One night, long ago.

M

y thoughts brought me to a couple of places. As events start to close down I’ve been thinking about anniversaries.

This picture of a flambeaux during Mardi Gras is a great example of that.

It’s just a picture, right?

Maybe.

To me it means a lot. I was suffering during Mardi Gras 2020. I was at the peak of my back pain which was transmitting even more pain to my right knee. I walked up Jefferson Street to my usual pre-parade stop, CC’s.

The flambeaux were lining up. I stuck my camera through the line and made this picture.

I gave up. Thee pain was too much. I limped back to my car with a couple of stops along the way.

This picture is important. It was my last serious photograph before the pandemic forced the lockdown.

For sure, I’ve been making little pictures on dog walks and my own walks. But, I haven’t made a serious picture since February, 2020.

My doctor thought I was depressed. Well, gee…

I

have a theory. When something goes south, just about everything else goes to hell.

I knew it a long time ago. I know it now.

This week is four days old.

We lost Jazzfest. We lost the red dress run. We lost Action Jackson. We lost Rosy Guste.

All of that happened during our fourth CoVid-19 surge. The national infections are now just about 130,000 infections a day. Our hospitals are jammed. The two big hospitals in Baton Rouge are filled. They literally cannot take more patients.

Louisiana and the rest of the country are headed south. All manner of smaller bad things are starting to happen. What’s next?

Y

ou just never know. That’s what Action Jackson said to me when we first met.

He was right. Maybe more than he knew.

When you photograph second lines every Sunday to get to know many people.

Photographers cluster together and chat. We get to know each other. We are happy to see each other.

One photographer was Roy Guste. I knew him as a photographer. Once, when his car was broken down I gave him a ride.

There was more to him.

He studied cooking at Cordon Bleu. He was the proprietor of one of our famous old restaurants as his dad was before him. He wrote ten books about our food, traditions and cooking.

He was very well known to the food culture of New Orleans.

I never knew. I wonder how many of the photographers on the line knew.

Roy Guste died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was 69.

RIP.


USMC and the Flag.

Wow! What a busy weekend. For the of us who are in New Orleans we are think about the Mardi Gras parades that won’t happen. The celebrations in the quarter that will be muted.

But, wait.

There’s more. We are in the midst of the Lunar New Year. Or, as some say, the Chinese New Year. Gong Hei Fat Choi as they say in Hong Kong. Friday was the actual day, but like Carnival, CNY is celebrated for two weeks.

We are not done yet.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day to y’all. Lot of Valentines in this house.

Normally, on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday we have a big brunch. An open house. Not this year. Our pod is our pod. Our friends and family are not in our pod. Hopefully, on day we’ll all be together. In one extended pod.

In many ways, in New Orleans, this holiday is when the pandemic exploded and surged. I’m not celebrating that. Actually it was a week or two later because Carnival like The Lunar New Year follows the — wait for it — lunar calendar.

According to the traditions of Chinese New Year, you use this time to clean your house, make amends, pay your debits. Then you visit relatives and friends. The people you visit usually give your children Lai See, little red envelopes with money stuffed in them.

All of that sounds like a good idea. Except for the little red envelopes.

Many people use the calendar new year to reassess , make resolutions and set goals. Most of those good intentions are forgotten in about a month. This would be a good time to reassess your reassessments.

And, start again.

USMC. They carry the American flag and lead each parade group. It’s their honor to be there, and it’s our honor to have them.

Some are in dress blues, others are in camo BDUs.

The marines in their BDUs are on the street to help out if there is a problem. No, they are not armed.

I made this picture just as the lead marine was getting ready to unfurl the flag. This is truly photographer’s luck.

Since I don’t machine gun my exposures, and I wait for the decisive moment, I could have just as easily missed my picture.

For this series, I did all the things I do to tone the image down and add some extra artistic stuff to it.

Stuff is right. I don’t know that the work I did adds to the photograph.

You know that Storyteller is just a giant experiment.

For all you know, I’m just a giant experiment.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wear another mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Attempt a giant experiment.


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.


Getting ready.

I had big plans.

Heh!

If you want to make God laugh tell him your plans.

My hip started hurting really badly yesterday evening. I took as much oral pain medication as I could. I added a Lidocaine patch and a topical NSAID. Nothing worked. I went to sleep thinking that usually helps. I awoke and I was no better. I called my doctor. They are closed for Mardi Gras.

So.

I did what I never do. Never say never, they say.

I gave up. I can’t walk enough to make any reasonable pictures. This doesn’t bode well for the future.

We’ll just have to see.

Happy Fat Tuesday. And, stuff.


The marching band arrived late.

This Mardi Gras parade season seems doomed.

Last night we had tropical storm level winds, the gusts were around 40 mph. So the parades were postponed. Two will roll tonight minus all the walking groups. The third will roll on Sunday. That means 164 floats will be on the streets tonight. At least one of the most powerful krewes in the city — The Muses — will roll during daylight, when their floats are meant for night time. At least they get to roll.

The last twenty or so floats of Nyx may never get to roll. Even if they did, they may not have many “throws” because they could mostly only take what they could carry after the tragic end to their parade The Nyx captain is is exploring joining the Krewe of Pandora, which rolls in Metairie on Sunday. The captain of the Krewe of Nix – Julie Lea — is also the captain of Pandora. They’ll know sometime today. There are two issues. Very few throws. And, they rent their floats. There may not be enough floats for them.

Meanwhile, we’ve learned a lot about the unfortunate woman who died on Wednesday night. She was 58-year-old Geraldine Carmouche. She did not trip or fall. She was trying to pick up some beads.

She gave her life for maybe ten cents worth of Chinese manufactured beads.

She was born and raised here. Toddlers are taught from the moment they come to parades not to run out into the street for beads. Do no cross in front of moving floats or marching bands. When I arrived 20 years ago that’s the first thing I was told when I attended my first parade.

Reading comments on Facebook was sickening. Many attacked the victim. They accused her of being drunk, of having no responsibility. Apparently, they never heard the old saying, “Never speak ill of the dead.” I guess this the the world in which we live.

I’m not buying that. I think she had a kind of tunnel vision. I’ve seen it a lot on parade routes. Parade goers see nothing but throws. They are aggressive and they want them all. Even though she was well old enough to know better, and a local, I think that’s what happened to Ms. Carmouche.

Four more issues to discuss. I promise that I’ll keep it short.

The picture is a leftover. With no parades last night, I ran out of culled and processed images. I also decided that the images I made while the Krewe of Nix was rolling will forever be unprocessed and will not see the light of day.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve changed my policy of not publishing names. While Storyteller remains art driven, I can’t tell stories without names. Of course I’ll follow my own ethical rules which are informed by years of journalism at a time when we were respected.

I’ve long said that the work is the prayer. If I believe that, I must work tonight. There are enough people who could use a few prayers right about now. And, that’s just in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras parades are an interesting thing. Just about ever local who participates in them does it for the experience, for the fun.

Really?

I talked to enough people on Twitter to realize that they were overjoyed at not having to be anywhere near the parades last night. One woman on NOLATwitter said that she felt free.

If that’s the case, just what the hell are we doing?

Do we feel so obligated to “celebrate” that it’s become work?

Even me. I was preparing to go to the parade route when I checked social media one more time. Even though I’m not riding on floats, or marching in bands, or throwing beads, I can’t tell you how relieved I was that I didn’t have to go.

What am I thinking?

 


Waiting to start.

I’m sort of at a loss what to call this mini portfolio.

It’s mostly about how people — both krewes and spectators — prepare to roll or catch beads. I call this collection, “Standing Aside,” but that’s not exactly right. I suppose it doesn’t matter. The pictures are of things that I saw during the first couple of days of the Uptown parades.

This is about it for now.

Luckily, there are two big parades tonight night.  The Krewes of Druids and Nix. Both ar great fun. Both roll from the same place, making my life easy. I should be able to make some memorable pictures. Hopefully, that will make all of you smile.

That’s about it. I need to start getting my head on straight. You know. First, I plan. Then, I try to forget everything. The last part seems to be getting easier. Heh!

A little touch up.


Drum major my way.

Promise kept.

I said that I would experiment with Mardi Gras pictures rather than publish images that are documentary in nature. That turned out to be harder than I thought. It’s tough turning a clean, sharp image of somebody doing something into a kind of art. For the most part, it feels forced. And, it looks odd.

Finally, after an even more careful culling of my images I found this one. I knew that I could experiment and likely come away with my original intent.

Intention is everything when you make a cinematic image. Fiddling around with it shows.

So, what do we have here?

The subject is a St. Augustines Marching 100 drum major. He was in the lowest of light. I helped it by using a smaller f stop, which meant the shutter speed was very slow, probably around 1 second, hand held. The blur was intention. It was also helped because the picture was made at night. I could make a motion blurred image during the day, but it loses its mystery and mood.

Happy Mardi Gras y’all.


Reflection.

Mardi Gras parade season.

We come for all sorts of reason. Some like the excitement. Some like the floats. Some come for the throws. I come for the music. I come for the marching bands. Of course, I photograph anything that moves. But, it is the bands that move me the most.

In the past, I use to publish images day by day. Parade by parade. That’s one way to organize pictures. These days, I publish by category. Today, the pictures are all about music. Heh! As if you couldn’t tell. Today is also a day off from the parades because nobody rolls on Monday. I may make my way down to the French Quarter and photograph the silliness there. We’ll see.

We also have to go grocery shopping, or make groceries as they use to say around here. I say “use to” because I haven’t heard that phrase in many years. Anyway, after yesterday’s brunch we are all out of food. We have some king cake, which is fine for breakfast this time of year. But, all cake and sugar does not make Jack a happy boy.

Happy Mardi Gras.

All smiles.


Before the parades.

Photographers luck.

I was out walking when I heard police sirens. I looked up. I saw Mardi Gras floats being pulled by their tractors. After being around for so long, I know that the floats are being towed to their parade starting points.

There are three parades in which I’m interested. They are all Uptown parades. However, there are at least three more parades that could be called local.

Today is when my Mardi Gras photographic season really begins. For sure, I photographed some of the downtown parades. They are great fun, but starting tonight the parades have some real  history.  And, tradition.

A couple of years ago the folks who organized the downtown parades thought they were onto something new.The organizers wanted to call their parade season “New Mardi Gras.” That was a non-starter. Nobody wanted that.

I talked to one of the organizers. She wanted to know why I was opposed. I said that it was simple. All of Mardi Gras evolves every year. Krewes come and go. Some are replaced by new krewes. Some reform and return. Some are gone forever. All of the downtown parades are a part of that tradition.

I made this picture about 45 minutes before I published it.

I made it cinematic in post production because I like the style. A thought is rolling around my brain. Tonight, I start photographing parades for real. It’s more or less photojournalism. But, it doesn’t have to be. At least for here on Storyteller. I can make the pictures a little more magical which is the whole point of working on this stuff. That’s for y’all.

A little magic. Because… you know why.

For my client and agencies I’ll take a more straight approach. That’s how all of the images start out. Sometime they’ll enhance my work. That’s their call. I will add some of my enhanced work. They’ll see what I’m thinking. You never know. It might align with their thinking.

I’m a little excited about tonight. I know where i’m going. I know the routes. But, I have no idea what I’ll do. That usually comes to me while I’m standing around wondering what I’ll do.

That’s the story.

No. I didn’t forget the day. Happy Valentines to all of you. Please go to my Instagram feed to see how I celebrated it. It’s different. At least it has that going for it.