Only in New Orleans.

What a day. The fire did not only jump out of the frying pan, but it burned the house down.

No. Not literally.

A photographer who is known to many of us and who has helped us in career advancement just resigned from Magnum in lieu of being voted out of the cooperative.

Let me take a step back.

For those who aren’t aware, Magnum is the premiere photo agency in the world. At one time they were purely editorial photographers. As time passed they grew into something else out of financial necessity. They are a co-op which means they can’t just fire anybody.

The photographer, David Alan Harvey, was accused of sexual harassment of 11 young women. A reporter from the Columbia Journalism Review investigated, talked to the 11 women and found their charges to be true. The women showed incredible courage in talking on the record.

This exploded via Twitter and if you Google his name, you’ll find it all over the internet.

Many of the tweeters are women. They are not yet satisfied. They feel like Magnum and Harvey are getting off way too easily. They feel like photographic gatekeepers are essentially a good old boys club.

A reckoning is coming.

I’m sad and a little bit hurt, not because of the oncoming discussions. We all need them. I’m sad because I know this kind of thing has been going on for years. I don’t know it directly, but there were whispers in the wind. It wasn’t just with Harvey, but with all manner of photo influencers.

In Harvey’s case, he was always sort of a cowboy. I had no idea he had gone as far as he did. This hurts. His advice mattered.

I suppose it’s true. You must separate the art from the artist.

I only have one question aside from what was he thinking? What is a 76 year old man doing chasing 25 year old women?

Oh, I know why.

And, that just sucks.

I don’t usually cross post. This picture first appeared on Instagram which is distributed to Facebook because they are one company.

It’s slightly elderly from Super Sunday 2019, the last one we’ve had because of the pandemic. I doubt we’ll have it this year because it is just too soon.

Those folks who have already looked at it bear with me. You are going to look at it again. Sorry.

This may be one of my best Black Masking Indian (Mardi Gras Indians) pictures. It’s good because I managed to be inside the picture.

No matter how you try, it is very hard to do. My advice is to take a couple of years and get to know the players. Then, they MIGHT part for you to work your way inside. They might not.

There is very little post production used in the picture. There didn’t need to be. Those Indian suits are as you see them.

I’m sorry to say that it was guys like Harvey who taught me to see and work this way. That was all good back then. Today? Not so much.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Get your jabs. Be good to each other.


On a Sunday.

The culture stood vigil last night.

In couldn’t go. Masking and distancing is still to fraught with danger for me. If I caught the virus my body couldn’t produce enough red platelets to fight it. So, I found this portrait, which I made out of another picture and thought that I’d share it and some information about Big Queen Kim’s murder.

I think I mentioned that she was shot as she left a repast for a funeral. She was wearing a memorial t-shirt for the man who had also been killed near I-10 in New Orleans East. The drive by shooters weren’t targeting her or her companion. They just shot at anybody they thought was part of the funeral party. It was a revenge killing.

At least that’s what the NOPD think at this point.

This scares the hell out of me. Revenge leads to revenge. While I have a lot of respect for Black Masking Indians, I know that there are some pretty heavy hitters among the tribes or gangs. I know that there are a lot of Bouttes who are awfully upset at the murder of their family member. Neither will take this lightly.

I hope that cooler heads will prevail, but in this hot summer during the age of CoVid-19 when violent crimes are trending upward anything can happen.

Have a good thought for all of us. We don’t need more violence. We could all use a little peace about now.

The Picture

This is another photograph that I made at the Louis Armstrong Festival in Treme. It took some cropping to make the picture be what I wanted, which was to show her smile, but it worked. Her smile is how I knew her. Her smile is how most of us knew her.

Rest in Heaven Big Queen Kim Boutte.

Stay safe. Wear your masks and keep your distance. Enjoy every smile.


Rest in Heaven.

Reflecting.

That’s what I’ve been doing.

I had a long post planned for today that I’d written and ready to go. I had to change it. The city’s culture bearers are in mourning tonight, as am I.

Black Masking Indians

You might know them as Mardi Gras Indians, but they prefer the name Black Masking Indians. Even though they are part of the Mardi Gras Culture they stand alone as Black men and women who mask to honor American Indians.

There’s not a lot of events at which you can see them. Mardi Gras, St. Joseph Night, three Super Sundays, Jazzfest and a few special events where they may be performing. If you’ve never seen them, you should. They are as important to this city as any one single group.

The news broke.

Big Queen Kim Boutte passed. At first that’s all we knew. The news started flowing around the streets. Finally NOLA.com published the story. Two nights ago there was a shooting in New Orleans East. A man and woman had been shot as they were leaving a funeral repast, a wake for those of you who don’t the word repast.

At the time, I thought that it was just one of many shootings in the East. I was wrong. I knew the woman died.

She was Big Queen Kim.

Oh no. Oh no. Oh no.

I’ve met a lot of people on the street. Most are good people. Kim Boutte was the kindest person I’d ever met out there. There was one time at a parade – i can’t remember which one — that I made a couple of pictures of her suiting up.

When I reached her she asked for a favor. Could I bend over so she could use my back for a support while she pulled on her moccasins? Of course. She did that, gave me a kiss on my cheek and we went our own ways. Big Queen was her title. She was tiny.

That’s how it is.

We would see each other from time to time like we all do. We were always happy to see each other.

Now she’s gone.

She was killed by our violent street culture that seems never to improve.

The Picture

I made this picture at the festival for Louis Armstrong’s birthday. Most of it take place at the jazz museum near the Quarter, but this event take place after the jazz mass at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Treme. The heart of jazz. Just about every group represents. You’ll see first liners, brass bands, Zulus, Indians, Baby Dolls and folks you haven’t seen in a year.

There she was, playing a cowbell. You know, “It needs more cowbell.” I made a few pictures. I circled around and we almost collided. We said hi, and I made more pictures while she danced.

That was it.

Rest in peace, power and in heaven, Big Queen Kim. You’ll be missed.

Stay safe, Have a good thought for our friend.


Keeping It Real

A lot of thought.

Art, in its best form, is supposed to make a connection. It is supposed to make your viewers or readers feel something. A lot of people have been doing that to me.

A friend of mine lost her dog last week. The dog was old and it was time. She wrote such an elegant blog post the it took me three tries to read it without tearing up.

Padma Lakshmi has a new show called, “Taste the Nation.” She picks up where Anthony Bourdain left off. It’s a food show only in that food is the point of understanding. She interviewed her mom while they were cooking together. Her mom is talking about how she came to America. Both mother and daughter are fighting back tears. A vision came to me. I could see my little Polish grandmother cooking and teaching me how to cook. In a railroad flat. In Brooklyn. Whew.

I was reading a column by The Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell. He and I go back aways. We knew each other when we were journalistic pups. He wrote about teamwork and how you get there. The example that sticks most is about The Washington Nationals who won The World Series last year. They were invited to The White House. Some went. Some didn’t.

When it was time to start playing baseball and defend their world championship, they checked their politics, egos, race, spiritual beliefs and everything else at the door. They became a team. His working theory is that we, as Americans, forgot how to do this. We must defeat or control the Coronavirus. Everybody is walking to the beat of some other drummer. In order to win we must check our political beliefs, our racial beliefs, our spiritual beliefs and our anger about everything, at the door.

If we can’t do that, this country may not survive. There. I said it.

I said that I wouldn’t be talking about these outside issues. I would only focus on photography and art.

Nuts.

Outside influences are what propels an artist to make new, and maybe, better art.

Pictures

I suppose that you can write around a group of pictures to influence their meaning. I’m not doing that. This group of pictures is about one of the few times New Orleans comes together and acts as a team. Second lines and Indian events.

Making the photographs was easy. I made pictures of what I saw. I didn’t do very much to them in post production because this work is kin to photojournalism.

There are a couple of pictures that I’d like to talk about.

In the photograph called “all joy” look at the woman with the giant hoop earring. When I lived in the 7th Ward, she was a little girl who lived a few houses down from me. When we saw each other, we grabbed each other and started hugging and laughing. Caring.

In the photograph called “Paying Respect,” I photographed Black Masking Indians greeting a frail looking man on his porch. He is a retired Indian. He’s about 90 in the picture. The Indians stopped, danced and chanted for him. Respect.

It’s those feelings that I hope you feel when you look at the pictures. Open them up. See the details.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy every bowl of gumbo.


Mardi Gras Indian Queen

Black Masking Indians.

I made this photograph on a Super Sunday celebration, on the Westbank. The name Westbank means the west side of the Mississippi River. Parts of the area are still considered to be part of New Orleans.

I made this picture after photographing two second lines, jumping in my car, taking the bridge across the river and just managing to catch a piece of the parade. I’m lucky that I made it at all. I always get lost over there. I think I was there for less than a half hour.

The Law

The question was raised again in comments about asking permission when I made the picture of the two men hugging.

I said, in a word, no.

Please try to understand this.

Anybody standing, hugging, dancing, running or doing anything else has no expectation of privacy in a public place. That’s black letter law.

Expecting a photographer to ask the question and inserting himself into the scene creates the condition of prior restraint… against himself. That’s discussed in the First Amendment of The United States Constitution. There can be no prior restraint. It also creates conditions that could potentially undermine that same amendment.

I could go on.

I could ask why anybody would want to limit potential coverage of any event, except if they were trying to create a dictatorial situation.

The same person who asked about permission brought up the canard about police using facial recognition software.

Right.

Most police departments do not have the resources to run that search unless they were looking for somebody in particular. They also know that the blow back from arresting protesters willy nilly would be swift and nasty.

That issue was created online as a kind of fake news. Lazy reporters and lazier editors published as if it were true. It’s been debunked just about everywhere.

I promised that I wouldn’t talk about politics or controversial issues, but between questions here and dealing with the same silliness on Facebook, enough is enough.

Trust me when I tell you that when I started doing my work in 1974 I had to learn a couple of bits of law concerning copyright and privacy. I have two attorneys that I can contact for clarification should laws change or be interpreted differently.

Stay safe. Enjoy the leftovers.


The eye.

I thought I would do something different today.

We, in New Orleans, have started our celebrations for Carnival.  So, that’s in my head. It’s also a way to get out of a dark place. The one that is influenced by the real world as opposed to the fantasyland that we live in on a daily basis.

I also realized that because of the way I publish multiple pictures some of you might not have seen them. There are also a lot of you who are new to Storyteller. You’ve never seen them. You should see them.

The pictures on this page were made during Mardi Gras 2019. That was the year I mostly spent my time at a Mardi Indian wedding on Mardi Gras Day. Enjoy.


Twenty-Nineteen.

The year that was. The closing year of the end of a decade. Ups. Downs. All arounds. This year wasn’t as great photographically as it could have been. That was pretty much my fault. Between physical issues and a general lack of motivation I mostly produced a lot of faux nature pictures. Some where better than others. Some are found here. My biggest natural successes were trees. They are well represented here.

I did manage to make some of  “my” pictures. I photographed second lines and Mardi Gras Indian events. Those are here, too.

The one link between nature and a kind of photojournalism is that I work the same way to make both. I walk. I see things. I make the exposure.

As far as my version of nature pictures goes, most them were made in a healthy way. The dog who sees stuff and I went for walks. Despite my physical pain we managed to walk three miles a day whenever I was home. That’s good for me and her. She’s a sweetheart. Because she’s a cocker spaniel she’s as funny, loyal, and affectionate as she can be. Cockers are notoriously stubborn. She is too. She thinks nothing of standing in the middle of the street with me in tow staring down a car just daring the car to come closer.

There are 12 pictures here. You know why.

There are a few more days left in 2019. There are a few more days left in the decade. I’ll make and post a few pictures between now and then. But, for the most part, the year and decade are over for me. This is the strange in-between time. I mostly use it to clean up yearly messes and plan the new year.

 


Wildman in an artistic mode.

It happened again.

I got a little bored last night so I started playing with another human being in post production. This time, it was a Mardi Gras Indian Wildman who I photographed on the Westbank for their Super Sunday.

As I recall, it was a busy Sunday. There were two second lines on the eastern side of the Mississippi River. One was Uptown, the other downtown. There was also the big Westbank Super Sunday.

The picture is a couple of years old. At least, the base picture of the Wildman is that old. In those days I had more energy. I photographed both second lines and drove across the Crescent City Connection and found the parade route at just about the right moment.

Finding anything on the Westbank is a big deal for me. I get lost the moment I cross the river. And yet, there is a wonderful New Orleans neighborhood called Algiers Point that I just love visiting. It looks like Uptown New Orleans, but it isn’t. There is also a great Asian grocery store called Hong Kong. I’ve been there many times. I count my blessings if it doesn’t take me more than fifteen minutes to find after I’ve gotten lost and driven around in circles.

Anyway.

The picture.  The base image is the Wildman — the guy with the giant bones and skull in his hair.– who protects the Big Chief. The rest of the pictures that make up the background are images that I’ve made along the way.

Pro tip number one. Never delete anything. You just never know. There are backgrounds hiding in your archives. Besides you can study the out takes to learn something about your mistakes.

Pro tip number two. Make sure whatever background image you choose stays in the background. With most editing software, you can move the second image forward and back.

Once you positioned the two or more images, then go back into the editing software to smooth out the look and finish the image.

I have no idea how long it will take you. But, you shouldn’t rush it, While downloading, backing up, adding meta data and developing images can be a chore, this process should be fun.

As I once wrote, I gave up video games to learn how to do this. This had better be fun.


Queen Tahj.

Super Sunday.

All the pretty suits. All the pretty Indians.

I didn’t plan it this way, but today’s post is all about the next generation of Mardi Gras Indians.

The top picture may be the most important. Queen Tahj is a senior at Tulane University. She is truly becoming the leader of her tribe, while paying the utmost respect to her Big Chief. She is starting to change the look and feel of Indian suits. Her’s are lighter. Easier to walk miles and miles. This suit pays homage to the women in her family, especially her grandmother. She is so popular that when the time is right, she could possibly become the chief of chiefs. At a young age. And, assuming her career doesn’t take her away from New Orleans.

The rest. Wow! So many young Black Masking Indians. Most are unofficial, but their interest is already there. The little girl playing the tambourine in two pictures is so sophisticated at about 5 years old that she asked to see my camera’s LCD monitor to see how she looked. Figures. Her dad is a big chief.

You know the rest about the pictures. F/5.6. Be there and shoot.

Me? I’m better. What I believed was something terrible, was a relapse of a cold that I thought I’d defeated. I’m far better today. Tonight is St. Joseph’s night. I’ll go out again. And, probably get sick again. Oh well. Life is short.

Smiling portrait.

Coming to the main parade.