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.


On Holocaust Memorial Day.

I made these photographs last Monday.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought of photographing a cemetery on Holocaust Memorial Day. I was buying king cakes at the King Cake Hub that happens to be located in a building that houses the Haunted Mansion on Halloween.  Behind the mansion building, which looks like it once belonged to the cemetery, is The Gates of Prayer – Canal Street.

That name is important. When I tried researching the history of the cemetery, I found The Gates of Heaven. Every link took me a Reformed Jewish congregation and cemetery that is located Uptown. There is plenty of information about them. They have a pretty good website and they have a Facebook page, as does this Canal Street location.

Unfortunately, there is no information about this place.

Enough of my confusion.

My king cake expedition happened to take place on Holocaust Memorial Day, or Yom HaShoah. After “finding’ the cemetery I thought that I’d better make a few pictures. These are some of them.

This is a smallish cemetery tucked in between other cemeteries and buildings. The images reflect that.

I was really struck by the little grave markings that simply said, “Mama” or “Papa.” These were added to the foot of a plot in addition to the memorial markers. They were every place.

Follow the words to the bottom of the page. Please.

Papa.

Mama

Behind dormant trees.

The day was cloudy, weighty, and sort of a reminder of the sadness of the place. I let the pictures reflect that. I could have brightened them in camera, but I toned down my usual settings. I could have reworked them in post production, but I didn’t. If anything, I toned them back. These are somber pictures. They are meant to reflect the Holocaust in which 6,000,000 people were killed for no reason.

One more thing.

My interest in this subject is great. When I made catalogs and edited at The Image Bank/Kodak, one of the photographers that I edited had the numbers of a camp tattooed on his fore arm. We talking about it for a few minutes.

Once.

Along came Schindler’s List. At the end of the movie, former concentration camp prisoners walk down to a cemetery and place a remembrance on individual gravestones. Most of them were only pebbles which means, “Someone was here.” There on film was my photographer. He wasn’t just a camp survivor, he was one of Schindler’s Jews.

Mine blown.

It just goes to show that if you know, you know.


Special security in Mid City.

I saw this little guy while I was meeting friends for lunch.

This little carving may be the best possible security in New Orleans.  Better than the NOPD. Better than the guys in jeeps and drink coffee in my neighborhood. Would you try to break into this house with this guy sitting there? Lord knows what’s waiting for you once you get in.

Now that I’m back, I’ve been reading blogs.

I get so confused.

There seems to be a trend in picking a word for the year. I guess this is supposed to replace resolutions. If a word is going to be your mantra, why don’t you just read some Buddhism? You don’t have to change your religion to do it. You’ll learn a lot. About the world. About yourself. You might even understand your dog a little better.

Then, there’s some kind of concert going on at one blogger’s site. I’ve never understood the rules, of which there are too many. The last time that I tried to play, I apparently didn’t know the correct title to a song. The person who wrote it was sitting next to me at the time. Her comment was something along the lines of that’s how I introduce it on stage. Now, people are picking their favorite Beatles songs. Yes, “Day in the Life” is one song written separately by two musicians. They combined the lyrics during rehearsals. Anybody who claims them as their favorite band knows that.

Sheesh folks.

We all want 2019 to be much better, much more positive than 2018. Lighten up. Have some fun. Grow beyond one word. Stop making rules up for something that should fun. If you like something, go do it. If you want to grow, go do that. Otherwise, 2019 is going to be a giant let down. It’s gonna be rough in the political world. Imagine, calling out a brand new Congresswoman over dancing that she did in college. Her reply was wonderful. She walked out of her new office and danced.

Go dance.


Evil little angel.

This little statue is scary. This does not bring the word “angelic” to mind. It looks a little twisted. Maybe I should go back there one of these days and see if I still see it in the same way.

If it is still there.

This cemetery is sort of what used to be called a potter’s field. It’s been submerged by flood waters, tombs and graves have been moved, souvenirs have been removed. Yes. That’s really creepy.

Anyway. I was wandering around and I found this little angel. I made the picture and it lived in my archives for a while, until I recently “found” it. The original file is perfect for my latest experimentations. Now that I look at it, I think I will go back. I want to put the angel in a different place in the frame.

If it’s still there.


All eyes.

A street portrait.

It took three attempts to write anything that I even marginally liked. Then, I realized I didn’t like the original crop of the picture.

So.

I re-cropped the picture. And, this is my fourth attempt at writing anything meaningful. I like the crop much better. It was too wide and skinny the first time around. I’m mostly just babbling, which is no different from the rest of my writing. But, usually I have a point to make.

I suppose that I really do have something to say.

Use it or lose it.

Because. The mojo comes and goes. Because. If you mess around too much with the marketing of whatever it is that you do, the magic leaves your fingertips. Your brain. And, your soul.

I’ve seen it happen way too many times. The marketing becomes the work. Often, it becomes the sole work. Market AFTER you are almost finished with your project. That includes blogging about it. Yeah, yeah. I know about creating a niche for your work. And, building towards it. But, if that becomes your work… well, you know. You’ll never finish your project.

And, before you are ready?

Work alone until the work is a little marinated. Then bring people into the project. Your work can become too distilled. Too vanilla. You can lose your original vision. Too many chefs and all of that. You know?

Once you get to that point, then share. You need a publisher. Or, a gallery. Or a label. Just about then, you need help. Outside help. Inside help.

Everybody needs an editor. Everybody needs another set of eyes. Everybody needs time. Everybody needs space. Start with your friends and family. Unless they can truly compartmentalize, don’t take their comments too seriously. They’ll either be jealous and unnecessarily cruel, or they’ll be too complimentary. Often without understanding the real world.

I’m not sure how I arrived at this topic. The picture has nothing to do with it. Except for the cropping issue. Maybe it was just the day. These things come in groups. A couple of you were asking about changing blog names. Another was asking how to review his work properly. And, so on. These were blog posts. Another guy asked me in comments if I would look at his work, posy by post. Uh… that’s a little too much to put on me.

The picture. It’s about my hand – eye coordination. I made it during the last second line. It really has very little to do with the actual event. I saw it for what it is — a street portrait. A millisecond either way and it wouldn’t exist. That’s a little of my mojo.

 

 


Square Eyes

I found this. On the other side of the world.

Or, some place along Bayou. St. John. Whichever comes first. If you live in New Orleans you might know where this place is located. If you don’t live in the city, it doesn’t matter. In any case, I’m not being very precise about its location. It’s just one of those things. You understand.

The picture was taken on the way to some place else. I saw it and I made the picture. I didn’t even tinker with those windows. They came that way. Or, somebody else did it. To the building, not on the digital file. By the way, I think this building is for sale. Either that, or the parking lot next to it.

Anyway.

Happy weekend. Mine will be short. St. Joseph’s Night. Super Sunday. And, a second line making its way through the Super Sunday parade. Too many people. Too many cameras. Not enough pictures. Heh!


Waiting to play.

That’s what they say. The Tuba starts it.

When you hear the first notes from the tuba you know the second line is about to begin. Playing a tuba is hard work. It’s heavy. The musician playing it walks about five or six miles. Maybe more. So, until it’s time to go to work, the tuba sits quietly on the ground.

I know. I know. Some of you have made comments like, “When my child played an instrument, it was alway stored carefully in its case. It would never be left just sitting on the ground.” For me, the operative word is “When.” Does he or she still play? If not, why not?

These guys are working musicians. Once they learned to play, they never stopped. They have gig bags. They transport their gear in them. They take the bags off their instruments and leave them in their cars. After all, do they really want to carry around one more thing that they won’t be using on a five or six-mile walk? This time of year walking is a little easier. Just wait until they are walking in July. In 98 degree heat. And, about 95% humidity.

That’s the other thing. Some of these guys may be too big. They may carry too much weight. But, they are true athletes. Maybe in the Russian weightlifter sense. You try carrying a tuba around in the heat of summer. You’ll see.

The picture. The true grab shot of grab shots. See all those legs in the picture? They were walking all around the tuba. I timed the exposure so that I had a clear view. For less than a second.


On the line.

The new leaders.

The young ones. The ones who carry the future. In their hands. I call them Baby Indians. I say that with all and deepest respect. And, admiration. They are learning early. They will be the leaders of the city. One day. Soon.

The pictures were made at the beginning of the Keeping It Real Second Line, when the children walk to honor, and to call attention to those who didn’t make it. The ones who lost their lives on our violent streets. Usually for no reason. They were just standing there. Or, sitting there. Because, the bad guys can’t shoot straight. Or, mostly because the bad guys just don’t think. Won’t think. Or, can’t think.

Technically, this is just about being there. Being a little bit patient. And, finding the moment. Anyone can do it. With a few years of practice. There are no tips for doing this. You can’t learn this in a few minutes. You have to work at it. Just like the baby Indians who will grow up to be adult Indians and leaders in the community.

Green glance.

 

 


Horns of plenty.

Keeping’ it Real. Sunday’s second line.

Between the march for non violence and the second line, there must have been about six or seven divisions. But, they were short, little tiny groups. As I said to a friend of mine on the scene, I must have walked the same 30 yards about ten times. That was okay. I got to see every start. And, I got to make a lot of pretty good pictures. After all, that’s my main reason for existence. Isn’t it? Heh! There was an added bonus to that. I was able to park less than a block away. When you aren’t feeling well, not walking extra miles to return to the start is an amazingly great thing.

No worries. One day. I’ll be better.

The picture. I wish I could tell you which band this is. Normally I can. But, most of the bands were cobbled together from members of other bands or freelancers. That’ll happen on a Sunday after everybody has been working into the early morning from Saturday night.

Technically, this wasn’t my usual “f 5.6 and be there” picture. I found a little angle and waited for it, hoping that nobody would pass in front of me and that the band wouldn’t stop dead in their tracks. That part was lucky. But, for once I actually saw the picture shaping up and planned for it.

One more thing. To a lot of you who found Storyteller from Facebook because of yesterday’s post featuring Rachel Carrico I hope you stick around. I make mostly New Orleans pictures. You might enjoy what you see.