goes well beyond pushing the shutter button. That’s easy. We live in a world where anybody can do it. It’s more about my way of seeing. My intent. My vision.

So. Yes. I mourn those who died on September 11, 2001. I celebrate those who ran into the danger. To save lives. To help. To document. My way of doing that is to work. To move forward. To look back, but only briefly.

Because, there is the one thing you know about me. The thing that never changes.

“The work is the prayer.”

Peace. Y’all.


Wild Man John's suit, waiting...
Wild Man John’s suit, waiting…

It seems like a long time ago. But, Super Sunday 2016 is less than a week old. Time seems to moving so fast these days.

Generally, when I start looking for pictures on big days like the yearly gathering of Uptown Indians I start looking at “little” pictures. A picture that is somewhat symbolic, but not the main reason I came out. It helps me to get into my own groove. It’s like stretching prior to exercising. It gets my mind, heart, soul and body working together. It’s why I come out an hour or so early before the “published” start time. It allows me to stop thinking and to just take pictures of whatever I see.

All of that matters.

A week before I was late to the scene. I parked, walked quickly to the start of the second line and out the first liners came. I wasn’t really ready. I wasn’t really in my zone. I got lucky. I made a couple of good pictures. I received a couple of compliments. But… It never really felt right.

Keep in mind, I’m discussing what works for me. Everybody has a different approach. A different reason for taking pictures. A different intent.

What’s yours?