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.
Carole King wrote it. Just about everybody recorded it. “Going Back.” A song for the ages. A song for me.
I was alright. I’d gotten over the shock. Of the feeling of loss. I knew it wouldn’t last. I didn’t expect it to arrive yesterday.
Here’s what happened.
My old friend and I have mutual friends. One of them was a good friend to me. We haven’t seen each other since the storm. Hurricane Katrina. She moved to North Carolina after the storm and a failed marriage. We do keep in touch. It’s hard not to in these days of every kind of messaging available to us. She texted me. Was I going to the memorial? Yes. Could I pick her up at the airport? Yes. Could she stay with us if have we the room? Oh, we got room.
On August 29th, we observe the 14th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall at Buras, Louisiana.
It’s been fourteen years. Since we were driven from out home. Fourteen years since I saw my friend. Other friends. How did that happen? Where did the time go? Did I waste it? Did I just pass it?
Or, did I fill it with work? With fun? With light and love? God, I hope so.
All I know right this minute is something Neil Young wrote.
You know that they make me smile. After all, a pack of them allow us to live with them. They aren’t Beagles, but still.
After this miserable week, which isn’t over, I needed something to make me smile. So, I dipped into those lost archives and found something that would do the trick. The funny thing about this Krewe of Barkus was I don’t remember photographing it that year. Obviously, I did. And, I worked from an odd place for me, which makes me think that during Mardi Gras 2020, I should work from here again. Or, near this location.
That’s the thing about photographing something until you are bored with it. Review your archives. Find something you’ve done in the past, but have forgotten about, and think about doing something similar. But, better. Or, a little different.
This weekend and week is about as rough as it gets. First came Peter Fonda. I didn’t know him, but his work influenced me. Then came Nancy Parker. I met her once at the Krewe of Zulu on Mardi Gras Day. A true sweetheart. Next comes Governor Kathleen Blanco. I met her at some event. She helped rebuilt the city after the destruction caused Hurricane Katrina. She stood down the president when he wanted to nationalize the state in the aftermath of the storm. She was the aunt to a very good friend of mine.
It didn’t stop there.
My oldest friend in New Orleans died on Sunday. She had breast cancer. It was in remission until it wasn’t. She was 48 years old. She leaves a husband and a 12 year old son. They both adored her.
Today, I hurt.
I suppose that I’ll go to the celebration of her life on Sunday. From there I’ll go to the first second line of the 2019 – 2020 season. I wasn’t sure if I’d photograph that. I suppose the decision was made for me. My vision was clarified in no uncertain terms. You know, the people in the Mardi Gras culture call this, “home going.” I guess. It doesn’t hurt any less.
The picture. It’s old. Most of you haven’t seen it. It’s me. Today.
You know what I say. The work is the prayer. It had better be.
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?
I have to laugh. Look at the two people in front. Look where the woman has her hand. I don’t know about you, but my head as never been used for a hand rest. I guess the guy doesn’t care. And, everybody is having fun.
I made many pictures of these folks, from standing in the street to deciding to mounting the guys’ shoulders and getting back down after they caught a few beads. They were laughing. So was I. I moved from this scene to a couple of others, as I normally do.
I changed the series. I said I would do that. I’m going to post a little “lost” Mardi Gras work over the next few days. Because I want to. I haven’t seen some of these pictures in a long time. When I cull for my agencies or for Storyteller, I pick the best images. At least, as I saw it then. But, there are sleepers. Pictures that I like better now.
That’ll happen. That’s why I say that you should let your new files or film marinate. The further you distance yourself from the emotions of actually being on the scene, the clearer you’ll see the images that matter. Don’t be like me and let the images sit for a couple of years or so.
I didn’t go out for Krewe du Veaux last year. In fact, I didn’t photograph Mardi Gras as much as I normally would. I have to think about it for next Carnival Season. My physical health is one issue. But, like everything else in the world, the crowds keep getting bigger and bigger. It’s getting harder and harder to work myself into position.
I’m thinking about this now because like an athlete who plays a particular sport, I have to train and then get parade ready. It’s better to do that than to try to “play myself into shape.” That only works for the youngest of athletes. We’ll see how it goes. At least the dogs won’t let me walk less than 2.5 miles a day, every day. Of course, that’s not exactly speed walking. All of them, especially the all seeing dog, like to poke around, smell stuff and amble toward their destination.
The whole place is glowing. Neon. Color. Reflections.
As a wise man once said, “when the weather turns bad, the pictures get good.
And, so they do.
These so-called lost files having been showing me the way. I’m glad that I’ve worked through this little series. There is so much more that I could show you. But, as I say, just because I made a lot of pictures doesn’t mean I have to dump them on you. Sheesh, a friend of mine from here and on Facebook just posted 54 pictures on Facebook. I don’t think I can count that high. Give your viewers a break. Cull that down. Just show your best work.
Lucky Dogs. See that hot dog on a bun looking food stand on the corner?
I participate in a food group on Facebook. It’s about New Orleans food. There’s been a changing of the guard with the admin folks. Now, we have people asking the same old questions, when all they really need do is go to the group’s archive section and search. Whenever somebody asks about inexpensive restaurants in the Quarter, I always respond, “Lucky Dogs.” (Wow! It took me forever to circle back to that.)
The truth. I wouldn’t eat from one of those stands if you paid me. They hit the streets about 11am. When I made the picture it was about 10pm. I’d venture to guess that some of the hot dogs in the steamer ave been there all day. They might not hurt you, but surely they are tough, chewy and don’t taste all that good.
They are a New Orleans institution.
That’s great. But, who wants to eat in an institution?
The picture. F8 and be there, except that it was probably more like f4 and stand very still.
That’s the story. On the anniversary of Elvis’ death. The day when he really did leave the building. RIP Elvis Presley.
It certainly didn’t stop these two women. They were soaked through and through. What did it matter if they got even wetter? Besides, when was the last time that anybody saw Bourbon Street without crowds at night?
And, she’s wearing flip flops. Normally, that’s just an act of craziness. If twenty people don’t step on your toes, consider yourself very lucky. Besides, you don’t want to know what covers that street on a normal night. By the end of the night, Bourbon Street truly stinks. I’ll leave it at that. Y’all have good imaginations.
The picture. It’s one in a series of “lost” pictures. That rainy night in the French Quarter sure added a lot of magical qualities to the image. Water. Reflections. Wet people. All I had to do was be willing to get wet. And photograph what I saw.
I made this image in a neighborhood of the Ninth Ward called Holy Cross. . I saw this woman riding off into the sunset so I followed her in my car. When I got close enough to her, I got out and made a quick ten frames or so.
She heard the sound of the camera, so she circled back to me keeping her distance, not knowing what I was about. I held my hand up in a show of friendship. She decided to trust me. I turned the LCD around and showed her the pictures. She was relieved. I handed her my card and asked her to email me and I would return a full sized image file. She did. I did. All is good.
That’s pretty much how you do it. My instinct, built on my years as a photojournalist is to photograph first and apologize later. But, I seem to be able to sell myself in situations like this one. I’ve long realized that to work as a photographer you have to carry yourself like one. It’s confidence, but it’s something else. You have to look like you know what you are doing.
I’ve read a number of stories about a couple of photographers who have gotten in a lot of trouble taking pictures at state fairs and similar situations. One sounds like he was a creep. The other was just out taking pictures. Both tried to hide and blend in to the crowd when they were approached by concerned parents.
I never do that. I walk purposely to the person asking questions. I introduce myself and shake hands if they’ll let me. I turn my camera around so they can see the LCD and what I was doing. I offer them my business card and tell them if they want a print I’ll email them a file if they ask.
I never have a problem.
Take heed. The world is a weird place. People are scared. People don’t trust each other. Try to repair that when you are out making pictures. Leave folks better off then when they met you. That is the least that you can do.