Depending on the neighborhood, they can be made of brick, cobblestone, very old cement or even slate. They are usually pretty broken up. Tree roots grow up through them. The heat cracks them. They fall apart after years of use.
We are an old city.
I found this one while I was waiting for a friend of mine to close his gallery. He had a last-minute customer so I spent the time wandering around his neighborhood in The Bywater.
The Bywater is an old industrial, blue-collar neighborhood. Once, it was the place where coffee and South American fruits were offloaded from ships and processed. In those days, most of the people who lived and worked there called it by its real name. The 9th Ward. The Bywater name came later, apparently it was named after an old telephone exchange that was used in the neighborhood.
But times have changed.
There is very little industrial work of any kind going on there. After many years of decline, the neighborhood has come back as sort of a hipster, artist enclave. Houses that once sold for $15,000 now sell for $450,000. There must be 15 coffeehouses in a one mile square neighborhood. And restaurants? Sheesh. I can’t count them. They come and go very quickly. There are a few old standbys. Jack Dempsey’s comes to mind. It is named after a crime reporter. Not the boxer.
As NOLA sidewalks go, this one isn’t bad. Sure, it’s brick and looks perilous. But, it’s pretty well maintained. Of course, with our past few days of deep freeze, those leaves likely got very slippery. Down here, we really aren’t prepared for frozen or slippery.
The picture. I saw it. I made it. I actually worked the scene a little because the light was so pretty. This image is the result of getting down. To the ground. Actually, these kinds of pictures are much easier to make with new modern articulated LCDs. Just put the camera close to the ground and tilt the monitor up so you can see it from above. You have to be careful when you do that. You can accidentally stick a lot of unfocused foreground about half way up the frame.
I’m not sure it’s decisive. But, it’s a moment. In time. This dude was rolling his big wheel and tire down the street as I was hustling from one point in the second line to another point ahead of the walkers.
I took his picture. He smiled.
The more I thought about it after this weekend of massive marches, another second line and other big stuff, I realized that this one man walk was important too. He’s taking care of business. His business. He’s getting it done. This is important. The only way to overcome whatever we are feeling right now is just to keep going. At whatever it is we do.
The picture. F something or other and be there. See the picture. Focus. Push the button. That’s about it. Oh yeah. Smile and talk to your subject. There is a certain pleasure in that.
About this time of year we have real interesting days. They are mixed with bright sunshine, clouds, heavier rain clouds, a hard-hitting storm and then the cycle repeats itself. Sometimes, the rain falls in such specific areas that one side of a street is dry, while the other side sees rain falling so hard that a flash flood warning could be announced.
That’s The Gulf Coast for you. In the summer.
This is all good news. The very hot days of early summer have left us. Those 115 degree days are gone. They may come back in late August or September. But, our temperature for this time of year is fairly normal with ground readings in the high-80s and the heat index in the mid-90s. Of course, it is also quite humid.
The rain. We’ve had a little everyday. A hard rain but not for very long. That keeps stuff green and does lower the humidity briefly. It helps make pictures. The sidewalks and pavement sort of glow. Subjects, like these flowers, are washed and sparkle.
For me, this means that there are pictures where normally there might not be. Yes. I have to do a little heavier post production to make the picture look like my brain saw it. But, what did Ansel Adams say? “The negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score and the print, the performance.”
This kind of summer light does one more thing. It expands my photographic time. The time I take pictures. You know me. I prefer to work at the ends of the day. The time when light and shadows turn even the most mundane subjects a little magical. But, on days like these, the light changes minute-by-minute. Magic happens all day long. And, that’s a lot of fun.
Yes. Green. Summer in New Orleans. Between the het, the every present humidity and rain that seems to fall every other hour, this is what you get. Luscious, verdant green. Shades of green. Rich green. You also get incredible lumps and bumps. The tree and the rise are located on the parkway between the street and the sidewalk. Of course, this tree has been growing for a long time. Look at the curb. When was the last time you saw a curb like this in a modern sub-division? Never. Those bricks? Sugar bricks. Last produced in the early to mid-19th century. When I tell you that New Orleans is an old place, I mean it.
The picture? I made it when I was chasing around looking for evidence of the big storm that wasn’t. I suppose the color is kicked up a bit because the rain washed away any dust and grime that might have accumulated in the day or two since the last storm rolled through.
They say that the “devil is in the details.” He may well be. But, I’m really not so sure. To my way of thinking, if that’s true, we are in a lot of of trouble. Details are everywhere if we take the time to look. I do. You probably should too. You’ll never ever fail to be surprised. I do. I am.
Here are a couple of pictures from my last walk through the French Quarter that have nothing to do with the soon-to-come amazing light. Nor, are they about windows. They are about looking here, there and everywhere. It’s something that I’ve trained myself to do since many of my pictures come from discovery. You can’t discover if you can’t see.
First, there is little or no post production to talk about. Sure. There is the usual stuff that you have to do. A little sharpening, brightening and fine tuning. Nothing else. I don’t see these pictures as any kind of artist’s statement. They are just a reproduction of what I saw. What caught my eye. What I reacted to.
Jesus Bike. You wouldn’t know that the picture is of a bike fender. Not the way I framed it. The color and the content caught my eye as it contrasted with The French Quarter’s ancient dark gray sidewalks.
Original Roof. This is really just a graphic picture exposed up against what would soon become an amazing sky. I’d like to tell you that the chimney is original. But, upon a closer view, it looks restored.
The Leftovers. Mardi Gras beads are just about everywhere. Sometimes, they are really left from being part of a throw. You see that a lot along the big parade routes like St. Charles Avenue. But, you also see it when people have brought their beads home and used them as part of last year’s decorations. Or, the year before. Or the year before that. I kind of like this picture because it is subtly monochromatic. The green of the beads and the green of nature blend very nicely.
So. I dipped into the well of New Year Eve in The French Quarter. I had a pretty good shooting night. And, we had a pretty good dinner. So, all in all as they say… it was a pretty good time. I’ve written about it in the past few blogs so I’m pretty much out of words. For now. I’m also pretty much out of current pictures. So. I better go look around.
This picture was made near Jackson Square. I dithered a bit. At first I kept the diners in focus. Eh. Then I decided that the picture told a better story if just the bicycles were in focus. The diners were out of focus creating another layer to the picture. The rest was pretty simple. I just sort of crouched and took the picture. The odd greenish light on the bike tires was caused by the lights over the sidewalk.
Whenever I have time and am in place to do so, I work on what appears to be my never-ending Central City project. Mostly, I look for things that help tell the story as I see it. But, I get lucky once in a while. During my last drive through, I ran into a guy called Dilly Walker. He’s lived in Central City for sixty plus years. He pretty much grew up there, except when his family moved to Carrollton. He told me that a lot of older families moved from Central City to other places in New Orleans because they could have back and side yards. As he tells it, his family were country people from Magnolia, Mississippi. That’s just south of McComb. His grandmother wanted to move to New Orleans and so the family moved. But, nobody remembers why. When they got to the city, they settled in Central City. But, they didn’t like it because the houses are packed closely side-by-side. Even the backyards were filled with what we would now call mother-in-law or back houses. So, they moved to the Carrollton neighborhood, where they could have a backyard for the children. There’s a lot of history to the area. For instance, during the Civil War, soldiers drank a lot of whiskey and were mostly drunk. Their commanding officer allowed them to drink because he believed it kept them safe from “country fever.” The section where Mr. Walker’s family lived is known as “Black Pearl.” It is closest to The Mississippi River. Today, the area is known for… what else? Restaurants and entertainment.
Even though I make a lot of sort of, somewhat, possibly artistic pictures. It’s pictures like the one of Dilly Walker that I like to make. I enjoy listening to, and telling, their stories. I guess that’s why my first jobs were as a photojournalist and my last college degree was more-or-less focused on ethnography. There are plenty of stories to tell. Maybe even books to photograph and write. We’ll see. First, I have to stay around. Second, I have to find the energy. This isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.