Gritty.

I

t started this way. This picture was made at the very beginning of my career. I worked for a chain of tiny newspapers in rural Southwest Virginia. We thought we were pretty good and most of the time we were.

The two biggest photo subjects were sports and stand alone art. The former you understand. The latter are pictures that can be used as needed. That’s what this photograph was intended to do. A space filler.

We started a new product designed as a tab, meaning magazine style. It was really intended as another way of selling advertising. Unfortunately for the ad department, we took it seriously. We saw it as a prime display section.

We had a short deadline for the first edition. It hit me, we hadn’t used the welder yet. So, that was the cover. I followed him around for a while so I made a nice picture story which we used to fill the center of the paper.

It was printed at night when the press wasn’t running with the dailies. The advertising department never saw it until it was printed. They had multiple heart attacks and went roaring off to the publisher.

I’m no fool.

I already showed and pitched it to the executive editor and we pitched it to the publisher. When the ad manager ran into the publisher’s office and held up the newspaper, the publisher smiled and said, “pretty good isn’t it?”

He liked it so much that even though it was intended to sell ads, it would feature photos and photo stories. That was great until I realized that meant more work for me.

No good dead goes unpunished.


The eyes.
The eyes.

I had another post written and scheduled. Then I read this.

“Years ago two mayors, Michael Bloomberg and Mr. Giuliani, were in a group discussing what the memorial should be. Mr. Giuliani wanted something big on that “sacred ground.” Mr. Bloomberg argued for a school, not a monument. “I always thought the best memorial for anybody is to build a better world in their memory,” he said. “I’m a believer in the future, not the past. I can’t do anything about the past.”

And, this.

“Many of them had no idea what was happening, and none knew what the attacks would lead to. The years of unending warfare, the disasters overseas, the new way of living: see something, say something, fear everything.”

Both quotes are from the New York Times. From their opinion page. Today’s opinion page. They were discussing September 11, 2001. The Worst Day. The day everything changed.

I agree with Mr. Bloomberg. I can’t do anything about the past. But, I can do better going forward. That’s not an indictment of me. No. We can all do better. We can all do better at whatever it is that we do. That’s how you honor those who died on September 11. That’s how you honor anybody who passed before you.

A lot of people have been writing about their memories from the Worst Day. Mine are like most other people’s. I was getting dressed. The morning news was on in the background. I looked up and saw one of the towers burning. The sound was low, so I didn’t hear the commentary. I thought it was odd that a movie was playing when normally I would be watching the news. I did whatever I was doing and glanced up again. Peter Jennings was talking. I thought why is he doing the morning news? And, then uh oh.

You know the rest.

Anyway.

Back to the picture. It has nothing to do with my writing. Yeah. I know. There he goes again.

Except.

It’s what I do best. It’s what I was given to do.  It is what I do. It defines me. And, that goes well beyond pushing the shutter button. That’s easy. We live in a world where anybody can do it. It’s more about my way of seeing. My intent. My vision.

So. Yes. I mourn those who died on September 11, 2001. I celebrate those who ran into the danger. To save lives. To help. To document. My way of doing that is to work. To move forward. To look back, but only briefly.

Because, there is the one thing you know about me. The thing that never changes.

“The work is the prayer.”

Peace. Y’all.


The stare. The very overheat stare.
The stare. The very overheated stare.

Yes. It was hot. Very hot.

The Uptown Swingers parade was the last second line of the season, so I thought it would be a good idea to be on the scene.

Wrong.

First, the ground temperature — from my car’s thermometer — was 100 degrees. In the shade. I don’t alway trust that thermometer because even the car manufacturer admits that it isn’t always accurate. But, my experience tells me it is consistently low. So…

Second, the parade was scheduled to start at 1 pm. Hot enough. Then it was delayed until 3 pm. Even hotter. Then it was delayed until 3:30 pm. In Southeast Louisiana, that’s about the hottest time of the day.

For a while I sat on the stoop and in some shade of any abandoned electric power plant.  A lot of people had the same idea. Yes. We had a bit of shade and a place to sit but still…

Why do it? Any of it? As musician Jimmy Buffett once wrote, “We do it for the stories we can tell.”

He’s right. I’m telling one now.

The picture. Oh, man. The tuba player arrived at about the same time that I did. There was hardly anybody around at the scheduled time. I thought, “Uh oh, this isn’t good.” Even though he looks like he’s glaring at me, by the time I reached him we were both asking each other for start time information.  Neither of us knew it.

 


All sorts of people mask for Halloween. This woman joined the Krewe of Boo parade in The French Quarter.
All sorts of people mask for Halloween. This woman joined the Krewe of Boo parade in The French Quarter.

Only a couple of more days now. I made this portrait as The Krewe of Boo was getting ready to roll. I like working the very beginning of parades because there is more time to talk to the folks who are going to actually walk in the parade.  There is more time to make pictures that may be more meaningful than the usual parade picture. Please don’t misunderstand, I like photographing parades. After all, I live in a city of parades. But, the more I keep going on the harder it is to make a picture that is very different from the ones I made the year before. Or, the year before that. Or…

So. I make my way to the front of the line. Paraders are getting read to walk or ride. You catch them putting on the finishing touches to whatever costume they are wearing. They let you instruct them, which I usually just do by motion and the placement of my cameras.

This picture. Funny thing about it. I was just saying that the SONY NEX kit lens, a 18 – 55mm variable f-stop lens, is sharp as a tack. Very unusual with a kit lens because often camera manufacturers use some cheap add-on lens to sell the camera body. But, not this one. It is so sharp that I actually used my post production to tone it down a bit. Why? The picture was so sharp that I could see every imperfection in this woman’s face, even though she is obviously wearing a lot of make up.  So, I used a portrait photographer’s trick, er, technique. I lightened the picture just a bit and added some “glow.” But, not so much that I made her skin look like plastic. I can still see the imperfections. Just, not so much.