At night in the French Quarter.

I

‘ve made a change. You’ll figure it out. It comes under the heading of who was I really hurting?

In these pandemic days when many people aren’t able to travel, it’s possible to get a European fix right here in New Orleans. After all, we are a French, Spanish and American place. Much of the Quarter was rebuilt after a massive fire and is really Spanish-influenced even though we call it the French Quarter,

But, this place. It looks and feels like it belongs in Paris. It was an old run down apartment building. If you’ve walked on Royal Street, you’ve probably seen it. It is catty corner from Rouses, the only real grocery store in the Quarter.

if you noticed I used the word, “was.”

No worries. It was run down. Now it’s restored. It still exists. Thankfully.

It’s very hard to demo any building in the Quarter. They are all historical. When a building comes down it usually fell down on its own accord. Sometimes, it’s not really on its own. Sometimes, the owner didn’t take very good care of it and it rotted from the inside out.

Anyway, I’ve always liked this building. If there is any kind of pretty light, I usually head over there to make a few pictures, meaning that I’ve got a pretty good archive of this building. Besides, if it’s a hot and humid day, the grocery store is a great place to buy water at normal prices.

And, speaking of normal, nothing is normal in New Orleans as much as we try to pretend it is. We lead the nation in new CoVid-19 infections. Florida is a close second. The rate of infection upriver and in Baton Rouge is so bad that Our lady of The Lake — a major hospital — has no beds for anybody. All of their vents are in use. They were forced to hire traveling nurses to augment their staff.

The entire state is under a governor’s mandate to wear masks inside and outside, if it’s necessary. Many clubs want a proof of vaccination or tests results no older than 72 hours and you still have to wear a mask.

It’s bad and getting worse.

If you are a tourist and you love our city please don’t come.

L

et’s talk about this photograph.

The first thing you should know is that I cropped it out of a horizontal picture because I wanted more detail than a horizontal picture could show on this page.

I followed the crop with what I consider to be normal improvements. I darkened it a little, added some color to it, and sharpened it.

Then…

I went a little crazy. I added glow and softness. I made the picture moody, maybe even spooky.

Finally, I had to repair what normally is a radius issue, meaning that little rim of light you see around subjects, sometimes. This time it was thick and only in one place. It looked like somebody tried to erase the sky. Normally, it is repaired by lowering the radius or “structure.”

Not this time.

I had to fiddle and tinker and fiddle some more. Finally, I found a solution hiding in a vibrance feature. Make the top more colorful and the problem vanished.

I don’t know why.


Old time, good time.

This is a dramatic change.

Mostly, I’ve been posting faux nature pictures as they relate to the season. But, I downloaded an upgrade to my OnOne editing and processing software. I just had to test it. I had to take it for a spin. You know, kick the tires.

I remade an image that I photographed about five years ago. While I won’t be tinkering in this way with the pictures I select, I was able to start an end of decade project.

Remember, 2020 is not only a new year, but a new decade.

That started me thinking about the dawn of this millennium. That’s a story in itself. At least, I started that out properly, by standing on The Great Wall of China as the clock struck midnight. I’d like to say it was a sort of lonely experience which would have been perfect. But, there were more people — Westerners and Chinese — standing up there than at any Mardi Gras parade.

Anyway.

Back to this picture. I tinkered with my upgraded software for a couple of hours. It was two things. A learning experience without a sharp learning curve. And, a lot of fun.

If you ask me exactly what I did, I couldn’t tell you. There was a lot of back and forth. I actually think I went a little too far. I may reprocess it in a slightly more restrained way once I learn more about the software.

I remember submitting the original image to an agency. They were looking for something “spooky” for an ad campaign. They really liked this picture. They asked if I had a property release. I replied that I didn’t need one. The Art Director started to say something, but I cut him off. I said, ” I don’t need a property release because I own the house.”

Yes. I did. We did.

We bought it for pennies on the dollar because the entire back of the house fell off. Three stories just peeled off the house in one big sheet, which broke up when it hit the ground.

We applied for, and received, state and city grants. They came with two requirements. We can’t sell the house for ten years. And, we needed to place a historical plaque on the front of the house.

Flash forward four years. The house is restored to its former glory.

There are a lot of period pieces that have either been restored or internally modernized.

It’s painted using New Orleans colors of the time period, which are not as bright as you’d think. Around here you can go to any Sherwin-Williams paint store and ask for their color chip chart for a certain period of time. Pick the colors and they mix them to 1887 specifications. The year the house was born.

It is leased to a nice young family who treat it as their own.

This house is the anchor to a completely rehabbed, but not gentrified, neighborhood. What was once a run down and Katrina-flooded street is now restored. The people who live there are truly neighbors.

So.

The city got a restored neighborhood. Young families along the street got new homes. Some rent. Some own. We got to test our general contracting and work skills. And, we own a lovely second property in an up and coming section of town.

Everybody wins.


A hungry neighborhood.

One from the past. In Central City.

Looking at the picture now I see a lot of squares or boxes. Sort of like a rough Mondrian. Only different.

I think that I might have some new work tonight. I have choices. I can photograph the start of the Christmas season with a bonfire in Algiers across the Mississippi River, but still in New Orleans.

Or.

I can photograph the Krewe of Krampus. This is their second year. The parade is for bad kids at Christmas. Like me.

My problem is simple. They both start and finish at about the same time.

So.

I have to pick.

I’m inclined to work on Krampus because there are the big bonfires upriver on Christmas Eve. I know, I know. Christmas Eve. But, it’s fairly early in the evening and we can be back in time for revillion dinner. Maybe even midnight mass

Choices.

That makes me feel better. But, not that much better. These are events I enjoy. I’m not going to rush back to post. You will see some pictures, but not immediately. These are all holiday events. Family events. Family first.


Tax season, or maybe not at this place.
Tax season, or maybe not at this place.

This doesn’t look like the kind of place that I’d use for preparing and paying my taxes. I happened to see it on the way to some place else. I’m always kind of fascinated by these old, run down, beaten up small businesses. It appears that the owner of this place works on taxes every day of the year, pretty much on customer demand.

Now. Today. Right this minute.

That doesn’t sound like much fun.

I’m not exactly sure who his clients might be. If you’ve kept any kind of records you can file online in probably less than an hour. I don’t know how it works in other countries, but since the U.S. government is usually behind on tech-things, I suspect it’s even easier in countries around the world.

That said, pictures of places like this could be another book project. A fine art project. Kinda. Sorta. It won’t get done. I’ve sort of lost my juju for photographing long-term projects.

The picture. This is one of those see it, photograph it, kind of pictures. But, it wasn’t quite that simple. I Saw it. I drove past it. I thought to myself, “Wait a minute. You like that place.” I wanted to turn around but it wasn’t that easy. I was in the middle lane. In some semi-heavy traffic. I couldn’t merge left. I couldn’t merge right. It took me a few minutes and a couple of miles to turn around. I managed to do it. Of course when I got back to the scene I was headed the wrong way. So, I passed by this place again. At least making a u-turn was easier this time. I parked on a side street. A dog barked at me. I just kept walking. To stand in front of this beat up old building. And, push the button.

I must have really wanted to take this picture.

Yes. I added a lot to the original picture in post production. You know why.


Old corner store and nothing more.
Old corner store and nothing more.

The level of demolishing is equal the depth of the water.
The level of demolishing is equal the depth of the water.

I guess by now it’s pretty obvious to you that I borrow bits of song lyrics or even song titles to write the headlines. This one comes from a song called, “The Neighborhood,” by Tom Waits. It sort of suits these pictures.

But…

It’s not as bad as it looks.

As I was wandering in around in this neighborhood which is called The Irish Channel — I think — I noticed that there was a lot or rehabbing and new construction going on. That figures. This is a fairly popular neighborhood with younger couples and families.

The reason I wrote that I think this is The Irish Channel is because like many neighborhoods in New Orleans, the neighborhood boundaries are flexible. Not only do they stretch and contract over the years, but they move around a little. For instance, my second house was located in The 7th Ward. Or, Esplanade Ridge. Or, the very edge of Treme. Or, District 1. Wait, wait, wait… that’s a police district.

Oh. In case you are wondering, The Irish Channel is located in the general area called Uptown. Even though it seems a world away from our house, it’s about five minutes away.

The pictures. Yes. I helped them out a little. I made them look like the things my eyes saw. So, I added a little color. A little contrast. And, blammo… these pictures.


As I First Saw It.
As I First Saw It.

All Fall Down. The Experiment.
All Fall Down. The Experiment.

Yep. As I said to a friend of mine, I needed to take this little trip so that I could stand in front of different junk. And you, dear reader, just knew that I would… stand in front of junk. After I made the first picture of the remaining downtown Cairo, I turned left and saw this house. When I made my second left hand turn so that I could approach it from the front, I saw the car. Perfect. All kinds of junk. An abandoned house. An abandoned car. Everything in just one picture.

Of course, one picture turned into two.

Why?

I couldn’t decide which version I liked better. The top version is pretty much how I saw it in real life. I happened to find the house during the blue hour so everything looks a little romantically run down. Sort of the Hollywood version. But, I think that run down places ought to be made to look even more rundown in post production.You know. Just really hammer the point into your mind. Like you can’t see and feel it on your own. So. I made a second version. I like them both for very different reasons.

Which one do you like? Why?


Chairs and a television, what more do you need?
Chairs and a television, what more do you need?

I photographed this on the way coming back from some place else.

I actually went to Treme to photograph another second line parade. A big one. The brass band was Rebirth. Serious musicians. After 30 years, this is their last year in the streets. Instead, they’ll just keep recording, playing clubs and touring. Carrying sousaphones and tubas starts getting heavy into your fourth or fifth mile on a hot day. Especially if you are in your mid-fifties, like these guys are.

But.

You won’t be seeing any of those pictures. I don’t think you like my second line pictures. So, why “Un-gild the lily?”

Anyway.

I thought this picture was perfect for Super Bowl Sunday. What more does anyone need? Chairs and a television. Maybe some electrical power, which can be borrowed from a nearby neighbor.


An abandoned "foodstore" in Central City.
An abandoned “food store” in Central City.

This is about it for my experimental series. I have one more picture, which is of a man reworked in this style. It seems to be quite powerful. I’ll show that to you tomorrow. Then, it’s time to move on… at least for now. As you may recall, I’ve been working on a long form project in Central City, New Orleans. It’s been sort of stalled, even though redevelopment progress  hasn’t stopped. There are new restaurants on both ends of Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, There is a large redevelopment plan coming to fruition on Claiborne Avenue which should provide new shops, a real grocery store and other small businesses on the lake end of the neighborhood. Me? I haven’t worked that as much as should be. But, that’s coming to an end and back I go. That said, one of my biggest issues with the pictures I produced is that they were made in my usual colorful way of working. That seemed to be at odds with the actual content.  You know. The color palette isn’t appropriate for the content.

So.

This bit of experimentation seems to have set a stage for reprocessing the images that are already made in the neighborhood. It’s also provided me with a guide for going forward. Not a blueprint. Blueprints seem to be set in cement too much. My work sort of flows. It depends a lot on what I see. And, how I feel.

This picture may take my experimental style a little too far. I’m not sure I need to scratch the image to drive home the point. But, the faded color works. At least for now. Aside from the new development, most of the neighborhood is still the same. Torn and frayed.  70 % of the housing stock is still uninhabitable. Too many drugs on the street. Too many senseless deaths. I believe that will change. But, it’s a generational thing. I certainly won’t be around for that. So, I can only document what is there. Right now. The things in front of me.

What is this place?

The content is really simple. It’s an abandoned “food store.” That’s a local name, or maybe a Southern name, for a mom and pop grocery store. Prices are usually high because the owners can’t get large distribution deals like your local Winn-Dixie or Kroger. So, they buy from local wholesalers or worse, from big box stores like Costco or Sam’s. By the time they get done marking up their goods, they cost far more than any bigger store would charge. But, for people without transportation, or enough money to buy in quantities like most of us take for granted, these little stores are a life line. They also cash checks. And, sell old school items that you can’t buy anywhere else. Unfortunately, they are usually run by people with no business training or real grocery store experience so they don’t last. They close their doors in the middle of the night. Whatever stock they have left is just abandoned. Eventually, the old store is broken into, pillaged and locked up again. And broken into again, and again…

Oh. If you’re expecting a solution on this page, I have none. I just know that things aren’t right.