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.


Krewe of Barkus in the Quarter.

Dogs.

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.

That’s my thought for today.

 

 


Leading the band.

Knowing everything about Mardi Gras.

Impossible.

I explained to you that Mardi Gras is layered. Most people who come to town for the parades and Mardi Gras Day don’t really know how much is going on beyond what they see in the streets.

I tried telling a friend of mine that very thing on Facebook and he couldn’t understand. He’s a smart guy. A good journalist. He lives in Indiana, so maybe I should have known better.

Then comes today.

A friend of mine — a local who is very in tune with the city — sent me a text. Could he call me if we were awake? Sure. He wanted to know how he and his wife should dress for a ball tonight. They were invited at the last-minute. Aside from the big dances that are held after many parades, I didn’t even know that there were any balls this late in the season.

I asked him a few questions and I found that I really wasn’t sure how to advise him. Some krewes throw very formal balls. As I wrote earlier, I dress in evening wear. Sometimes. That means tuxedos are appropriate. Other balls require that you fully mask, but in something much better than you’d wear on the streets.

It just depends.

Since I didn’t know the group hosting the ball I was fairly useless. But, I told him that my feeling for most balls is that you can’t be overdressed. On the other hand, if he needs a tux this morning for tonight, good luck.

Because.

Around here, once we get into a holiday bubble this close to the big day, you may or may not even have a phone call returned. At this point, if I’m working with an out of town client, I tell them to consider me on holiday until Wednesday. They remind me that in other parts of the country and world Mardi Gras Tuesday is just another business day called Tuesday. And, I reply, “lucky me.”

The picture. Marching bands and me. I really like them. They make a parade wonderful. The drum major is warming up the tuba section prior to rolling. They were about ten minutes from start time so he had to keep them warmed up and in focus without harming their energy. It’s amazing how well a young teenage man knows how to do it. It’s instinctual and yet, it’s well-practiced. These young men and women work as hard as any athlete. Many are in better shape than their sporting brothers and sisters. Often they are working towards college scholarships, just like a sporting competitor.


Golden woman.

Mardi Gras.

What it is. What it isn’t.

This post is driven by a couple of comments I read on Facebook. It seems that a small city in Indiana might not be able to have Mardi Gras because a bar closed.

Really?

Is that what you think of Mardi Gras? Sure, we have big parades. The krewes toss beads and other stuff. You know, “Trow me sumptin’ mistah.” There is plenty of boozing and a little debauchery, usually on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. But, that’s not all.

At the heart of it, Mardi Gras season — Carnival — starts on the Twelfth Night after Christmas when the wise men journey to Bethlehem to bring the baby Jesus gifts. It lasts until midnight Mardi Gras Day when the police clear out the remaining revelers.  Night turns into day. And, it’s Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent.

In other words, it’s a religious holiday. Imagine that.

It’s also a time when we locals celebrate quietly. It’s more-or-less like Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. We visit with friends and family. We gather around meals. We bring little gifts. The more blue blood among us go to fancy balls and events that are by invitation only. The big krewes, like Muses, have balls, lunches and other events for their members and guests. It’s an honor to be invited.

For our part, we host a brunch on the Sunday before Mardi Gras Day. Our friends and family mingle, eat, have a drink or two. If they want, they can walk up a couple blocks and see the parades on St. Charles Avenue. We are also lucky enough to be invited to two balls. We aren’t blue bloods. Imagine me in evening wear with a little mask. That’s what I do. That’s what they do.

There is a lot of symbolism. Mardi Gras Day is the day when the Indians reveal their new suits for the first time. For some, a year’s worth of work comes down to this one day. For others, they’ll show their new suits throughout the year. It’s a day when Zulu leads the parades. They mask in blackface. It harkens back to a time when they couldn’t afford masking materials. The  so-called Take It Down movement wants them to stop. The Zulus just laughed and started dancing. As far as I’m concerned, the Zulus can do whatever they want. They are the soul of Mardi Gras. Maybe of the entire city.

The million or so tourists who flood our streets, drink way too much, and fight for beads and other “throws” don’t know any of this. It’s all a giant party to them. One day of being stupid. Some try to arrive on the day, itself. With blocked streets, heavy traffic and the parades they are lucky to get anywhere near in time for… what?

I’m not attacking the partiers. Sheesh. We need the money. I’m explaining what those Mardi Gras partiers in other cities don’t understand.

When I was exiled to the desert after Hurricane Katrina, I went to Mardi Gras in Old Town Albuquerque. Make no mistake, Christmas there is breathtaking. The onset of fall is wonderful. But, Mardi Gras? Not so much. It made my very sad. I think we went during our first year there. It was on a Saturday. Sheesh. Whatever happened to Fat Tuesday? I was so homesick that we flew back to New Orleans for a cobbled together Mardi Gras, because 80% of the city was still broken. It’s when I saw Zulu warriors — the real ones from Africa — walking in place of our Zulus because most of them couldn’t get home. If they could, they had no home to come back to.

That’s what Mardi Gras means.

The picture. This is the one I planned for yesterday. I intentionally made it contrasty. WordPress “helped me” by tuning it down. She walked by me while I was sitting on a wall getting ready for the next parade. I couldn’t catch up with her. That is, until we both walked into the local grocery store for lunch. I asked if I could photograph her. Even though anybody masking is fair game, it was our lunch break. Heh! I made some smiling portraits and I made this one. I like it best. My agencies will like the smiling pictures. They are trying to make money for us. Besides, you can see me working in the reflection in her sunglasses. Nice shorts, huh?