I was headed to my car after having coffee with Kim of Glover Gardens. She happened to be passing through on her way from Bay St. Louis to Houston. After she went her way and I went mine I saw this art-driven store. I looked in the window, but what I really liked was this wall. I think the door is their delivery door.
But, that wall.
I have no idea where these creatures came from. Or, from whose twisted imagination they sprang. It didn’t matter. I liked them. So, I photographed the wall. It’s been a long time since I did anything like that. I used my baby Leica. The whole thing made me smile.
Leica glass. Not only is the lens very sharp, but the resolution is amazing. There is another quality that I’ll call richness and depth. This is a flat wall with paintings on it. Look how the creatures just seem to be popping off the wall.
It reminds of the days when I exposed a lot of film. I shot slides in those days. I could tell the difference between slides made with Canon or Nikon cameras and those that were made with Leicas. There was just this sort of special quality about them. Apparently, Leica has been able to translate that in the digital world.
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.
A lot happened. A lot didn’t happen. I can’t remember half of it. That’s probably for the best. But, this is what I know. A made a helluva (that’s a technical term) lot of pictures in ten years.
Some were really good. Some were good. And, a lot of them fall under the heading of “what was I thinking? ” I spent way too much time photographing my version of faux nature. As I reviewed that work I realized that no matter how I try to see things differently, I keep repeating just about everything. That’s bad news for a guy like me who wants to move forward.
I spent two years of the decade in New Mexico, so that is reflected here. Luckily, I do like the two New Mexican pictures a lot. There are eight New Orleans pictures. Culling them was hard. There are at least six others that could have made the cut. I opted to go with pictures that I really like rather than some signature images.
The pictures are organized in no particular order. The best pictures come to me whenever they do. You know. “Don’t take the picture, let the picture take you.” I’m certain that these pictures are not chronological, but they are an honest representation of what I believe are my ten best pictures of this closing decade.
I hope that you enjoy them. I enjoyed making them.
Not so far in the future. Maybe just up to Mardi Gras parade time. Anything more would be wasted because as a not-so-wise boxer once said, “You can make all the plans that you want, but once you get punched in the face all the plans go out the window.” That’ll happen with Mardi Gras plans as well. The minute the season starts, everything will change. I have to be on the scene to understand the plans.
My biggest question is do I shoot what I’ve done for the last seven years and work the start of the parade? Or, should I do something different? What that is, I’m not sure yet. Hopefully, it’ll come to me in a dream, or in the shower.
There is also the yearly question of scheduling a number of events. They need to fit somewhat neatly together. Once I’ve got that clear in my mind and on paper I can fit the rest “stuff” into the year.
That’s another thing.
Although I do my scheduling on a digital calendar, I’m going back to paper for the details. It’s a better way to remember and it just feels better, which is like the debate between digital capture and film photography. They both have their place, but to me digital capture is like working on an assembly line in a factory. Film photography feels crafted and a little more artistic.
The picture. A very early Mardi Gras parade image. It was made on film and scanned much later. I forgot about it because somehow it was filed in the wrong archive. It was lost until I started digging. In those days I mostly worked with Fuji Velvia. Its ISO was 50. It really did better when you rated it at ISO 40. That’s slow. Very slow. That made working at night a challenge if you weren’t using strobes. I don’t use strobe at events like that because unless you hit the light dead on the picture looks way over lighted.
Instead, I would work for motion and ambient light. That allowed me to make pictures like this. The only sharp part of the image is part of a motorcycle wind screen is in the middle of the frame.
A picture like this one is impressionistic. That makes sense because of all the photographers who inspire me, painters inspire me more.
That’s mostly because I’m living my other life for the next week or so. No worries. I have plenty of pictures stashed away that you haven’t seen. For that matter, they are pictures that I’ve sort of forgotten about.
Pictures like this one, a nice bucolic meadow picture. Pretty, isn’t it?
This is the Lower 9th Ward, maybe ten years after Hurricane Katrina broke the levees and flooded what was once a vibrant community.
Sure, some people have returned. Some people rebuilt on their own. Some people returned to buy and live in Brad Pitt’s Make-It-Right homes. That’s the very corporate foundation that is being sued because many of the homes are falling apart. It appears that the all-star architects who designed them had no clue about our extreme weather. Mr. Pitt tried to decouple himself from the lawsuit, but the judge basically said that he couldn’t have it both ways.
That’s not the point of this picture. I’ve long said the people shouldn’t live here. The area is so far below sea level that cracks and potholes in the streets, leak. Apparently, nature agrees with me. Most of the land has returned to what it once was. Even wild animals have returned. I’ve seen feral pigs, snakes and turtles. A friend of mine said that he saw an alligator.
This picture is an example of nature seeking stasis.
Once, on this bit of property there were at least two or three houses. If you return to it in winter when everything is dead or dormant, you can see the foundations, water pipes, and the most spooky thing, porches to nowhere. Oh, and renegade toilets.
I’m thinking that when I get back, I should go back to the scene of the crime. I used to go about four times a year to chart the progress. I haven’t been back in a long while. I’ll add that to my list.
This is the picture I mentioned in yesterday’s Storyteller.
The Christmas wish of “peace y’all” has been around for as long as I can remember. Except for some slight rewiring, the lights never change. This picture is probably four or five years old. But, I could wander down to Royal Street today and make the same one.
I dressed this version up in some new bobbles from OnOne. It’s warmer. It has little globe-like things around, which are OnOne’s version of in-computer created bokeh. I’ve opened the shadows some. But, that’s about it.
As I wrote yesterday, I was thinking that I might not even try to photograph this decoration again. Then the light bulb went off. I found an idea. I’lll either show it to you if it works. Or, tell you about it if it doesn’t.
I’d like one thing from all of you who are photographers. I’d love to see where you live dressed up in its Christmas or holiday best. Whaddya think?
Mostly, I’ve been posting faux nature pictures as they relate to the season. But, I downloaded an upgrade to my OnOne editing and processing software. I just had to test it. I had to take it for a spin. You know, kick the tires.
I remade an image that I photographed about five years ago. While I won’t be tinkering in this way with the pictures I select, I was able to start an end of decade project.
Remember, 2020 is not only a new year, but a new decade.
That started me thinking about the dawn of this millennium. That’s a story in itself. At least, I started that out properly, by standing on The Great Wall of China as the clock struck midnight. I’d like to say it was a sort of lonely experience which would have been perfect. But, there were more people — Westerners and Chinese — standing up there than at any Mardi Gras parade.
Back to this picture. I tinkered with my upgraded software for a couple of hours. It was two things. A learning experience without a sharp learning curve. And, a lot of fun.
If you ask me exactly what I did, I couldn’t tell you. There was a lot of back and forth. I actually think I went a little too far. I may reprocess it in a slightly more restrained way once I learn more about the software.
I remember submitting the original image to an agency. They were looking for something “spooky” for an ad campaign. They really liked this picture. They asked if I had a property release. I replied that I didn’t need one. The Art Director started to say something, but I cut him off. I said, ” I don’t need a property release because I own the house.”
Yes. I did. We did.
We bought it for pennies on the dollar because the entire back of the house fell off. Three stories just peeled off the house in one big sheet, which broke up when it hit the ground.
We applied for, and received, state and city grants. They came with two requirements. We can’t sell the house for ten years. And, we needed to place a historical plaque on the front of the house.
Flash forward four years. The house is restored to its former glory.
There are a lot of period pieces that have either been restored or internally modernized.
It’s painted using New Orleans colors of the time period, which are not as bright as you’d think. Around here you can go to any Sherwin-Williams paint store and ask for their color chip chart for a certain period of time. Pick the colors and they mix them to 1887 specifications. The year the house was born.
It is leased to a nice young family who treat it as their own.
This house is the anchor to a completely rehabbed, but not gentrified, neighborhood. What was once a run down and Katrina-flooded street is now restored. The people who live there are truly neighbors.
The city got a restored neighborhood. Young families along the street got new homes. Some rent. Some own. We got to test our general contracting and work skills. And, we own a lovely second property in an up and coming section of town.
Seems like I could be on an archeological dig, the way dem bones keep turning up. Of course, I’m not, but they all have interesting shapes to me.
Even though I don’t always pay attention to the numbers, they seem to have tanked this week as I started publishing Halloween pictures. It seems to me that even though there are forms of the holiday elsewhere in the world, the pictures just aren’t striking you in the way that I attended. I have to figure out what to do about that.
In other matters, let’s talk browsers. I was using something call Brave. It protected me from ads, and supposedly from all sorts of bad actors. The new upgrade protected me for myself, as in my email turned funky. And, my calendar wouldn’t open. I realized that I could turn off various functions, which is how I reply to you. I turned off a couple of things and my email and calendar came back to life.
Goodbye Brave. It became pointless.
I started to download the latest version of Java Script, but Google doesn’t support it any longer. So, goodbye Google as a browser. Java runs all the moving parts on website that we turn to when we want something.
I’m a Mac guy so I turned to Safari. I left Safari because it was not as robust as Google. It’s been improved over the past couple of generations. Of course, since it’s an Apple to Apple usage it is fast as hell. I can still use my email and calendar which are Google-based. And, Apple has its own security which is about as tough as anybody else’s.
And, guess what?
Remember when WordPress dropped spell check a couple of months back? Safari provides its own version of spell check that works on any document anywhere.
Escape from the French Quarter to Uptown. When this ghostly apparition got there he couldn’t figure out what to do, so he started playing basketball. When nobody else arrived, he looked at me — your trusty photographer — and hissed. Then, he pointed. I left quickly. His yellow eyes were watching every step I made.
That’s the story. I’m sticking to it.
I’m pretty sure that everything is a story. That’s why we do stuff. As Jimmy Buffett once wrote, “We do it for the stories we can tell.” He was right.
Unfortunately, lately I haven’t been doing that. These hurting body parts have taken on a life of their own. Everyday is a new adventure in “what’s gonna hurt me today?” One of the once unspoken reasons for changing my photographic content is that it hurts me physically to do it. But, it hurts me emotionally not to do it.
A good friend says that coming out for a second line is like going to church. He’s right. Not only do I get to make pictures, but I see a lot of friends, I meet new people, I eat BBQ sausages and I soak in the great vibes. And, there is a spirituality to the whole thing.
If I give up, I lose that. I’m not ready for that.
I have to get a little aggressive. My doctors are nibbling around the edges. For sure, they are kind. They give me the medications that I need to get by. I don’t want to get by. I don’t want to exist. I want to flourish.
If traditional medicine can’t do it. I’ll shift. I spent a total of seven years in Hong Kong and China. I trusted the old ways. Maybe it’s time to make a move toward that again. Time for a few phone calls, texts and emails.
Meanwhile, I thought after writing about him, I should listen to a little Jimmy Buffett. So, I am.
“Don’t ever forget that you just might end up in my song.”