Not keeping anything safe.

All I know is that if you don’t use a thing, it probably won’t do it’s intended task.

This open lock is a case in point. It’s intended to keep a little AT&T substation secure. That’s a telephone communications company for those who don’t know. The substation controls about 3,000 buildings. The last field service technician apparently got lazy. It was probably hard to open so he left it on top of the metal box. For next time. Just think about the potential for mischief or worse. If I was about nine years old…

Anyway.

Today is mostly about housekeeping.

If you live in Louisiana you are probably suffering from allergies. See those little gold dots near the top of the open lock? That’s pollen. It’s in the air. That’s tree pollen. We are also suffering from grass pollen. To make matters worse, it’s unseasonably hot. Record-breaking hot. And, we haven’t had rain for weeks. We aren’t expected to have rain in the near future. It is so dry that the dirt is pulling away from the buildings, leaving huge gaps between the wall and the edge of the earth. People are actually watering their plants and crops.

I didn’t photograph the Mother’s Day second line. I’ve gotten to the point that I really don’t like working in extreme heat. Just as well. For the second time in five years, there was a shooting. This time, “only” two people got shot. Truth be told, it was at the very end of the parade about a half block removed. I wouldn’t have gone to that place anyway. But, still… who shoots up a parade dedicated to our mothers? The last time it happened about 15 people were wounded. One of those eventually died last year. My friend “Big Red” Deb Cotton. She was everybody’s friend, but she liked photographers because we are photographing a way of life. I have to decide if the risk is worth the picture. Yeah. I know that 99.99% of the people at any second line are peaceful and just having fun. But, a stray bullet knows no bounds.

I’m considering a hiatus from Storyteller. It’s not the time. It’s not the people. Well… in a way it is. The people. I gain new followers every day. Between those who receive emails and those who are on the reader there’s a lot. Yet, the people who actually see a picture on any given day keep dropping. If growth data matters, which apparently it doesn’t, I should have somewhere near 500 people who like my work daily. I don’t. In fact, I’ve dropped from a steady 50 or so to less than 30.

Since I’ve long said this place is experimental and I’m not very consistent in what I post, it could be that. I’m sure I disappoint people, like the coffee blog who started following Storyteller based on one odd post. I’m sure there are other people who play the “tit-for-tat” game. I’ll follow you if you follow me. Or, I’ll like your work if you like mine. I don’t play that game. I like what I like. I follow what interests me; usually because there are more than three posts.

Or, it could just be that the work I post just isn’t very good. Oh well. I’ve made a living at this for 40 plus years. Someone likes it enough to pay for it. They have for a long while.

That said, I’m in the middle of building a new commercial website. I’d kind of put it on hold because I couldn’t get a clear vision of what I want it to be. I built it and I published it. Then I went Yucko. Yucko. Yucko. But, it does have a blog component. I bet you can guess what it’s called. Yeah, yeah. Storyteller. It’s likely that I’ll just move this over there. Those of you who communicate with me in some way will hopefully follow me over there. It won’t be hard to find. http://www.laskowitzpictures.com. I think I can still send emails.

I’ll probably drop back to about 100 readers. That’s okay if you really read and talk to me.

I’m not sure when this will happen, although WordPress wants to be paid again for this blog and extra storage by the end of the month so that’s sort of a deadline.

That’s the news. The news that fits.

 


Wired.

It’s a funny thing.

The minute I stopped trying to make a picture and explaining myself the drought went away. If it was a drought. I think I was just bored.

Here’s why.

For the last few months I’ve been making pictures of my version of nature. Notice that. My version of nature. I’m not a nature photographer. I don’t play one on television. And, I don’t do the things that good nature photographers do.

I’m also not a writer. I write out of self-defense. I write for this blog. I write to make a point. I’m not someone given writing descriptive paragraphs. You’ll never see me even attempt to write a book, like a novel. There’s a lot of reasons for that. I suppose chief among them is financial. I eat what I kill. Posting a few pictures and writing about them here is fun. On the other hand, my commercial work is just that. Work. If I wrote a book I’d have to know that there was something on the other side of the rainbow besides a kind of fulfillment. Self publishing and selling a years worth of hard work for a $1.99 on Amazon does not excite me. It would be work without a financial goal.

So.

Back to pictures.

Unless the picture really calls to me, I’m not going to make anymore nature pictures. Besides, even though it’s early May, we’ve hit our summer stride. Everything is green and full. That’s the least photographic time to me. However, making pictures that are about summer is something else. Making pictures that say summer to most of us, and bring up memories, are something that interests me. It’s hard to do. I tried it a few summers ago. My goal was ten great summertime pictures. As hard as I tried, I made one.

I’ll try again beginning Memorial Day Weekend. Even though that’s not really the calendar start of summer, in The United States, it’s the start of what we think of as summer. I’ll work on this project until Labor Day Weekend. I’ll do what I can. My biggest problem is that my memories of a summer breeze, or a summer day, may not even be possible today.

Meanwhile.

I’ll work on other genres. No nature. This wired picture inspired me. The original file is kind of bland. Muddy.Dull. I added the same basic color formula that I used on yesterday’s picture of the leaf. I did not add the extra post-post production effects. After doing that, what I saw amazed me.

You can see it now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Lost in the leaves.

Another day. Another walk.

Truth be told, these pictures are a couple of weeks old. I processed them. I tinkered with them. And, immediately forgot about them.

I don’t know why.

Sometimes, I get lucky. I make three or four pictures on one walk. I choose the one or two that I liked best at the time and move on. The key phrase is “at the time.” Often, after a suitable period of marination, I wonder what I was thinking during my culling and editing process.

I found these shoes where the trees meet the road. They aren’t Crocs. They are fairly inexpensive chef’s clogs. There is something curious about them. There is a pretty good reason why they were tossed out into the street.

Yes. They are worn. But, that’s not it.

Can you see it?

I’ll tell you what I see below the bottom picture.

The mate to the other one.

I have no idea why. I didn’t move them. I never flip pictures. These two pictures are as I found the shoes.  One in the street. One near the street. Two shoes. Two different shoes.

But…

They are both right foot shoes. Wearing a shoe on the wrong foot had to have been very uncomfortable. Especially if the person wearing them was standing on his or her feet all day.

Your guess is as good as mine.


French Quarter

I took a stroll in The French Quarter. I made a few “traditional” pictures. I’m pretty sure that will make my agencies smile.

Doing the work and walking around the Quarter made me happy. Yes. It was hot. It was humid. And, the eclipse was all but invisible there. But, it wasn’t crowded. And, the people who “are from here” seemed happy. Free, two-hour parking was found just about everywhere. If I wanted to stay longer, all I need do was move the car.

I haven’t been in the Quarter for a good long time. I’m well aware of the Bourbon Street rebuilding. New street. New pipes. And so on. The schedule is very late, way over budget and now, stopped at a certain point while the city pours money into repairing the flood control system. But, I was surprised by how much other construction is going on right now. Many side — lake to river — streets are being repaired. Many buildings are also being repaired, restored or just renovated.

I suppose that makes sense.

We are passing through the dog days of summer, when it is too hot and humid for all but the most hearty tourists. Of course, because tourism is our main industry, shop owners and restauranteurs are counting their pennies and hoping they make it through the summer slow period. Anybody who has been in business for any length of time has been through this every year and knows how to stash a little money away during their busy seasons to carry themselves through.

For the tourists who are willing to deal with our steamy summers, good deals are everywhere. Lodging, food, and just about anything they might want to buy are marked down well below normal cost. Of course, for many of our seasonal events — Mardi Gras, Jazzfest, French Quarter Fest — everything is marked way up. So, there is kind of a balance.

The picture. Since most of my work is either high stress (corporate and advertising), low light, or artistic, making a daylight picture under blue skies seems easy to me. I mostly have to find a scene that says The French Quarter and work on it. For my agencies, I mostly just process and make slight corrections. They want a “straight” photograph. For you, I added a little more color and glow.

I’ll tell you. I had so much fun doing this, that producing pictures to fulfill my contracts will be a blast. I fully intended to go back this morning.

But.

Nature got in the way. Heavy overcast. The solid kind with no character in the clouds. There is a 40% chance of rain. If it rains around dusk, I’ll go back today. If not, I’ll try again tomorrow. Or, the day after that. Or, the day after that. Just being there helps.

It makes me smile.


Down in the neighborhood.

Sometimes it’s better to borrow a few lyrics.

Especially after yesterdays debacle in Washington D.C. I’m not political. I rarely show discuss that on Storyteller. This is a place for art. But, I have to tell you, I’m tired of it. And it’s only been a hundred and something days. I’m ashamed that my countrymen elected somebody who is so corrupt, so inept and so vicious that he’s brought us to the brink of a serious constitutional crisis. He’s managed to lower my country’s status in the rest of the world. And, he’s lining his pockets as I write.

You know who I’m talking about. Yet. I never wrote his name.

From Mr. Dylan…

“Thunder on the mountain, fires on the moon. There’s a ruckus in the alley and the sun will be here soon. Today’s the day, gonna grab my trombone and blow. Well, there’s hot stuff here and it’s everywhere I go.

Feel like my soul is beginning to expand. Look into my heart and you will sort of understand. You brought me here, now you’re trying to run me away. The writing’s on the wall, come read it, come see what it say.

Thunder on the mountain, rolling like a drum. Gonna sleep over there, that’s where the music coming from.  I don’t need any guide, I already know the way. Remember this, I’m your servant both night and day.

The pistols are poppin’ and the power is down. I’d like to try somethin’ but I’m so far from town. The sun keeps shinin’ and the North Wind keeps picking up speed. Gonna forget about myself for a while, gonna go out and see what others need. I’ve been sitting down studying the art of love.

Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches. I’ll recruit my army from the orphanages. I been to St. Herman’s church and I’ve said my religious vows. I’ve sucked the milk out of a thousand cows. Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes. I’ll say this, I don’t give a damn about your dreams.  Thunder on the mountain heavy as can be.

Mean old twister bearing down on me. All the ladies of Washington scrambling to get out of town. Looks like something bad gonna happen, better roll your airplane down. Everybody’s going and I want to go too.

Don’t wanna take a chance with somebody new. I did all I could and I did it right there and then. I’ve already confessed – no need to confess again.

Gonna make a lot of money, gonna go up north. I’ll plant and I’ll harvest what the earth brings forth. The hammer’s on the table, the pitchfork’s on the shelf. For the love of God, you ought to take pity on yourself . “

Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music

I edited this a bit for brevity. I’m pretty sure nobody edits Bob Dylan, though sometimes his work meanders a bit. So. There you have it. Me editing a Nobel Laureate. Imagine that.

Oh yeah.

The picture. Central City is the last area of “high ground” in New Orleans. For the most part, it remains ungentrified with the small exception of an area near Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. But, the drums of change are beating. I made this picture there. You are looking directly at the Super Dome. You can walk to it from this neighborhood.  Are you getting the idea? This land is prime development land. But, it’s rough. In many ways.

Technically speaking. This is a digital image from start to finish. I did whatever I do in post production to make it this way. I wish I can tell you each step, but I really fiddled around. And, tinkered.

Enjoy.


Once and again.

If all art is autobiographical, what does this say about me? In fact, what does any of my latest series say about me? The problem is that you can’t know. Because, you make your own meaning from art.

I have an idea of what I’m trying to do. Someone very close to me says be yourself, and proceeds to hide behind her own wall. We laugh about that all the time. I suppose that for me, it means not restraining myself. After all, isn’t a photograph supposed to look like a photograph?  It does for some people. For journalists. For pure documentarians. For my clients who hire me because of a certain photographic look. Even for the folks who think they are street photographers, which is about 90% of the people with mirrorless cameras. But, what about what I call my art?

I suppose, if I thought this through — and, I have — as I come toward the end of my career, I’d like to work on  jobs for which the client pays for the style that you’ve seen for about the last week. I’d like to sell art… instead of licensing stock pictures. What nobody wants to admit when a new stock company appears, is that clients turn to them when they want the same old thing. The propping might change to suit the era, the diversity might change but that’s it. One picture pretty much looks like another. We won’t even get into the sole reason to produce this kind of imagery which is to earn a living. Good luck with that.

So…

I’m making changes. A new “commercial” website which will be completely art focused is on the way. There will be three genres. The art you have been seeing this week. A black and white collection. And, a New Orleans culture collection. Each will be on the small side. Probably no more than 20 pictures each.  My archives are deep and broad, so I’ll rotate the collections more frequently than normal, but keep all the pictures where they can be found.  The site will allow for direct sales, pricing will be fairly simple, the site itself will be simple. The only possible hangup is with Storyteller. The new site will allow for a blog. I’m just unclear if can link WordPress directly to that. If not, I’ll back link from here. I like Storyteller too much to just let it wither.

Oh, and now that I seem to be recovered and can walk again. I’ll be making some new work with my newly evolved vision. Yeah, I know. Down here in big Baptist churches, I’d be a miracle. You know, “Praise God” all of that… make no mistake, I love those big boisterous churches.

No. I won’t be photographing any more street culture. Ne second lines. No Mardi Gras Indians. I’m pretty sure how I hurt myself. Potholes inside of bigger potholes and 12 miles of walking in a crowd are not good for any human being. As Jimmy Buffett once wrote, I’m not sure if the pleasure is worth all the pain. Of course he was talking about a three-day bender followed by a three-day hangover. But, still…


Through the neighborhood.

Where’s Waldo, indeed.

As you know, I’ve been skulking around my archives since I can’t really moved about at will. I found this picture. I made it back around a hundred years ago. Or, 2014. It says a lot about New Orleans.

Because.

This a second line that is so closely packed that it looks as if they are a mission of some kind. Or, they are waiting for some big concert. Then, you see a tuba. Ah, you start to think.

That’s about the point when you probably should open the picture as big as you can. You’ll see things that makes New Orleans the place it is today. Look at the top of the picture at both the left and right corners. The one way signs. This is a corner, at which for no rhyme or reason, the city changed directions of the street. Imagine this pre-Katrina. This was a fully functioning neighborhood.

Then, there is Waldo. Well, not really Waldo. A photographer friend of mine. He’s right there in the middle. Sort of. See the woman wearing red pants and a black shirt? Walking  just before the Cadillac car? Look just behind her head. You’ll see a guy pointing a little video camera. That’s him. Funny. I never saw him when I made the picture. But, when I downloaded and opened it up, there he was. Plain as day. Or. something like that.

The picture. These are the kinds of second line pictures I wish I could make. Always. I make a lot of “coming out the door” pictures. I’m in the middle of the scrum. That’s fine if you do it once or twice. But, after reviewing fives years of them, aside from the moment, they all look about the same.

If I look at my photographer friends’ pictures, they do too. Aside from post production techniques, most of our pictures look the same. And, why not? We all learn from each other.  My goal in my last days on the street was to make something a little different. Note that. I didn’t say better. I don’t know if it’s better. I said different.

There’s a reason for the sameness. We are all working from the original template laid down by the late, great Michael P. Smith, who documented all of this for thirty years starting in the early 1980s. He generally worked from the front and tried to drift into the right place. Waldo, or Christopher Porche-West as he is really known, also started about that time. His difference came by inviting fully suited Indians into a studio and making formal portraits of them. Some of his work lives in the Smithsonian. A place, where I’m pretty certain my work will never reside.

There is also a good amount of luck in this picture. Normally, once you are inside of the bounds of the route, it’s hard to get outside. I managed to find a back door and did that. But, I didn’t come out where I hoped. That would have been at the front of the second line. Instead, I came out here.

Turns out, it wasn’t such a bad location.


Smile.
Smile.

… they are just in the wrong order.

The Treme Sidewalk Steppers Second Line.

They packed just about everything they could into it. A huge van that was essentially a giant speaker. The krewes, themselves. The normal brass bands. A large group of unknown security people.  A high school marching band. A lot of big money donors. Oh, and a guy dressed like a Mardi Gras Indian.

Normally, there is sort of chaos to any second line parade. That’s the fun of it. And, it’s sort of controlled. Controlled chaos. That comes from respect. We all respect each other.

This one. Not so much. Sheesh. They planned to start early at 11:30am. They actually started about 45 minutes late. That’s normal. The NOPD normally try to push it along since city streets are blocked. I’m not sure they could get to the organizers. When the second line did start, it ran right into the last runners of the Rock n’ Roll Marathon who were coming down Esplanade. Two blocks away. Did I use the word planning? Did I mean it?

You know me. I don’t complain about this stuff. At the very least, there is a sense of satisfaction in knowing I actually somehow managed to get the job done. At best, it almost a religious experience and I walk away with a sort of high. A lot of times it’s somewhere in the middle. All good.

The pictures. No talent. All luck. All technology. The new lens is magic. No reason in the world for these pictures to exist. But, that lens…

Illegal smiles.
Illegal smiles.

 

 

 

 


Be a New Orleanian.
Be a New Orleanian.

… the Tuba starts the second line.

And, so.

It should start my second line parade photo coverage. Especially when a tuba is plastered with a New Orleans sticker.

This is the Undefeated Divas second line parade. Another Sunday affair. Warmer than last weekend with a little overcast which helped control the shadows. Especially on faces. And, on shiny things.

That’s all I have for today. A lot of things aren’t working. Mostly in the technology world. I have to fix them. Again. Every Monday.

A pause.
A pause.