t started this way. This picture was made at the very beginning of my career. I worked for a chain of tiny newspapers in rural Southwest Virginia. We thought we were pretty good and most of the time we were.
The two biggest photo subjects were sports and stand alone art. The former you understand. The latter are pictures that can be used as needed. That’s what this photograph was intended to do. A space filler.
We started a new product designed as a tab, meaning magazine style. It was really intended as another way of selling advertising. Unfortunately for the ad department, we took it seriously. We saw it as a prime display section.
We had a short deadline for the first edition. It hit me, we hadn’t used the welder yet. So, that was the cover. I followed him around for a while so I made a nice picture story which we used to fill the center of the paper.
It was printed at night when the press wasn’t running with the dailies. The advertising department never saw it until it was printed. They had multiple heart attacks and went roaring off to the publisher.
I’m no fool.
I already showed and pitched it to the executive editor and we pitched it to the publisher. When the ad manager ran into the publisher’s office and held up the newspaper, the publisher smiled and said, “pretty good isn’t it?”
He liked it so much that even though it was intended to sell ads, it would feature photos and photo stories. That was great until I realized that meant more work for me.
here’s no mystery to this picture. See the subject, talk to him for a minute and ask if I could photograph him.
But, I wanted to open up the picture and turn it into something the verges on the edge of high key. That meant dropping out a lot of background detail which I did. By doing that I sort of highlighted the church in the background which made a great background for a green knight.
In fact, the more I look at the picture as I write, the more I think this is a great portrait. It’s not the usual Mardi Gras parade photograph. It’s something else entirely. It almost has a very stylized studio-like feeling. This may be something else to explore a little.
If I do everything I’ve said I wanted to do, I would never have to leave the house again except to go on the road. I doubt that I’ll accomplish everything especially since we just bought the farm.
No. Not that way.
I mean that we just spent a lot of money for a house in the country. And, some land. 80 acres of it.
In couldn’t go. Masking and distancing is still to fraught with danger for me. If I caught the virus my body couldn’t produce enough red platelets to fight it. So, I found this portrait, which I made out of another picture and thought that I’d share it and some information about Big Queen Kim’s murder.
I think I mentioned that she was shot as she left a repast for a funeral. She was wearing a memorial t-shirt for the man who had also been killed near I-10 in New Orleans East. The drive by shooters weren’t targeting her or her companion. They just shot at anybody they thought was part of the funeral party. It was a revenge killing.
At least that’s what the NOPD think at this point.
This scares the hell out of me. Revenge leads to revenge. While I have a lot of respect for Black Masking Indians, I know that there are some pretty heavy hitters among the tribes or gangs. I know that there are a lot of Bouttes who are awfully upset at the murder of their family member. Neither will take this lightly.
I hope that cooler heads will prevail, but in this hot summer during the age of CoVid-19 when violent crimes are trending upward anything can happen.
Have a good thought for all of us. We don’t need more violence. We could all use a little peace about now.
This is another photograph that I made at the Louis Armstrong Festival in Treme. It took some cropping to make the picture be what I wanted, which was to show her smile, but it worked. Her smile is how I knew her. Her smile is how most of us knew her.
Rest in Heaven Big Queen Kim Boutte.
Stay safe. Wear your masks and keep your distance. Enjoy every smile.
Sophie Rose never poses for a picture. I guess that she felt like it. Or, maybe she knew that I hadn’t made a picture for the day.
This is the all seeing dog. The dog who finds pictures and waits while I make it. Sometimes, she looks up at me as if to ask are you done,
She’s an old lady dog. She’s twelve years old. She’s a rescue dog. She came to us when she was eight. She was scared and confused because her person passed at 85 years old. Her care givers didn’t much like Sophie. She was well underweight and she had a gastrointestinal infection. We brought her to our vet. He fixed her up. I fed her the same food that the other dogs eat, She gained weight. She came to like the other dogs. She came to trust us,
Now I belong to her.
Lately, she’s been sick. She had a gum infection that worked its way into her jaw. Four teeth later and an aggressive course of antibiotics and she’s fine. She’s back to her old self, aggravating the other dogs and shepherding me and everybody else.
She also has a bladder stone, which has finally broken up. We are hopeful that more antibiotics will break the rest up. Otherwise, she could require surgery. We’ll know in a few weeks. I’m not inclined to put her through it. She shows no symptoms. She’s happy. She acts younger than her age. She has no symptoms.
What would you do?
It’s a portrait. A lucky portrait because she normally doesn’t allow it. I didn’t do any post production except to correct the warm light of the room that we were in. Sophie did the rest.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Protect our teachers. Enjoy every sandwich.
My neighbor was worried that he was doing something he shouldn’t be. I thought that I’d check him out using the guise of liking his ink. He turned out to be a nice guy and that’s all I need say about that.
I haven’t seen him since I made this photograph. If I do, I’ll make sure he gets a print.
It’s Sunday and I don’t have much to say. The teachers in my life are going a little crazy not knowing in what form they are going to teach next semester. Most of them want to teach remotely. They don’t want to get sick, nor they want to bring it home to somebody who might be compromised.
I mostly stay home because of my age and one compromising condition. I had to laugh when I looked at my Google analytics. I drove a whopping 22 miles in June. Not in a day. Not in a week. But, the entire month.I have to cut down on this wandering around.
However, I am going to get out and make 15 year anniversary Hurricane Katrina pictures. I’ve mostly put all of that behind me, but I haven’t been looking at what’s happened in the five years since I did it last. When I mentioned that to my neighbor she said why are you starting now? You’ve got six weeks.
I have to find the locations. I have to make the pictures. And, I have to stay dry and try not to get shot. It’s hot, but that’s never stopped me in the past. Time to get out there, stay away from people and make a few photographs.
I told you why I made the picture. I didn’t tell you how. I walked up to him and I used a little photographer patter. I said that I noticed his ink and could I made a few pictures? He nodded yes and away I went. Then we talked for a while, which is when I came to know that he is a nice guy. I made a couple more pictures and we were done.
I see so much street photography, being a member of about ten groups, that almost has nothing to do with the work of making pictures. The pictures are taken from behind or they are taken from across the street or down the street with a long telephoto lens. In these pandemic days a lot of people are feeling lonely. You don’t have to get within six feet and a couple of words might help. Do be careful. But, you know what I’m saying. Make a friend.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. You know what to do. Enjoy the summer weather.
Oh, after reading about Ruth Bader Ginsberg fighting cancer again, the woman from whom I got the saying — Mary Chapin Carpenter — posted a picture of RBG and said, Stay Mighty. I don’t know MCC, but thank you for that.
Just when I start going in one direction, I turn south and head for another. Seriously, I’m mostly just opportunistic. My neighbor texted me and said, “you gotta hear this beautiful music.” So, I came out. She was right. The music was all gentle 1960s and 70s music, like something Marvin Gaye would sing.
The players were a young man and woman. You guessed it. This is the woman. I asked if I could take a few pictures. They had no problem with that. I did my thing while they did their thing. It was a wonderful experience. We worked together. They were delighted when I said they could have the pictures.
You know what I always say, “Without you I would have no picture.”
In addition to guitar, the young man also plays a little drums with Black Masking Indians. If we ever get to be on the street again, we’ll find each other at the next indian event.
Musical Miss has been saying to anyone who will listen, “I need to play music with other human beings.” I didn’t realize that I needed to work artistically with other human beings.
This is just technical stuff. If you notice, the picture is nice and rich and full. That’s because I used my baby Leica. I am a little tired of the image quality that I get from my smartphone. Don’t get me wrong. The phone is fine as it is. But, this is better. It just is.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Enjoy all the macaroni and cheese… made the southern way.
I’m not that back on track. I thought that I’d written and posted this. Unfortunately, I fell back asleep before I completed this. I walked a lot last night. You know. Five parades. 164 floats. A billion beads. Not as many people as I thought would come out.
All that walking took its toll. First, my hip started killing me. Then, the pain moved to my knee. Luckily, I was able to depend on the kindness of strangers. They let me sit on their stoops, their porches and even on the bumpers of their trucks.
That’s not all. Walking in pain is very tiring. More so than just walking. So, I decided to mostly rest today. The parades that I were interested in photographing have long departed, but are still an hour or two from Canal Street, another good place to work if you can stand the throngs of people competing for beads. Because of the pictures I’d like to make, that’s not a big concern for me.
Now that we are in the heart of the season, parking will be dear or non-existent. Normally, I’d just park in Treme and walk over. And, walk over. I’m not so sure about that. Walking over.
Unfortunately, this parade season is my last. Unless there is a real fix to my issues other than masking them with pain meds, I can’t do this again. That’s sad because I’ve pretty much given up second lines. I’ll likely photograph this years two Eastbank Super Sundays, but that too, will be it.
There’s plenty of stuff to photograph, even without travel. I could document everything in New Orleans and never, ever be finished. That won’t require the long walks that the culture events do. I’ll still walk some. The dog who see things requires it. Those are slow and gentle walks, with places to sit if I need to do that.
The picture. I guess because I carry myself like I look like I know what I’m doing, people take me seriously. I stopped this krewe leader and asked him to just look at me. This took maybe 30 seconds, and I thanked him. See you later. Happy Mardi Gras.
I was exchanging comments with another photographer/poet. She would like to do some street photography but working in a people-driven genre sort of scares her.
I suppose that it’s something learned. I’m sure that because I’ve done it for so long, I don’t think twice about making pictures of people. I usually kiddingly say that with a camera in my hand I’m Superman.
I wanted to see just how some of my new approaches to layering would work on a human being. The only place I’ve used them is on nature pictures.
After poking around on my admittedly limited smart phone archive I found a portrait of a Zulu Tramp. I thought that would be a good picture on which to experiment. Zulus are normally very colorful without my help.
A word about Zulus, and Tramps.
To me, and many others, Zulus are the heart and soul of New Orleans culture. The actual krewe is much like their brothers who walk for the Young Men Olympians. They are focused on community service. The often offer scholarships to deserving young people who couldn’t attend college otherwise. They are made up of people from all walks of life. Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, very successful businessmen. And, so on. And, so on.
The Tramps. They are the men who lead the first parade of the day on Mardi Gras day. They start around 8am. If you want to hangout and photograph them, you’d better get there around 6am. You could get there later. But, the later you arrive the further away from the start you’ll have to park.
How important is their parade?
The mayor, no matter who he or she happens to be, leads the parade on horseback. Not to worry. The Zulus meet and greet the Krewe of Rex as the day rolls on. Ultimately, the mayor leads both parades.
When Hurricane Katrina blew the city apart, most of the Zulus were scattered far and wide. They couldn’t come home for the first Mardi Gras after the storm because many of them had no homes to come back to. After all, Katrina arrived on the last day of August 2005. Mardi Gras was scheduled for February 2006. Five months. Not much time to rebuild anything.
In their place came the real Zulus. Shaka Zulus. From South Africa. They rolled in a very limited parade. But, they would not be denied. There are moments about that first Mardi Gras after the storm, the will live in me forever. Seeing the African Zulus on the streets of New Orleans was one of them.
Then, there was the next year.
I was photographing from Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue, By this time, there was some recovery. Nothing was complete in any way. There were a couple of Canadian women standing next to us. They came down to support the city. I was telling them that if they got to see the St. Augustine Marching 100 that they were in for a treat. Just then, they came thundering through the cement canyon formed by the buildings along the route. I stood there, not making pictures. There was too much water in my eyes. I never thought I’d see them again.
That’s what I remember.
The picture. Seems a little bit of a let down. But, here goes. There are multiple layers embedded in the final image. I started out trying to enhance a nature picture when I got the idea to add a human being to my pile of layers. That’s when the work got good. If I did it again, I’d have a better game plan. I’d start with the face. I’d add two flower pictures and one sand picture to it and be done with it. But, no. I had to take the long and winding narrow way.
If you really want to know the steps, I’ll create a formula. It’ll be complicated. It will assume that you have the proper components in your archives.
Relax! Let you eyes wonder and quiet your mind with some visual therapy. A picture is always more than you can see. You will also find my own illustrations about things I find funny and interesting. Have some fun, life is short!