I did the right thing.

With all of the Hurricane Katrina memorial events taking place all over New Orleans on Saturday, I decided to photograph one. Just one. And, to do the very best job that I could. After talking to a few of my friends and seeing others’ posts on various social media, I’m convinced that I did the right thing. Many of them had horrible days. Between the emotions of finally reaching the tenth anniversary and trying to chase all over the city, many of their days were long and messed up. My thoughts are with them. Yesterday was a very hard day.

I photographed the Tenth Hurricane Katrina Anniversary healing and second line. It is the world’s longest second line. That’s what the parade organizers said. I believe them. Where I worked, it was very long. As they roll along they tend to gather new second liners and turn into something that is massive at the end. This one was beyond huge, at the start. I tried to jump. But traffic was all tied up because this one stretched out all over the place. Instead. I came to the front of the parade from some side street. I did what I came to do and headed home. Some of the second liners were still going on into the night at Hunter’s Field, the parade’s end point.

I did the right thing for another reason. As I was driving to the Lower Ninth, I looked around. People were working at their every day jobs. Stores of all kinds were open. People were shopping. Mowing their lawns. Tinkering on their cars. They were doing whatever it is they do. I realized right then and there that the whole city isn’t caught up in all things Katrina. In fact, it’s likely that most people aren’t. And, that’s a good thing. They’ve moved on. The storm changed their lives — my life — but we’ve moved on. As we should. Hopefully, the people who had a bad day will use the memorial events to shake everything out of their systems. If there is an 11th Anniversary parade I won’t be there.

And, the media? OMG! I’m pretty sure there were more people taking pictures with good gear than there were people actually walking. What can I say? Hopefully, there will be one last group of anniversary stories and they’ll all move on to the next big thing. I know their staffers liked being here. How could they not? We are one of the best tourist destinations in the world.

A couple of things.

I’m going to take a little shooting break. But, not a posting break. Aside from whatever emotions were dredged up, this was draining work. It’s still very hot down here. I worked in heat. I worked in rain. I worked in heavy humidity. I drove a lot. In questionable places. I worked on this project every day. That doesn’t count my paid work, my second job, my home life.

As I mentioned, while I was photographing this project, I also took pictures of whatever I saw. While I was taking a little break on Friday, I did some work on those pictures. There’s a lot of them. I think you’ll like them.

I also decided somewhere out there yesterday to book end this project. The title — Ten Years Gone — is how I started 15 days ago.

The pictures.

Well, this event is a little different from a normal second line. The first hour is given to a healing time. It gets a little religious towards the end. The folks with their hands up in a power salute are really raising their fists in a “New Orleans Strong” salute. Everything else is pretty self-explanatory. I’m sure that guy taking a picture of the young ladies in purple will be wondering who I am. The same goes for me. You know, who was that guy? The kids on the porch were not all that happy that I took their picture. When I said thank you, as I always do, they had no expression… until the young lady — maybe their big sister —  behind them whacked them on their heads and said, “Y’all have better manners than that. Say you’re welcome.” Big sister, indeed.

There you have it. Thank you for sticking around and reading. It means more than I can tell you.

Ruins, Maybe.
Ruins, Maybe.

Remembering Hurricane Katrina. Day Two.

The more that I work on this project, the more the memories start to return. We left New Orleans on Sunday, August 28 2005. In the morning. We put all the things that we wanted to take with us in a pile on the floor. Cameras. Computers. Digital files. Legal documents. Financial and insurance documents. Medical stuff. Some keepsakes. That sort of stuff. And, very few clothes. The spaniel, who knows everything before humans do, added her favorite toys. She made sure that her toys went into the car. She sat on the pile until they were sure that her stuff was packed too.

We didn’t take many clothes because we didn’t think about being gone for very long. As I recall, I took enough clothes for about a week. All light summer clothes. I can’t even remember if I took long pants. It was very hot that day. That summer. About like this one. I took flip-flops and running shoes.

I locked the house and the gate. We pulled into the street. We saw our neighbor, Mr. Joe. At the time, he was in his late 70s. He lived sort of catty corner from our house. We stopped to ask what he was going to do. Leave? Or stay? He said that he was staying and would look after our house. I remember wishing him, “God Speed,” and we hit the road. I had no idea that was the last time we’d live in that house. Or, the our neighborhood would be so badly flooded. Luckily, I did see Mr. Joe again, unlike many of my former neighbors. He lives in a factory built home that looks like the house he originally lived in when we were neighbors. Right on the corner. If I remember correctly, he is now about 87 or 88 years old. He’s one of those wiry guys. He’s got more energy than me. He’ll probably out live all of us.

That’s my story for today.

The pictures. I’ve driven by this place a hundred times. I never stopped. Today, I did. I stopped because the number two caught my attention. It’s my second day of this project and there is that big number two. How’s that for a sign? No pun intended.

I’m not sure if this business closed before the storm. But, I can see the remnants of flood waters.  I can see what’s left of a Katrina Cross. I can see that it has been multiple businesses. Oh, and the bottom picture is really just a scene setter for the top picture. The yellow building is a social club. The kind that sponsors and pays for second line parades. They are likely mowing the lawn in front of the old cleaners. That’s what we, in New Orleans, do. That’s especially what social clubs do for their neighborhoods.

This picture was kind of a lucky one. The day was cooling off and the light was okay. It’s my usual kind of picture about remains. Ruins. Junk. Not to worry. I actually planned project this out. I’m happy to say that it’s pretty balanced between broken places and new, restored and made-even-better places. The list isn’t complete and likely it will be filled out opportunistically, but it isn’t a downer. And, I am sticking to my picture a day workflow. I could take a shortcut and photograph a couple of places in a day, but what would be the fun in that? Besides, I’m on a mission.

A little housekeeping.

I’m sorry if I haven’t replied to emails from your blogs. My email has been compromised by the very people who host my commercial website. For some reason, somebody employed by them went into the site and pointed my email settings back to their old third-party email provider. On a Friday night. About midnight. That service was terrible and after years of problems, they — Livebooks — finally decided to fix the issue, by no longer offering email with their hosting service.

Fine with me.

I switched to Go Daddy for email pretty seamlessly last June and haven’t had a problem since except for a systemic failure that actually made the news. Every morning is no longer an exercise is terror.

Unlike the rest of the digital world, Livebooks doesn’t offer customer service on a weekend. I suppose that was the point of repointing my email connection on a Friday. night. Unfortunately, they control the website underpinnings and  they control their end of the administration. They have to repoint my email connections. I can’t do that remotely. I’m sure they’ll do this on Monday. It’ll take a while to propagate the connection.

I’m sure I’ll start shopping for a new commercial website hosting company right after that. That’s fine with me, too. I really don’t think Livebooks has the kind of revenue to remain stable. They just raised their hosting rates. But, not for me or people like me. We are grandfathered into their oldest plans. In fact, in 2013, they almost went of business until a wedding website bought and saved them. For me, that’ll mean another new redesign. And, a bunch of work I hadn’t planned on. I’m actually thinking of combining my two websites, here on Storyteller. While WordPress can be a little frustrating at times, they do have pretty good customer service. And, they do work on the weekend.

Like me.


A scene setter.

A scene setter.

Reverend leads parade walkers in prayer.
Reverend leads parade walkers in prayer.
Two you second liners get ready for the parade.
Two you second liners get ready for the parade.
Waiting at parade rest.
Waiting at parade rest.

As you are well aware. Today is a very solemn day. A day of reflection. A day of remembrance. A day of prayer. 911. A day we’ll never forget.  The beginning of something that won’t end very soon. There are a lot of Facebook posts about it. Many, many tweets. That’s all good. I started thinking about what picture to publish. I wasn’t in New York on that day. I wasn’t in Washington on that day. So, I don’t have relevant pictures. I thought. Then I realized that I do. I realized that every picture I’ve made since that terrible day is relevant. My pictures are about life. Sometimes they celebrate it. Sometimes they mourn for it. And, for me, they are they only way to go forward. I realized in one moment of clarity, that if I stopped. The bad guys win.

Besides, for me, the work is the prayer.

These pictures were made at the second line parade in Central City. Last Sunday. If second line parades don’t celebrate life, I don’t know what does. A minister praying for a good and safe second line parade. Two young parade walkers. An older man’s hand clasped as he waits patiently for the parade to begin. That’s life. That’s all good.

So. Today. Busy day. But, I’ve got to go make a picture somewhere. You know why. The work is the prayer.

I didn’t make this picture. I don’t often post others images on this blog, but the image is very, very strong. USMC 1st Marine Division combat photographer Cpl. William Salazar from Las Vegas, Nevada, did. It was made in Anbar Province on October 15, 2004.

It says about all you need to know about Memorial Day and its meaning..