On the way back to New Orleans.
On the way back to New Orleans.

I’ve posted a picture of this place in the past. But, not like this. Or, from this day. I made this picture while I was doing my drive by thing after I photographed the remains of The Le Beau Mansion. It seems right to me that the skies opened up for what would be a two-day rain. The storm also brought in very cold temperatures. As I write it is 39 degrees. It will get colder. That is cold for us. This is a piece of the storm that dumped snow in New Mexico and ice in Texas. 

The bridge is on St. Claude Avenue as it crosses from the Upper Ninth Ward to the Lower Ninth ward in New Orleans. It is a kind of drawbridge that is called a bascule bridge. It once carried both cars and trains over The Industrial Canal. Today, it just carries cars.

The picture. Hmmmm. I suppose you know that it is my version of a drive by picture. Set the camera functions to all things auto. Hold the camera above the dashboard and push the button. Let the camera do its thing. Hope you don’t hit the bridge. Kidding. Of course, there is heavy post production. I added a lot of “grunge” and “rust.” Hopefully, it gives you an idea of my vision. 


Once a church, now and opera house.
Once a church, now and opera house.
The inside of a church turned opera house.
The inside of a church turned opera house.

I’m not changing my posting routine.  I’m just trying to close my working day down a little early. Some of you know why. It’s my birthday and I’ll work if I want to… and, I don’t want to. The Marigny Opera House was originally built as the Holy Trinity Catholic Church. It was founded in 1847 and constructed in 1853. It served a mostly German congregation. It was renovated 1873 with the addition of wall and ceiling frescos that were destroyed by Hurricane Betsy in the 1960s. It survived Katrina but was closed in 2011. The Archdiocese of New Orleans is having a hard time with what was the declining population of the city. So, they’ve closed a lot of churches. It was purchased by Scott King and Dave Hurlbert. Today it is a non denominational church of the arts.They host private functions and of course, special musical events. It’s still pretty much in tatters. But, the tatters are very artistic and cool.

I’ve been photographing this church on and off for years. But, I’ve never been inside of it. Most of my pictures look like the top one. On Sunday, after I was done working the second line parade, we headed over to The Bywater and The Marigny for a little lunch and to see what we could see. We did find a couple of second-hand stores that were filled to their rafters with all sorts of interesting stuff. Truth be told, We didn’t find anything. I’ve been passing by those stores and never stopped in. On Sunday, I did. That was after we ate lunch. Lunch first, right? Then, because the clouds were shaping up nicely, I had another look at the church. The owner — Dave Hurlbert — was standing outside talking on his phone. After I made a few snaps, we started and talking and he invited us inside. We also discussed the possibility of me working a little for them. I like that idea. It would be fun.

Anyway. See you tomorrow.


Sort of red, white and blue.
Sort of red, white and blue.

When I saw this scene, I first saw the red graffiti. Next, I saw the couch. Finally, the wall. What I was seeing just seemed to click into my brain. Red. White. Blue. What a weird visual statement. But, it was real. Once I started working on the picture in post production, I saw something else. It is tattered. Torn. Frayed. Beaten up. This month’s recurring theme. The neighborhood is all of those things too. It’s rough there. I’m not talking about crime. I’m talking about the physical state of the neighborhood. Hollygrove. I’m going to explore there just as I do in Central City. For some reason, as rough as Central City is, it doesn’t scare me. Hollygrove does. I’m not sure why. Likely, I just don’t know my way around. Or, it’s something else. 

If this picture is dramatic, it is the result of my experimenting in post production. As I’ve written, I use a plug-in or standalone called OnOne. It was originally designed for wedding or portrait photographers. Later, it was discovered by those of us who don’t make our livings shooting those kinds of pictures. After a while, I learned that I could make my pictures be what I wanted them to be. It was off to the races. In a few weeks, OnOne will release their latest version. It is already around in beta form. This time, they are taking advantage of Adobe’s cloud only version of Photoshop and the general unhappiness that came with it. They are releasing a fully functioning stand alone version of their former plug-in that will make Photoshop unnecessary for many of us. Since money matters to most of us, I should mention that is nowhere near as expensive as Photoshop. 

Storyteller and on. It really is a work in progress. Taking the advice of a couple of my long-term readers, I “fixed” the body type. I made it bigger and a little bolder. I think it is easier to read now. White type on a black background can always be a little tricky to make work. But, the original tiny text size really hurt the readability. Unfortunately, even with the “custom” package that WordPress offers, there are limits. Storyteller is at those limits in terms of body type. 

 


One very underserved and unexplored area of the city is Hollygrove.
One very underserved and unexplored area of the city is Hollygrove.

I lasted about ten days. My creative nature took over. Since I really never stop making pictures, they were starting to pile up. A lot. Yes. Many go to my various agencies. These days pictures are like music. Almost worthless. Even with heavy marketing there a very short shelf life. The digerati talk a lot about long tail theories, which really mean that you keep building and building a collection and eventually the first components of the collection start earning their keep. Then you earn your keep. That may have been true a few years ago, but not so much these days. Either art makes a big splash or it doesn’t. Why do you think Miley Cyrus twerks? Her songs are fine. Sort of. But, what do people talk about. That said, I really have no better ideas about marketing my collections of images. I’ve been testing direct posting to social sites like Facebook, Google + and Twitter. Facebook and Google + seem to get me a lot of love. Someday that may translate in some sort of cash flow. I’ll keep doing that. Seems like the people who “like” my pictures like brightly colored ones. I should have known. And, Twitter? Nothing. Maybe a retweet or comment here and there, but I’m really not so sure that’s a place for pictures.

So, Storyteller. Radical redesign. My goal has always been to display pictures as large as reasonably possible. This format seems to do that. More importantly, the minute I saw how the black background made my pictures “pop” I knew I was on the right track. For me. Philosophically, I’m going to try to work in themes. I think publishing whatever comes to mind confuses you. Yes. Something very different, everyday could be a delightful surprise. But, who am I as a photographer? You need to be clear about that. For that matter, so do I. For the rest of November, I’m going to publish pictures like this one. Torn and frayed. Funky. Beaten down. Even though people much smarter than me say that all art is autobiographical, I’m not beaten down. I may be a little torn and frayed. But, that just sort of comes. As musician Neil Young says, “The longer I keep going, the longer I have to fight this corrosion.” Like me, this is his birthday month. He’s 68 and busier than ever. If he can keep going so can I.

I’ve been having a few strange traffic issues these past few days. It seems like the traffic has been keeping me late to wherever I’m going.That, and avoiding massive potholes. I blew up a tire today. This is New Orleans. That happens. Even when you are driving 12 miles an hour.  So, I’m missing this. I’m missing that. I missed a second line parade today. I missed a festival in The Bywater yesterday. That wasn’t all traffic’s fault. Big crowds make me a little nervous these days. And, this was a big crowd of hipsters. What could go wrong with a crowd of hipsters?  All of that forced me to be flexible. That’s how this picture happened. I couldn’t photograph that I came to photograph, so I turned left. I made it in Hollygrove which is an odd little neighborhood that sort of abuts Jefferson Parish. It was heavily flooded by the storm and is not very close to coming back. It is also seriously crime ridden. I suppose I don’t explore there much because it scares me a little. It is interesting to me. I have to be careful about that. The more I see abandoned, broken and overgrown buildings the more they start looking the same. I have to figure out different ways to photograph the city without getting myself killed. Night and tripod work would be cool. I think I keep myself fairly safe because I keep moving. Bad guys don’t have to to set their sights on me.

A little mission statement. The purpose of these next 21 days is simple. Y’all keep saying there is a book in my pictures. Let’s see if there really is a book lurking around.

One more thing. This new format is a work in progress. Already, I’m not that sure about the size of the type. Or, its brightness. Please feel free to make suggestions. Please know that if I don’t implement them, it may only be that I’m limited by WordPress.

And, another thing. For those of you who are enjoying my individual posts to various social sites, not to worry. I’m having fun doing that. They’ll continue.


Hot tamales in St. Bernard Parish.
Hot tamales in St. Bernard Parish.

There’s a funny thing about tamales. Just about everybody thinks they are a Mexican dish. They aren’t. Not in the south. Yes. It’s true that a version of them have been around since the Mayan period — around 1200 BC — but they were wrapped with masa. They still are. In the rural south, they are made of corn meal. Field workers made them to eat while they picked cotton and corn. In fact, there is a website with the name of “The Tamale Trails, From The Mississippi River Delta…” They trace the southern tamale back to 1893. Not quite as old as the Mesoamerican tamale. Yes. That’s what the original tamale is called. But, there’s more. Apparently, northern Louisiana tamales were made for several centuries because the Spanish established a presidio there.  See? That humble little bit of wrapped food has a long  and complex history. For instance, in the Mayan days, it was their army’s field food. I could go on. But, you’ll fall asleep. History can be detailed enough. But the history of a tamale? Oh, come on.

Anyway.

I’ve been meaning to photograph this little stand from the moment I first saw it. That was about two years ago. Funny. It takes me a while to get around to some things. Actually, I don’t go to this part of the region all that much so two years may be about right.  I also had to be there at the right time of day. In the right light. Or, at least light that fit my current mood. The location is interesting. The area to the right of the stand (as we are looking at it) is Old Arabi. You know. The other side of the tracks. On the left, across the road, is Arabi. Not New Arabi. Just plain Arabi. What could be better? Big trucks on one side. Freight trains on the other.

The picture. Hmmm… the actual taking of the picture was easy. You know. See the picture. Frame the picture. Take the picture. The post production was hard. I’m not sure why. I just couldn’t find the groove. This is my third attempt. The other versions are fine. They just weren’t what I was feeling. Yes. A lot of feel and sense goes into making this kind of photographic-inspired art. As I wrote yesterday, it’s not hard. You just have to find the feeling. You just have to take the time. You just have to work hard.


Tagging, tagging. Everywhere tagging.
Tagging, tagging. Everywhere tagging.

A tagging we will go, a tagging we will go. Well, not me. I don’t tag stuff. But, somebody in New Orleans does. Probably a whole lot of some bodies. I just think that if you leave something in one place long enough, a tagger will find it and work his art. Art, in this case, being a relative term. I fully agree that some graffiti can be art. But, this ain’t an example of it. I did make a picture of a mural a block or so away, but I’m loath to publish it, since it really is art and I don’t have permission to use it. That said…

This picture.  As you know, I often make pictures on the way to some place else. I was returning from photographing Amelie Alley. But, I took the long way around. After all, you never know. A picture might rise up and scream “take me, take me.” I looked at this scene, which was already in low twilight and that yellow did just that. It was hollering at me. So. I stopped. Looked around and made the picture. It’s not that much of a picture. In truth, it is a rental trailer parked on the street. Likely, it’s been there for a long time… which is what attracted the “street artist.” When I returned home, and looked at the picture I realized that it need some help.  As you know, I’ve been experimenting with cinematic approaches. This appeared to be a good time to try a few. So, I added some OnOne actions and this image is the result. This picture may very well be more about the post production than the actual work in the field.


An experiment. On Bayou Road, in St. Bernard Parish.
An experiment. On Bayou Road, in St. Bernard Parish.

As you know, I like to experiment with my pictures. A few days ago, I published a picture similar to this one. Well, five days ago to be exact. The picture was two images away from this one in the files. I thought this particular frame was even more desolate than the original picture. So, I began to work on it. In a big way. I wanted to move the picture from being desolate to something that was down right apocalyptic. These days, that’s pretty easy to do with all the Photoshop plug-ins. Sheesh. Most of the movies that are produced in this genre are manufactured on the computer. The work that is done in the field is really just the base for what comes next. I’ve been thinking a lot about that. Create the base photograph when I’m out and about, and add cinematic effects back in the studio. This is time-consuming. It also means that I don’t have to produce as many pictures. That, means I have to edit or curate a lot tighter and better. My stock agencies will hate this. My clients probably will like it. We’ll see. It’s really just a giant experiment. Isn’t that what art really is; a giant experiment?

Anyway.

This picture was made on an industrial section of Bayou Road. It’s Louisiana. We have all sorts of refineries and manufacturing plants that have different divisions located across Bayou Road from each other. That’s why you see so many pipes and bridges spanning the road. Much easier than trucking it across and holding up traffic. Usually, the speed limit around these places in around 30 mph or less. That means it’s easier to do my usual drive by thing. Besides, I like being close to the center line. It adds a nice leading line. Oh yeah. Don’t think I like shooting from the car. I’d much rather get out and let the picture find me. But, two issues come into play. There is nowhere to park. And, guards appear from nowhere wanting to know if you are planning some bad thing. Me? Not hardly.


Summertime
Le Beau Mansion. It is haunted, so they say. Located in Arabi, Louisiana next door to the Domino sugar factory.

I must like this scene. After scrolling down on this new and improved website, I find that I made another very similar image last summer at just about this time. This one is a little better. Well, no. Make that a little more contemporary and cinematic in its post production. And, last summer’s version doesn’t have the strong golden side light. That’s about it. As a refresher, the Le Beau Mansion is an old plantation mansion that is the only one left on River Road downriver of New Orleans. It is said to be haunted because people were actually hung inside. It was also a hotel and a casino at one time. It is located just over the Orleans Parish border in St. Bernard Parish in a little town called Arabi.


A complete view of The Kenilworth Plantation Mansion.
A complete view of The Kenilworth Plantation Mansion.

So. Yesterday. I posted my more artistic version of the Kenilworth Plantation Mansion. I though it would a good idea if I showed you what the place really looks like. Actually, I was told it would be a good idea. Ha!

This is the wide angle version of the tight view I posted yesterday. I also changed up the work I did in post production a bit. Well, a lot. In this version, I wanted the picture to have a sort of old quality, without overdoing it to the point where it was obvious.

Oh yeah, just in case you want to go there. 2932 Bayou Road. St. Bernard Parish. But, let me advise that you cannot take Bayou Road directly from New Orleans. Bayou Road is closed upriver just before you get to this area. Yep. Remaining Katrina damage. So, you have to go around and double back.