What was left.

T

his was once good business. Along came Hurricane Katrina who changed everything with her floodwaters the poured through broken federal levees. A lot of businesses were destroyed or closed.

Smith Tire seemed to linger. Whenever I passed by, it seemed to be closed. Or, was it ever open? I have no idea. I’ve heard, but I haven’t seen it with my own two eyes, that it’s gone.

That’s too bad.

No. This little building wasn’t a landmark. But, it helped to make up the fabric of the community, at least in its neighborhood. If it’s gone, I know that it will likely just be a barren, empty space. In neighborhoods like this one, nobody demolishes a building to build something new and better. They just leave a gap, like the missing teeth of a jack ‘o lantern.

Sometimes that’s necessary especially if you have a building that is a drug den, or if too many people are sheltering in it because they might cause a fire and burn down half of a street’s worth for buildings. But, this building was on a main street. It was locked up tight. There was no sneaking in or out of it.

I have nothing to draw from this. I’m not making a statement about the society or the world in general. I just like old things.


Returning.

I

talk a lot about nature just wanting stasis. This is a great example of that. The house was damaged during Katrina. The doors and windows are boarded up.

That didn’t stop nature from retaking that little piece of land.

Maybe one day the owner will return or there will be a new owner. They’ll start removing the new growth only to find out that by doing that the house was weakened, often beyond repair.

Yep. That’s nature.

And speaking of nature, her virulent cousin Covid-19 came into play yesterday. Jazzfest was cancelled for the third time in two years.

That leaves musicians, support crew and staffs as well as artists and cooks without work. Some of those people make most of their years bank during the two weeks of Jazzfest.

This hurts hotels, restaurants and clubs. This hurts the city’s tax base. As these things pile up it means that we are further and further away from recovery.

If that didn’t make Sunday bad enough, a friend to us all passed. Action Jackson worked for WWOZ, probably the best jazz radio station in the world. He anchored the culture. I remember meeting him years ago. He was making video. I said, but you work for a radio station. He said, “Aw man, you never know.

He battled cancer for almost four years, almost never missing a beat on the street. He was 59.

He was right. You never know.

H

ere are two mantras to live by. They came to me when I was trying to talk to the universe. I heard them a long time ago but I forgot them.

“Important things are simple. Simple things are hard.”

And.

“Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

That’s about all you need to know about anything.

Don’t even bother thinking about it. Just put them in play.

How demanding of me.

Oh well.


N

ormally, you would see Our Lady of Guadalupe paintings in some Southwestern State, usually in New Mexico.

I was surprised to see this one in the Seventh Ward. This location was heavily flooded during the storm. When I made the picture there was mud, and gravel and leftover bits and pieces covering the streets.

A few people returned to their homes and were working on them to make them whole. It’s likely that one of them sprayed out that tag on the building. That tells the tagger that somebody cares. It doesn’t stop them from doing it again, but it may make them think.

The guys who tag buildings are smart, said no one ever. They could come back and get caught in he act. No telling what would happen then if they were caught.

So, there is some CoVid-19 news in New Orleans. Apparently, the virus has increased by 53% over the previous week. It’s mostly the Delta variant. The city is talking about requiring masks in certain situations and they are thinking forward to fall when it’s likely to surge.

This fall is very busy. Voodoo Festival bowed out until next year. But, French Quarter Fest and Jazzfest are scheduled to take place over three weekends. The city said that there may have to be some modifications to crowd numbers, or — ouch, ouch, ouch — the festivals may have to be cancelled. That’ll make four tries over two years for Jazzfest.

Since none of this is firm, Jazzfest is moving head and today The Jazz and Heritage Foundation announced the daily schedules.

The biggest fear may be that if there is fall viral surge that any of these festivals could become a super spreader event.

It’s all guess work ay this point, so stay tuned.

O

bviously, this picture didn’t take much post production.

It didn’t take much photo technique either.

All I did was see it, be surprised at what I saw, and make the picture. I got back in my car and drove away.

I should have investigated further. There are two sheets of paper posted to the left hand side of the picture, where the diagonal door is located. Those will tell you the disposition of the building.

I like to know those things in case I want to come back before it is demolished. In this case, I’d likely have had some time because demolitions didn’t start for another few years.

This building is a good candidate for destruction because the boarded up window looks like it was closed well before the storm.

One of these days I should return and find out what really happened.

One of these days.


Urbex deluxe.

U

rbex deluxe.

I wrote that in the picture’s caption and I liked it so well that I made it the lead line. I’m thinking it could be a good name for a band.

Anyway.

My past is coming back to haunt me. I used to photograph a lot of urbex, or urban exploration for the uninitiated. A publisher reached out to me. He wants to know if I was interested in publishing a book.

Interested? Sheesh. WordPress claims 90,000,000 users. Probably, 89,999,000 of us hope to publish a book.

But, I have a problem. I’m already committed to another publisher for two books of a very similar nature.

Hmmm…

For months of the lockdown, most of us were so bored that we gained 894 pounds per every three houses. Now, I have more work than I can do for the remaining year.

Because.

I haven’t told you about a picture agency who reached out to me. They are in a small sort of backroom corner of the picture business. They are hard to find.

They distribute and market the kinds of pre-framed art that you see in big box stores and online. This is where the money lies. Really big money because… well, think of it this way, companies line up to sell products through Wal Mart. Why do think that is?

While companies like Wal Mart set the price structure and keep the margins slim, this company has already negotiated those deals.

They found my work on websites like Art.com. An old agency distributed some of my work into websites like that. The agency doesn’t exist and now I have to ask for payment if they made any sales. This is going to take some inspection.

A new hobby.

Back to the mass distributing agency. This means that I don’t have to chase around trying to make new pictures. They want my archives.

This is a giant retirement fund that exists separate from my own retirement fund. That was the dream of photographers who made pictures for stock agencies. When those agencies were scooped up by bigger agencies and the market collapsed, those dreams died.

Maybe those dreams live again.

I just knew that my archives were worth something.

T

his is an example of urbex photography. This one of the few times that I had partners with me.

They were friends of friends. They were young which made them think that they were bulletproof.

Fine with me.

They had my back while I made pictures. We spent a day doing that.

Normally a day is way too long for me. I kind of reach my limit at about three hours.

But, they were driving so I could relax in between locations.

This bar/club was located at the end of Desire Street. Yeah, this neighborhood was the terminus of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

The city has been cleaning up this little bit of the parish. First, Club Desire was torn down. That broke my heart although after hurricanes and storms there wasn’t too much left inside that could be restored.

A couple of ruined buildings across the street were torn down including the only gas station for a couple of miles.

This bar was located about a block away from Club Desire. I haven’t been there for a while so I have no idea if this building stands or if it met the wrecking crew’s ball.

Anyway, the story is better than the technique. Wait for the people to be about where you want them and press the button.

Expose for the shadows and open up by 1/3 of a stop.

That’s it. No post production required.


Thinking about what I saw.

I saw a lot.

When I returned to New Orleans after my time in New Mexico, I wanted to see what remained of the storm. After all, I’d been gone for almost five years. It turns out that there were some 60,000 buildings decaying. The new mayor managed to cut that in half by the time he left office.

It turns out that the city was split. Those who could afford it, retuned. Those who couldn’t, didn’t. Many of their properties rotted. Many just fell down. Buildings continue to do that today. Every once in a while there is story in the media about one collapsing.

It seems that most of the newly collapsed buildings were being renovated. I have two theories. Either just enough of the building was disturbed that whatever was holding it together caved in. Or, the owner realized what he’d gotten into and knocked the building down himself.

That’s cynical to be sure. But, this is New Orleans. Every weird thing happens. We even have a phrase for letting a building rot. We call it “demo by neglect.” I suppose that’s the term in other places.

These pictures are a representation of what I saw. Yes, even the cemetery picture. If you look near the top of the tomb on the right you can see the waterline. Like just about everything else in the city, 80% of it flooded.

Stay safe. Drink all the sweet tea.


Calling Buddha.

Once upon a time.

My Spotify playlist brought up a Mudcrutch song. Mudcrutch was the late Tom Petty’s first band. It had an Eagle in it, along with a few members of The Heartbreakers. It was a proto band. Petty decided to release an album of their music in 2006. It couldn’t have come at a better time. It helped us get through the early days after Hurricane Katrina when we sought refuge in New Mexico.

That one song on the playlist brought me to the album, which kicked my rear into gear. Time to start doing the final work on my dual book project, Abandoned New Orleans Books One and Two.

Off I went. Into the archives. I decided to go inside first. Into the buildings as they were, right after Hurricane Katrina. I also decided to let you see some of the pictures. Because? Because why not?

By the way, the line that caught me in that Mudcrutch album was, “”Lord, I’m just an orphan of the storm.” We felt that way.

Because it was still very hot when we returned to the city after the storm, I couldn’t work all day in my house. The heat and humidity was draining. I took breaks by driving around in my car. It had air conditioning It was the only way to get cool. I would stop and make pictures along the way.

Anyway, on to the pictures.

“Calling Buddha” is very close to me. I used to live in that house. It was the last place I lived before I bought the house in Esplanade Ridge. This house used to be in Lakeview. It’s gone now. I liked Lakeview well enough, but it never felt like New Orleans. It was safe and boring. The best thing about living there was that I could walk across the street and have a coffee. Later, I could walk across the street again and have lunch.

It was  on one of my cool-down drives that I decided to look around in Lakeview. If you recall, there were two places were the levees completely failed. The Lower 9th Ward and Lakeview. The water blew through with such intensity that houses were lifted off their foundations. They were dumped on top of other houses. Cars were stacked on top of each other. It looked like a scene from the end of a war. Apparently, the house that I rented had been sold. The kitchen was completely redone. When I lived there, it had a 1950s look and feel. It was wonderful. If you look into the kitchen, you can see wooden Home Depot cabinets.

Anyway.

The backdoor was in tatters so in I went. I had to make pictures. If you look at the crown molding you can see how high the water rose. These folks were lucky the the house stayed on its foundation, which was a cement slab. The rushing, raging water turned everything this way and that. Yet, if you look in the kitchen, there are bowls on the counter just as they were left when the occupants evacuated. Ain’t that something?

Doors, and doors, and doors.

After I settled in a bit, I started roaming around the city. I started looking in Central City a little bit. At that point a lot of the city was empty. It was fairly safe.

I took no chances. Like just about everybody else, I was armed. I remember walking into one of the few open restaurants in the French Quarter, looking around and thinking, pity the fool who comes in thinking he can rob the place. Everybody was wearing guns on their hips. It seemed to be the thing to do. Nobody gave anybody a second look. We shared the restaurant with soldiers from elements of the US Army’s First Cavalry Division and the 82nd Airborne, as well as police from everywhere and members of the Louisiana National Guard. Those guys were armed to the teeth.

Anyway, on one pass through Central City, I found this place. I entered through a broken wall. Somebody had been at work. Whoever it was started the hard work of rebuilding. I guess that person may not have left the city during the storm. A lot of poorer people couldn’t. They didn’t have cars. The busses slated for evacuation were parked in a bowl and were flooded over their roofs. Many of the survivors made their way to the Superdome and the convention center. Places that were supposed to be places of last refuge. They suffered there for days. Most of them were eventually bussed to Houston were they New Orleansized the neighborhoods they settled into. God bless ’em. Others were sent to places like Atlanta while the rest of their family was to someplace like Chicago.

The strangest resettlement happened to us. We rented an apartment in Albuquerque, New Mexico. About a month after we settled there, I walked outside to see my 7th Ward neighbor who lived a few houses from ours. She was staying with her nephew who lived two doors down from our new apartment. If you ever wanted to see two people dance and hug each other, you needed to see us. We were so happy to be alive and know that each other made it. We proceeded to New Orleansize things and have a bar-b-que in the front yard even though we had backyards. Good bless us.

Something mattered.

“The last three days the rain was unstoppable.” Another Tom Petty line.

I made this picture towards the end of the time of my giant house emptying. This time I was able to do what most of us dream of doing. I opened my old office window and threw my water logged computer into the street. How many times have you felt like doing that after your computer crashed for the third time in an hour?

I was looking around the 7th Ward, which had almost been entirely under water during the flood that followed the storm. I was looking into houses that were in a state of partial remediation, which meant that many of them were stripped down to the studs as a way of removing the Aspergillus Mold that grew everywhere in the flooded houses in hot and humid weather. My eye was caught by a little sparkle. I stopped. There it was. A chandelier, hanging by its wires. Something that said, “this is my house.”

There you have it.

We are two weeks from hurricane season. That always spooks me a little. Time to organize some things and buy extra water, batteries and canned food that we’ll never eat unless we need to.

We had God’s own storm early Sunday morning. So much rain was dumped on the city that everywhere flooded. Even our neighborhood, which never floods. Luckily, for us, it did no damage. But, plenty of folks lost their cars. Some water crept into their houses. We all want to blame the city, but not this time. We are city that floods. Time for a t-shirt.

Two more things.

This is long enough already. My publisher was wondering why I have such deep files of abandoned buildings. When I told him, they were stunned. They are based in England. They forgot. Or, barely knew. They haven’t seen my final selection. Just wait until they do. Heh, heh.

There are lots of people who emigrated here after the storm, after the second storm and after the last hurricane. They don’t understand. They think they city will just flood like it does when there is a lot of rainfall. The don’t understand that they need to make an evacuation plan, or figure out what they might need to survive for many weeks without power or running water. Even when I talk about buying supplies that’s for something on the small side. If there is an evacuation order, we are gone. Maybe Hurricane Katrina was a 100 year event. Somehow, with climate change, I don’t think so.

 


Out in New Mexico.

I seem to be stuck in a western mode. That could be telling me something. Maybe a long road trip is due. But, it would be really long. I’m not going to take this trip many more times. So, I probably should make the best of it. And, just go.

Of course, there are complications. I have to fit it into an already busy schedule. And, then there is Storyteller. I don’t have the need to take a break like I did last summer. I fixed that overworked problem. Now, I look forward to working here. Like many things, it was mostly an attitude adjustment. I suppose  that I could do what I really never do, and post from the road. The easiest way to do that is to photograph some scenes twice. Once with cameras and once with my smart phone.

I’m also trying to decide about the timing. If I traveled during summer, which is fast approaching, the weather would be hot and the pictures would have sort of a nostalgic feeling. It would harken back to the days of family road trips. If I waited until fall…well, you know. The light and color would be outstanding. But, it would look and feel much different from summer pictures.

We’ll see. I do have to move soon.

The picture. This was made with a digital camera, as opposed to being made on film. A friend of mine asked via an email what the difference is. This picture feels completely different to me. It’s probably technically superior to the film-based pictures. But, it feels too sharp and mechanical. Even with my tinkering. That’s still not to say one is better than the other. They are just different.

Where did I make this image? New Mexico. Those of you who live and work there will know  this place. Those of you who don’t, but like to photograph this kind of stuff, won’t. Oh well. Reciprocation is fine. But, many people want locations and such, but refuse to share theirs. There is no mystery to this place. Still…


In New Mexico.

Dystopian. Looks like something from the end of the world.

The picture is very cinematic.

I’m very influenced visually by videos. I like trying to create a more cinematic feel in my own images. I suppose that’s what a lot of my experimentation has been about. And, continues to be. If I were younger — not an excuse because the learning curve is fairly high — I probably would want to make videos. But, I feel that I can also be fairly creative with the bounds of my own craft. Still photography. Dylan said talked about bounds in his long interview that I mentioned a few days ago. I happen to agree.

I made this picture in New Mexico. In Albuquerque. Far western Albuquerque. Where Central Avenue — Old Route 66 — and I-40 come together. This place was one of those kind of get gas, food, and anything else rest stops. I have no idea why it failed. Except to say that it might have been a little close to the city. You can buy cheaper gas and better food a mile away just by exiting the interstate and driving into the neighborhood which you can see from the highway. Maybe back in the old days when Route 66 was actually the main east – west road, this place was important. But, things change.

The picture. Things change with pictures too. I once heard a musician say that when you play a song 500 or 600 times the song eventually teaches you how to play it. I think the same thing with pictures. Your first attempt is to approximate what you saw when you stopped to take the picture. Then you mess with it. Then you mess with it again. Hopefully the picture teaches you and you learn about the scene and yourself in the process. I’m still not sure that this is the final version of this image. There may never be a final version. I do know that after Google Images did its thing and found “lost” pictures, I’m really excited to start going back into my original take and see what I “missed” the first or second time around.

That is a great reason for not deleting everything after you cull your images. Or, even more importantly not deleting pictures on the street while using that itty bitty LCD on the back of your camera. Your opinions, your emotions, and your seeing changes after a period of time. Besides, mass storage space isn’t that expensive and it gets cheaper every day.


Sign of the times.
Sign of the times.

This is not a sign of the times.

It is a ghost sign. Hiding in plain site. A billboard for all to see. There was a plastic sign hung over it. It rotted through the ages. It fell away reveal the original work behind it. Knowing the neighborhood, it’ll likely remain this way for a long while. Or, at least until taggers complete their appointed rounds.

The picture. F8 and be there. And, hope for some reasonably good light.