Looking forward.

New Orleans.

You don’t think of my city this way. It’s true. We are funky. We are old. We have many buildings that are well over 100 years old. Houses in the Garden District are 150 years old. My first house in the 7th Ward was built in 1837. It was the second common house that was built on a plantation that grew indigo. You know. The stuff that makes your blue jeans, blue.

First and foremost for most of our history, New Orleans is a port city. A business hub. People worked here to sell cotton, sugar, rice. They imported coffee and vegetables from South America. The Bywater, which has become gentrified and a place to go for dinner and to stay in Air BnB lodging, was the country’s chief importer and processor of coffee. And, bananas.

That’s all changed. But, we still have a pretty good-sized business district. These days a lot of former office spaces have been converted into condo and high-end apartments.

After all, our biggest business is tourism.

That’s kind of too bad. We’ve gone from making, and doing, to serving. That happened long before my time. I have no issue with that except… the local newspaper just published a study on salaries in the service industry.

Unless you have a name as a chef or something equivalent, the highest pay you’ll make is around $14.85 per hour. It goes down from there. That’s not good. Not in a city that has rapidly gentrified. Not in a city where most of the folks who are part of the culture that tourists come here to see can’t afford to live here. In a city where most of the folks working in the service industry have to have more than one job to afford the rent.

I know. I know. That isn’t limited to New Orleans. Some places have it worse. Much worse. Think about San Francisco or Los Angeles. I grew up in Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles. If we sold everything, I’m not sure we could go back to my home even if we wanted to. I’m not sure that I do. I think it’s crowded and traffic is terrible here. Think about the Los Angeles region. Sheesh. It would drive me crazy.

The picture. Not a drive by. But, a drive through. I was waiting for the light to turn green. The light you see towards the bottom of the picture. I decided that I liked what I saw so I made the picture. I’ve done that in the past as I passed through the French Quarter on the way to some place else.  I actually proved a point with this picture. An editor with whom I work wants me to photograph something specific. It needs a city-like background. She thinks of NOLA in the same way that so many people do. The funky, old French Quarter. I emailed her this picture. Now, she thinks differently. The funny thing is, if you are walking up Bourbon or Royal streets, you can see this if you just look up. Too many people are looking down into their hurricanes and wondering where the time went.

Advertisements


Locked tight.

I found another one. A lock. That’s two days in a row.

This time it was just sitting on a curb. Locked tight. It looked like it had been left there on purpose. It took me a long time to figure out how to even make the picture. When I did, I didn’t like the result.

So, I cropped. And, tinkered. And, fiddled. I came to this place. What I really like is the very slim detail towards the top of the lock.

That’s it. A lock. A lost lock. Another lost one.

I’ve made a little progress on the new LaskowitzPictures online home. I think that I have to change formats. You know that I normally like big pictures. In order to enhance that, there really needs to be some little pictures. Space in between the notes as musicians who know what they are doing would say.

I think once I do that I’ll be happier with the project. We’ll see.


Walls and Graffiti
Walls and Graffiti

This is what comes of walking.

Little pictures. Hidden pictures. A weird kind of art.

What I saw is very different from the finished picture. That happens sometimes. It usually happens in post production. This time, all I did was darken the picture and the whole thing came together into some strange photographic statement. For which, I have no real explanation. Except for the tagging. As I always say, in New Orleans if it doesn’t move it gets a coat of spray paint. This one looks like a taggers’ signature, not a gang sign. I’m sure the gang sign is around some place.

Zeros.

Yep. That’s what I’m coming up with. Zeros. I need to photograph something — anything — in a fairly short time frame. My head is stuck. So, I need your help. If I were to go out and try to photograph a collection of things, what would it be? In other words, make an assignment for me. I’ll do it. I’ll post it here.

Help.


Watch parts.
Watch parts.

This is a spin on old advertising saying. “Parts is parts and pieces is pieces.” If I recall correctly, somebody was advertising fried chicken. This isn’t fried chicken.

This is the internal working of an old watch.

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of some of my dad’s old stuff on Instagram. Everybody who saw the picture seemed to like it from both an artistic and emotional perspective. So, I put that information away in my brain and let it stew. And stew. A week or so ago, I thought it might be fun to re-photograph some of those watch parts. So. I did.

I actually made a nice little series. I think I’ll explore this a little further. I’ll show the work to you as I finish it. I’m in no hurry. This work is really just for fun.

About yesterday and those more painterly exploration and experiments… I received a couple of well thought out comments across various social media.

The most interesting was from a long time online friend. She said that it didn’t matter about the technology. That we don’t care if an old-fashioned typewriter or the most modern computer was used to create a written piece. And, that it shouldn’t matter how we create visual art. After all, art is art. I’ve said this for a long time, especially when somebody makes a big deal of not using Photoshop to help them in post production. Generally, I say something like “Ansel Adams — the saint of nature photography — created an entire system of exposure, development and printing to make the picture say what he wanted to say.” She reminded me of that.

She also reminded me that just because you have the tools — the software in this case — it doesn’t mean that you have the mental or emotional tools to do it. She’s right again. Thank you.

One more thing. As you know, for the sake of online privacy, I rarely mention names. I won’t again. I do have to say this. When we reach a certain age, we start getting cemented in our ways. Locked in. Set in stone. A photograph is a photograph. A drawing is a drawing. A painting is a painting. Never shall the technologies mix. That hasn’t been true for years. But, still we try to put things in boxes. What a mind my friend has. I think she’s about 15 years older than me. And, look how she thinks. Beyond how an artist thinks. I’m in awe.


Steam punk guard to Rosalie Alley.
Steam punk guard to Rosalie Alley.

A giant thing. A steam Punk guard to the place that took me a couple of tries to find. Rosalie Alley.

What is that?

Near as I can tell, it’s one of the last remaining dirt alleys in all of New Orleans. Let’s talk about this for just a minute. In New Orleans, the definition of alley is a little different than most places. But, you were ready for that, right? Most things are different in New Orleans. In New Orleans, it usually means the narrow walkway between the back and front of a single piece of property. I once had a sugar brick paved two foot wide walkway that lead from the back of my house to the front. That’s an alley.

Anyway. Rosalie Alley is a dirt alley. It’s about eight feet wide. Today there are the fronts of very old houses that form the edges of the path. That, or ancient fences.  The fences are all painted up with voodoo and hoodoo symbols. But, that refers to its modern day usage. They say. I’ll explore a little more and try to find out. In the days gone by, rumor has it, guys like Jean Lafitte used it when they disembarked form the pirate ships and walked to The French Quarter… the alley was a pathway that was in use as early as the late 1700s. Likely, it was used well before that since American Indians roamed this land before the pirates did. Oh. Jean Lafitte? He was a pirate. He mostly worked in the gulf and swamps. But, he also joined Andrew Jackson to defeat British troops in The Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. For those who don’t know, that battle was fought after the war ended. I guess that mail service was a lot like today’s mail service.

The picture. There are a couple of steam punk guards at the entrance to the alley. I’m not exactly sure what this one might be. Looks like some sort of killer grasshopper to me.


This rusty pump house is all that is left of a once thriving shipping and bulk distribution business.
This rusty pump house is all that is left of a once thriving shipping and bulk distribution business.

Well. I’m back to it. Chasing weather and looking for junk. It’s sort of cool how my main business has also become my hobby. I guess an old friend of mine’s words have become true. He once told me to “get a hobby job.” He’s Chinese. That’s a literal translation from Mandarin. It might not mean what you think it does. It means that you should make a career choice that is so fulfilling to you that it becomes a labor of love. With that, working 50, 60, 70, 80 hours week is meaningless because it’s all good fun to you. I’m lucky that way. I have two hobby jobs. I get to work 160 hours a week.

Anyway, as Sam Abell of National Geographic fame says, “when the weather turns bad, the pictures get good.” Monday was on of those classic New Orleans summer days. Storms blowing in and out. Very goopy humidity and about 90 degrees. Goopy is a technical term. I doubt any of you need an explanation.

So, I chased clouds and weather. I also did a little urbex work. I learned a new term for what I do. It’s not that new. It’s just new to me. It means urban exploration. It’s what my photographic hobby is about. Some. I set out to make larger landscapes with heavy cloudy skies. I accomplished that. But, there were lots of little pictures I found along the way. This is one of them. The picture title comes from the title of one of musician Neil Young’s songs. His version is about not letting age, maturity  and sophistication slow you down. My version is about rust. Getting to this picture proves another old photographic adage. Sometimes getting there is the hardest part of making the picture. I don’t know who said it first. But, my old friend John Fulton told it to me. There was something kind of large in the way which blocks any access to the levee. A US Marine base. I’m not messing with those guys.

The rest is pretty simple. I got there. I took the picture. Than I made the picture come alive in post production. I cheated, I used a plug-in called Summertime. It gives the picture a nice early summer glow.


GRA-32
Old Power Plant

As you all know, I like old broken stuff. Houses. Cars. Trucks. Trains. Boats. Anything. There is an old power plant in New Orleans that is about 160 years old. Maybe older. It’s been abandoned for many years. It is reputed to have been a cannon ball factory during The Civil War. Yes, It’s just that old. I’m not sure if that rumor is true. But, the building is old. And boarded up. And closed. There are fences around it. Barbed wire too. But, one day, one of the doors was open. People were working inside. Hard hat types. They couldn’t see me, so I crept right in. I’m sure that I would have gotten thrown out if they saw me. So, I made sure that they didn’t see me. In I went. I made this picture, walked across a sort of gang-plank. I climbed some iron steps and had a good old time. Picture. Picture. Picture. I walked back down the stairs. The guys were still working. Out the door I went. Nobody was the wiser. Even me. I’m apparently not very wise.

The picture. Well, it’s mostly frame, point and shoot. But, a pair of soft-soled quiet shoes helped a lot. I must have taken so lessons from my late Cocker Spaniel. She’d walk around the house. Clank, clank, clank. You could hear her dog tags bouncing off of each other. But, when she wanted to be stealthy, she was. Very quiet. I could be trying to eat something and didn’t want to share with her. I’d think I was in the clear. I’d look down and there she was, looking up at me. Anyway. There was an amazing amount of light in that old building. Really. It was too bright for how I envisioned the picture. So. Off to post production-land I went. This is the result.


A few weeks ago I posted a picture of an old falling apart house that was located out a country road. A day or so ago, I ran into its city cousin so I decided to photograph it in much the same way. In the musical world, I guess they would call that covering myself. In the publishing world, I guess I would be plagiarizing myself. No matter. The first was one was my picture so I just consider this variations on a theme. The thing about doing this in New Orleans is that there are many abandoned houses within the city limits. But, it is very rare to find the old iron fences. Mostly, they are stolen and sold for either scrap or to an antique dealer. Usually, an antique dealer located on the Northshore. Of Lake Ponchartrain. Why there? The dealers don’t know where the old fence came from. Or, so they say. The picture,itself, was easy. I was just walking down the street and there it was. It probably won’t be there the next time I go to that place.

 


There are days when I’m a little tired of being in the heat — which is seemingly everywhere these days — or traveling, and I just want to hide out somewhere. It’s on those days when I start looking in drawers and closets for something to photograph. This is a picture of my dad’s old watch-making parts an pieces. I have no idea what they are except that some are springs for old watches. No. My dad wasn’t a watchmaker by trade. He just liked messing around with them. Oh yeah. I’ve also played with the file… a lot.