I’ve come out of retirement from the street. Saturday’s events convinced me that there could be no other way. I came out for the Single Ladies Second Line.
It was hot. So hot.
It didn’t look like anybody was having any fun. Not, the ladies. Not the band. Not the second liners.
It was brutal.
After talking to a friend of mine today, I realized that we come out for a whole host of reasons. It really is like church. It’s great to see friends. And, we tell stories about what we did afterward.
Today, we walk again. We make pictures. After a week of mourning, we lay Chef Leah Chase to rest. At 2pm. The hottest part of the day. We are suppose to have some overcast. That might help. No matter. I’ll work as best I can.
There were 911 remembrances just about everywhere. The NFL opened their Sunday season with the New Orleans Saints being defeated by the Oakland Raiders (among other American football games) and The Young Men Olympians Social Aid and Pleasure Club walked the first of their two yearly parades.
Today’s second line was their 132nd anniversary parade. It was fairly compact and lasted about two hours with no breaks. In two weeks they will walk their normal multi-division, huge and long parade. For me, this was the first parade of the 2016-2017 second line season. There was one a couple of weeks ago that I didn’t photograph. I’ll find a way to be there in two weeks. They were the first second liners that I photographed when I returned to New Orleans after my Katrina break.
I have a lot of projects this fall. I will be busy through mid-December. But, I will find time to photograph as many second lines as I can. This will take some doing. But, what did I talk about in yesterday’s post? Moving forward, moving beyond and remembering those who passed by doing better. Always better.
So. These pictures. Last season I got a little burnt out on the overall culture. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to work on parades, Mardi Gras Indian events or even Mardi Gras. I wasn’t sure why, but my images started looking the same to me. Worse, everybody’s images started looking the same.
What to do?
I got a little inspiration from a Magnum photographer and one time NGS staffer. He was discussing photographing New York City in the immediate aftermath of the towers falling. You know, the worst day. He said that he hadn’t been a news photographer in years, but that he knew he had to document what he saw. It was history. But, he still made his pictures. His way. His vision.
That was hugely helpful.
I decided to work with one camera body. One lens. I used the Sony A 600o. Even though there is a newer version with better specs, the A 6000 is still currently the fastest focusing camera. Especially for street work. It’s light. It’s tiny. And, I can dance in and out of a second line with it. The lens I used is a very short zoom lens. A 16-50mm lens. On a “crop sensor” body it sees about like a 24-75mm lens. Perfect. For me. In my current thinking about pictures. I can work extremely closely and still have a little bit of reach for portraits. A lot of people don’t like this lens. It’s a kit lens. It came with the camera. That makes it junk to them. Luckily, I’m pretty much focused on what I’m doing. I don’t care what a lot of people don’t like.
Look at the pictures. Could a better, more expensive and more famous lens maker have done better? Sure. But, these pictures are just fine.
About the pictures, themselves.
The top picture. It was hot today. This second line did not take breaks to add a division or band. They — well, all of us really — needed hydration. They got it. On the fly.
The second picture. This is the oldest man in the parade. He walked about a block and it was time for his ride. I really wanted to join him. But, well, you know. No. He isn’t 132 years old. Give me a break. In fact, give him a break.
Finally. The heart of things. A little street dancing. Remember what I said about the top picture? It was hot. I can’t imagine doing what they are doing. Especially in long pants, a sport coat and tie. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; these men are internally tough.
One more thing. Obviously I photographed this with “real” camera. For the past couple of weeks I’ve mostly been shooting, editing, doing post production and posting to Storyteller from my i-Phone. I truly believe that the best camera is the one you have with you. And, it certainly was convenient to be able to work in one ecosystem. It was fairly quick. And, simple.
Working the way I did today just felt better. It was more fun. I know the quality is better. And, the layout of today’s post is far more complicated than the ones I did using my smart phone. I think I’ll return to original form. A DSLR. Post production on a big machine. It’s great to know that I can work from my phone and post a fairly complete update, but… well, you know.
First. I took a break. I did not photograph the Thursday night parades. It’s a big night with Muses on the streets. That didn’t matter. We did walk up the street to the route as the parades reached The Garden District and caught some beads. As a family. With a few neighbors. Everybody loved that. Including me.
These pictures are still work from Wednesday night and the two parades. I do make a lot of pictures when I work. I do shoot a lot. But not for the reasons some of you think. I work as if I was still shooting film. Normally.
But, when I work at night in questionable light with people who I do not know, I tend to back myself up because I’m used to delivering for a client. I’m not used to second chances. Or reshoots. If I blow it, the job is blown. Do that enough times and your career is blown.
Which brings me to this.
I’ve been at this a long, long time. I’ve been published a lot. Way more than I can count. It doesn’t matter. Or, I may not even know about in terms of actually seeing the work used. When you do agency work, you get sales accounting sheets, but you don’t actually see the work or how it was used.
If you ask somebody like me what matters, we’d all tell you that only the picture matters. But, the definition of a picture changes depending on when you first started taking pictures. For us old guys, a picture ain’t a picture unless it’s printed. Either as some kind of photograph and hung on the wall. Or, in some kind of publication. That latter is how I earn my keep.
Because the internet is a weird place. Nothing ever goes a way. The data lives for all time, no matter how many times you think that you deleted it. And, it pops up at odd times. It’s that old cache thing and when at what point the information becomes searchable. But, because there is so much information poured on to the internet on a daily basis, most of it — including the good stuff — hides in plain sight. All noise, not enough signal, they say. But, that’s not my real point. That’s just some facts.
The real point is the pictures posted on the internet become transitory.
Worse, because technology changes, your pictures might become inaccessible. I read somewhere that this is the most photographed generation, ever. But, that in a decade most of the pictures won’t exist. Well, the data might. The ones and zeros might. But locating them, accessing them and assembling those ones and zeros would not be easy unless you keep up with the technology.
So, the most photographed generation might also become the most invisible generation.
And yet, the film that I made pictures on some 40 years ago is stable. It’s a plastic media that has not yet degraded. Oh, I suppose at some point well after I shuffle off this mortal coil, it will. But, until then I can always access it. I can always make a print from it even though that technology has changed. Yeah, sure. The way we make prints has changed if we want it to. We don’t have to go in a smelly darkroom and work removed from the rest of the household. We can scan, or have scanned, a negative. We can load the scan into our computers and work in the light with everybody around. But, you know what? I miss those darkrooms. I worked in them for more years than I worked on computers. And, I was a fairly early adopter of what was then, new technology.
Just some morning thoughts. As I try to wake up.
The first thing to always know about working on a scene is that sometimes the most difficult part of taking a picture is just getting there. Sometimes the motivation to get there gets harder and harder to gin up. For the reasons that I’ve outlined, I’ve lost most of that. If I could transport myself right into the middle of the scene that would be great. But… that ain’t happening.
The second thing to know is that for the general public, these pictures are Mardi Gras. That’s fine. But, remember what I wrote somewhere near the start of Carnival Season. Most of us who live here do the one event that matters to us, or is traditional to us. And, that’s Mardi Gras. Usually, too, there’s some family and friends thing in the mix too.
It’s hard to motivate myself to keep going out. On the other hand, I still have a couple of pictures to make. So, out I go today and tonight. Now, if the streets could magically get repaired and repaved… (Oh, spell check wants to turn repaved into removed. That sounds even better to me.)
I suppose the thing to take away from this is how you think about pictures. How you make a picture that is a little different from the norm. And, what it takes to make them. After all, the technology makes it easy. You don’t really have to know how to use the $2,000 camera you just bought.
Oh. That couch? That is as New Orleans as it comes. It probably happens where you live too. But, you might not notice it because it isn’t so “in your face.” New Orleans people dispose of stuff by putting it on the curb even when they know it is too big for the garbage disposal guys to put in their truck. We know that if the thing — a couch in this instance — is in reasonable shape, it will be gone in minutes. Seriously. I kind of question the former couch owner’s taste. But, that’s a whole other thing. Or, dumping in the middle of a parade. But, what can you do?
When I work on one of my concurrent ongoing projects I tend to make pictures of everything. After all, it’s the little, tiny things and the slow moments in life that make up the whole bigger thing. Here are three pictures that I happened to see while I was really doing something else. I was mostly working on summer pictures and picture a day things. Wilted flowers at a cafe. The only way to get attention at another cafe. Cool water at a French restaurant. Before you get the idea that all I do is eat… sometimes I just stop in for a coffee. Coffee to keep me going and keep my mind sharp. But, other times. Well.