You see them in windows. On balconies. On the street. Well, maybe not on the street. But, if you look hard enough you might. In a city that loves Halloween, anything is possible. You can look around the city in every ward, on every street and you’ll see Halloween spookiness. .
But, for the real adventure head to the French Quarter. That’s where the real stuff comes to life. Or, comes to death. It’s everywhere. While there is a big parade called Krewe of Boo, you’ll find some of the weirdest people wandering around in the best costumes throughout the Quarter on the big night. If you haven’t been to the city on Halloween, you owe it to yourself to come on down.
Before I sound too much like the tourism board, check out the picture carefully. The skeleton is wearing eyeglasses and has hair. You don’t see that very often.
No matter what, it’s all in good fun. So, have some.
A deep blue sky at just around dusk. I was lucky to make the picture. This is one of those times when a tripod might come in handy. In my own defense, I wasn’t expecting to see such a sight. So, I did what I could.
Dan Rather tweets and posts on Facebook. Yesterday, he said that the points of light in this dark time, are the arts. He talked about any of us who keep going. To keep making work. To continue to grow. I guess that I’m one of those artists to whom he was referring.
I never really think of myself that way. I suppose that you never do when you are in the midst of your work.
Speaking of photographer’s work, I’m in mourning today. Photographer and videographer Robert Frank passed yesterday at 94. Without him there would be no me. Without him, there would be none of the guys and ladies I came up with. Without him there would be no photojournalism as we know it today.
He turned the photography world on its head when he released his seminal work, “The Americans.” The self-congratulatory photographers, and a lot of photography critics at the time, thought his work was terrible. It was grainy, sometimes the horizons tilted, he made statements about America that weren’t so pretty. He told the story of the underclass.
Basically, his work was honest but it wasn’t pretty.
That’s what opened the door for a lot of us.
You know what Neil Young would say about that. He once famously said that, “when he was in the middle of the road he headed towards the gutter where things were a lot more interesting.”
Even the dog who shows me stuff didn’t want to be out. She did her “business” and headed for home. She’s no fool. She doesn’t like water falling on her from above.
For most of us, this is nothing unusual. Summer rain. It blows in from the Gulf of Mexico. Rain falls for an hour or so and normally it’s all good. But, we are spooked. Our streets seemingly flood with almost any hard rain.
The people in charge have taken care of the pumps. They are working as well as can be expected. Maybe we need new pipes. The mayor said that we just live in a place that floods. Accept that.
A car was found in a covered drainage ditch. Actually, there might be three or more. But, one was pulled out yesterday. It was pancaked. It’s brake tag was dated 2007. It was the remains of a Mazda 626. Mardi Gras beads fell out of the trunk.
Only in New Orleans.
There was a lot of discussion about it on social media. Given that we can buy our brake tags every two years, it was likely licensed in 2005. This could be a Katrina car. There could be human remains in that tunnel. Or, it could be something entirely different.
This is a mystery. Everybody loves a mystery. We all wanna know.
But, get this.
The water bosses admitted that the underground canal hadn’t been inspected for at least 14 years. Huh? Do you people ever do your jobs?
The same thing happened with the levees pre-storm. The Army Corps of Engineers and the local levee people met on the top of the levee, looked around and said let’s go to lunch. They didn’t do their jobs and look what happened.
As you know, I’ve struggling with ways forward. It’s not that I’ve lost my motivation. It’s more along the lines of how do I progress? I’ve been poking around in my archives for about a month. I’ve pretty much photographed everything that interests me in New Orleans about four or five times.
It’s why I didn’t work very hard last Mardi Gras. It’s why I barely went second lining during the 2018 – 2019 season. It’s why I haven’t been roaming around photographing the Quarter. It’s why I haven’t been chasing the things that a great sunset lights up. Then, there’s the traveling for my other side.
I can also say that it’s the middle of a Southeastern Louisiana summer, which lasts from early May until mid-October. It’s hot. I don’t like being in the heat. I can also say that I don’t trust my hip and back.
Truth be told, I’ve acclimated to the heat. Walking dogs will do that. My physical issues have somewhat settled down. I still have no idea why on one day I feel pretty good. And, the next day I feel like I’m 125 years old. But, I know how to manage it. I’m not fast anymore, but I’m a long time veteran of photography. You know what they say. “Young fox, old fox. Old fox always wins.”
Before you tell me that photography isn’t a competition, it is. With myself. I don’t care what the other guy does, but I have to make a picture that progresses beyond the last one, even if it’s only by a teeny tiny bit.
That’s what I ruminating about.
That, and what do I really photograph as the 2019 – 2020 second line starts in a couple of weeks? What do I photograph as Carnival Season starts? Do I just say that I’m done with that stuff. Or, do I figure out some other approach? What would that be?
By around 10:30 pm, the night before the big event, everything changed. No storm surge. The river would only rise to 17 feet. Well below flood level. And, the rain will average around 6 inches over 24 hours in New Orleans.
Yes. It’s windy. We may still lose power. So, I’m writing this around midnight just in case.
A grateful city is happy. I’m happy.
I’m so disappointed in national news coverage. The Washington Post flat out printed fake news. NOLA Twitter responded as only we could. The same thing happened with national television stations. Worse, the gold standard, The BBC went beyond fake news.
As many of you know, I started my career as a photojournalist. I made pictures. I edited. I managed photo staffs. I built a chain of weekly newspapers within a daily newspaper. I would have never published the nonsense I read today.
The Post said something about how fearful we were. And, that we were fleeing. Nobody that I know was fearful. Some people with children left. Family first. But, they weren’t panicked. We’ve been through this before.
The city, state, even the federal government got involved. We had emails, tweets and texts. There were the obligatory press conferences and so on. That was all good.
I remember that prior to the evacuation for Hurricane Katrina, a lot of my neighbors said they weren’t leaving because the city always reacted to potential hurricanes extremely and nothing ever came of it.
The rest is history.
When do people start disregarding hurricane lead ups again? What happens when the real deal occurs again and people don’t take it seriously?
Beyond my pay grade. I guess the Mercedes Dome will be a place of last refuge again.
One more thing.
I’m speaking only about New Orleans. I’m sure it will be rough when Barry makes landfall, wherever it makes landfall.
They come to mind without really coming to mind. They are just there. They are a kind of koan. You see something. You react. You stop thinking about your approach. To paraphrase and old Nike tagline, “You just do it.”
Back in 1974 when I was in photojournalism school at SJSU, we had a main photography professor. His name was Joe B. Swan. He was from West Texas. He moved slowly. He talked slowly. We called him “Slow Joe.” It was not out of snarkiness. It was out of affection.
In one of our beginning classes we learned about shadows and silhouettes. Except, Joe said it with his West Texas accent. He called them “shaders and silerettes.” I think that’s how you spell those words. Just say them out loud and you’ll understand.
He made a point to tell us that these tools are like spice on food. Don’t use them all the time, but when you do, they’ll make the rest of your take sparkle.
That was 45 years ago. I still hear those words today.
I could write a lot about Joe B. Swan, but it’s enough to say that he was one of the kindest human beings that I’ve ever met. You didn’t think that he was a great teacher until you thought about it. Here I am quoting him 45 years later.
Before I tell you about this picture, I have to tell you that I’m in a strange place. Remember that my word of the year is learning. The best time for me to learn is when I’m not trying to learn. Just like making a picture. If I don’t look, the picture will find me soon enough. Same with learning.
So here we are at the start of four months into 2019. The first three months have just blown by. Mostly good things have happened. But, there have been some bad. The best of those things is that I’m learning. I found out that my dad had a sister, making her my aunt. An aunt that we never knew about. I don’t know why that is, and we may never find out, but that’s something. Through that we found out we have some second and third cousins that we didn’t know about. I hope to learn more about them because they might be able to tell me about our aunt — their grandmother.
How’s that for learning?
Things like that have begun to take me on a journey through my past. I’ve said that before. But, this time it’s on steroids. I expect that’ll change the way I see photographs and the way that I make them. We’ll see.
This picture. I saw it while I was crossing the street. first I saw the bike and the wheel. I looked down. A “shader.” A “silerette.” I made the picture. I went to work in the darkroom in my computer. If I were to show you all the pictures, you’d see the progression. Both in the field and in the studio. This is the final version. And, the one that I like best. Which brings me to a topic for tomorrow. Let’s just call it, “So many pictures.”
I don’t know why that old joke came back to me. Back in the old folkie days, when songs were heard in a haze, a friend with whom I grew up heard the wrong words to a song and said, “Oh wow. Purple Furple.”
This may be due to “learning.” As I wrote in any earlier post, the koan has opened me up to a lot of things. Including bits of memories of things still to come.
This is all very interesting. We’ll see what becomes of it.
The picture. I made this picture a few weeks ago. I let it sit because it was too similar to others I had just posted. While it sat, I played. I made some extreme experiments. More extreme than this image. When I got all the way out there. I reversed course and headed back. This image is the result.
If you were to ask me what steps I took, you’d have me a disadvantage because I let the picture lead me. I don’t write down what the picture and I did. I save each step. I suppose I could post a whole lot of little pictures if someone insisted. I’d rather not. After all, had you lived back in the 1880s you wouldn’t ask Van Gogh each step to his paintings.
Wait. I’m not comparing myself to Van Gogh. That would be a big stretch on my part. Besides, I have two ears. Still.
Parade season — the real one — not all those downtown walking parades, starts tonight. This continues, with a few breaks, for the next ten or so days when we all end up on the streets for Mardi Gras Day. Wish me luck. Right now, I feel pretty good. My back and hip seem fine, or as fine as they can be.
The dog food is almost cooked for most of those ten days. The dogs are nagging me for a walk. So…
At the edges. Where the good stuff lurks. Where our imaginations create stuff. Where our dreams arise. Where nightmares come into being.
That’s why I like making pictures like this one. At night. Or, dusk. Things are lurking in the darkness. In the shadows. You can see some of it, but not all. You have to guess. Use your senses. Interpret. What you see is not what someone else sees. What they see may not be there at all.
Pictures like this one are scary. Or, not. They are moody. Or, not. They might even be artistic. Or, not.
Most of the time, their beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
All of this is why I look at paintings rather than photographs for inspiration. It’s why I read rather than look at pictures if I am traveling to a place. I’d like my imagination to kick in, rather than look at what’s already been done. I think that I can get closer to the edge that way. As musician Neil Young once said, “whenever I find myself in the middle of the road, I head straight to the gutter where things are more interesting .”
Me too. Not all of the time. But a lot of it.
The picture. The usual thing. See it. Photograph it. Make it what I saw while I was working in the field. I do that in post production if the camera’s technology can’t keep up with my mind. The computer’s can.
Before it does, sometimes the scene looks like the picture you are viewing. Especially during late fall or winter light. You cannot miss it. It’s just there.
For the past few days we’ve had milky clouds and some rain. Eventually the clouds broke. Golden sunlight pours through the remaining clouds and you see something like this. Wait for it. Be patient. It’ll come.
Some big time nature photographers will wait in one place for just the right light. For days. They set up camp. They figure out where the light will fall. And, they wait. It used to be that it took a long time and some education to predict where the right light will eventually break through and fall.
There’s an app for that. I’d say that is just one more thing that makes everybody a photographer.
Not everybody has the patience. Not everybody is willing to camp for one picture. Not everybody is so obsessed.
That’s what separates the weekenders from the real deal. Sure. The weekender can get lucky. However, the ability to make a great picture every time is another great separator. Weekend photographers don’t. The real deal does.
This picture is a result of luck. Maybe next time I’ll miss it because I wasn’t there at the right moment. Or, I wasn’t paying attention. Or, or, or…
A little clarity.
For those of you who follow me on Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen the black and version of this picture. Normally, I have a pretty strong opinion about which one I like best. Not this time. They are two very different pictures that just happen to share the same file.
And, one more thing. It looks like my decision about where Storyteller lives will be resolved in the next day or two. Both WordPress and Squarespace say that it’s time for my yearly subscription to be paid. You know my argument about Squarespace and free photos.
WordPress didn’t make it any easier. This is a paid blog/website. They are making me a great offer. Or, not. If I renew now they won’t charge me for web hosting which has been free in the past. They will charge me next year.
Everybody has their hands out. They want money for nothing.
I wonder how they will be react when I tell them that I’ll bring my own — laskowitzpictures.com — and drop theirs — laskowitzpictures.org — and keep the same space. I guess I’ll find out.