It’s not really what it seems. It looks like I am out on some distant road. Not really. I was running errands. I drove out to Jefferson Parish. I was getting ready to drive home. I realized that I was driving up and over a railroad bridge, which made a good picture. So, I sort of did a drive through.
I learned something.
A smart phone is much harder to brace and trigger than a more normal DSLR or Mirrorless DSLR. In an effort not to drive off the road or run into another car, most of the pictures are cockeyed, pointed to the wrong place, or have my fingers in them. Even this picture required a heavy crop because too much of my car was in it. If I knew how to do a one time bit of coding, I would have made this a panorama stretching across the top of the page.
Alas, along with my inability to paint, I also barely know the basics of coding. I know just enough to do more harm than good. I did make another version of the scene, with the car hood in the picture. But, it’s too psychedelic for even me.
The good news is that in the past few days of low autumn light and cooler weather, I’ve made a lot of interesting pictures. That’s how it goes. On some days you can’t see. On other days, you see everything.
The weather is even cooler today. But, I’m not around to make pictures.
Storms aren’t unusual this time of year. We are in the rainy and hurricane season. Lately, our storms are overwhelming all of our drains, canals and pumping systems.
We accumulated five inches of rain in about 90 minutes. Everywhere Uptown was flooded. I don’t mean with a few inches of water. It was more like two to three feet. I had to walk through it. The water is dark, muddy and who knows what’s in it. I was marking potholes so young drivers wouldn’t break their car axles not being able to see where they were. I made one picture. I showed it to a friend of mine who liked it. I’m not so sure.
Once things started drying out, I made a few more snaps. I had some intent in making these three pictures. I had to wait until the sun popped out after a big storm because I knew what to do.
Here’s the deal.
The picture I showed my buddy is documentary. It’s just fine as far as it goes. But, I’m really trying to reinvent myself into some kind of artist.
Make no mistake. I’m not a photographer who takes normal pictures and labels my work as fine art photography. What so fine art about pictures that look like normal photographs showing no intent?
Fine art photography to me is like the early work of the late Robert Mapplethorpe. His work hangs in museums. I don’t believe photographers like Ernst Haas, Jay Maisel or any of my heroes call themselves fine art photographers.
This isn’t that.
This is my attempt to be a painter. Maybe a water colorist. At least that’s what this work looks like to me. I’d actually paint these if I could. Years of attempts have taught me one irrefutable fact. I have no painting skills at all. Except to paint a wall.
So, I modify photographs to the point where they don’t really look like something made with a camera. I was lucky that these three pictures could take almost the same style of post-production. Often, a series takes a huge amount of work to make them look like sisters.
Even the dog who shows me stuff didn’t want to be out. She did her “business” and headed for home. She’s no fool. She doesn’t like water falling on her from above.
For most of us, this is nothing unusual. Summer rain. It blows in from the Gulf of Mexico. Rain falls for an hour or so and normally it’s all good. But, we are spooked. Our streets seemingly flood with almost any hard rain.
The people in charge have taken care of the pumps. They are working as well as can be expected. Maybe we need new pipes. The mayor said that we just live in a place that floods. Accept that.
A car was found in a covered drainage ditch. Actually, there might be three or more. But, one was pulled out yesterday. It was pancaked. It’s brake tag was dated 2007. It was the remains of a Mazda 626. Mardi Gras beads fell out of the trunk.
Only in New Orleans.
There was a lot of discussion about it on social media. Given that we can buy our brake tags every two years, it was likely licensed in 2005. This could be a Katrina car. There could be human remains in that tunnel. Or, it could be something entirely different.
This is a mystery. Everybody loves a mystery. We all wanna know.
But, get this.
The water bosses admitted that the underground canal hadn’t been inspected for at least 14 years. Huh? Do you people ever do your jobs?
The same thing happened with the levees pre-storm. The Army Corps of Engineers and the local levee people met on the top of the levee, looked around and said let’s go to lunch. They didn’t do their jobs and look what happened.
Rain. Motion Blur. And, a strange crop of a woman standing next to me.
It seems that there is a kind of finality to this picture. That’s a good thing. This is the last of this series. I reckon that you’ve had enough. Besides, tomorrow is Sunday. The first day of the week. The first day of a new thing. Don’t ask me what. I haven’t thought that far in the future. Yeah. I know. That’s just tomorrow. It’ll come to me sometime before that.
As you already know, sometimes I don’t talk about the picture. I veer off in some other direction. This is one of those times.
Yesterday evening was just terrible.
Peter Fonda died. He’s a big part of my youth. Movies like Easy Rider helped to form me. The music of that time was the soundtrack to my life. It really hit me when Roger McGuinn — the founder of The Byrds — tweeted, “I just lost a dear friend.”
Not ten minutes later I learned that Nancy Parker, a journalist and anchor person for local television channel FOX 8, died in an airplane crash while she was working on a story about Franklin Augustus, a local a licensed stunt pilot. He was also killed. Nancy Parker had been with the station for 23 years. It seems that everybody knew her or watched her. To a person everybody talked about her kindness and caring. I met her very briefly prior to the Zulus starting Mardi Gras Day one very cold year. We talked for a few minutes as people do. She made sure to stand behind me, so as not to get in the way of my lens.
My city is in mourning.
You know what I always say. The work is the prayer. That’s what I’m doing. I’m listening to Byrds music. A little of it was used in Easy Rider.
Did you ever wonder how you got here? I don’t mean here as in location. I mean the twists and turns that your life took to get you to your place right now. Right this minute.
Lately, that’s what I’ve been doing.
It started with the koan, “learning.” That is my word for the year. I wasn’t sure exactly how that word would work since I’m a lifetime learner. I try to learn just a bit from everything and everyone. It might be just one teeny tiny thing. That adds to my body of knowledge.
Then it came to me.
Learning meant from the inside out.
That’s fine as far as it goes. And, it goes on forever.
Then, something started to change. I started wondering how my life got to the place where it is today. Everything seemed to be a cue. Music. A bit of an old television show. A movie clip. An old photograph. A smell. A road less traveled.
So far, not so good.
Oh sure. I’ve had a great career. But, not the best. My personal life has been okay, but it could have been better. And, so on and so on. I’ve let too many opportunities pass by. Even those that were a sure thing. We all do it. I did it.
It’s easy to get worried or even depressed using this line of thinking. I’m not that guy. I know that the past is the past. I can’t do very much about it. Nobody can. I can really only live in the present. But, I can be my best self in the future. The question isn’t why. It’s how. It’s where. And, it’s when.
After all, no one person can do everything.
I think you make life choices based on priorities. I can work those as far as they go because there aren’t many. Likely, they mostly flow from one or two very important cares or concerns. Working with those takes time, effort, focus and maybe even a little money. It may take a plan. How do you get from point “A” to point “B?”
That’s where I am right now.
My thinking may be easier than other people’s.
I reckon, even in this age of high end medicine, medications and procedures, I’ve got about 15 years or so. That’s not discouraging to me. We all pass off this mortal coil.
The question is how well do we live out our time.
I do not want to do what my dad did. After he retired, he and my mom moved from Long Beach, California to Reno, Nevada. There is so much to see and explore in, and around, Reno. My dad mostly stayed at home. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. For what?
You know for what.
I’m not doing that. Not now. Not ever.
That’s another way of learning. Sometimes you learn what you don’t want. What you don’t want to do.
The picture. You can learn a lot about light if you look closely. You see that big power pole? You see what’s next to it in the sky? Do you see what happens to the white clouds directly next to that? It’s all about sunlight bouncing off of the whiter clouds, hitting that the clouds around it and reflecting and refracting its own light.
That is a great example of one thing I usually say. When you are looking at the great sunset that you want to photograph, you should turn around and see what that wonderful light does to the scenery behind you. For sure, photograph the sunset if that’s your thing. But, look around as well. You may be surprised. Pleasantly surprised.
I was going to close out the “big storm” series. I even made a new picture. It combines the extent of the damage around this place with water.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Dr. Martin Luther King
I’ve promised you this space would not be political. I believe we all need a break from the daily madness. I want this space to be about art in all its forms. But, art is driven by circumstances. By daily life. By our own histories.
When the president who shall not be named tweeted his racist bullshit yesterday. I was stunned. Most of the country responded righteously. Twitter lit up like a pinball machine. Facebook wasn’t much quieter. His ploy to drive a wedge between Speaker Pelosi and the women that he told to go back where they came from, failed.
It gets worse. He doubled down. Senator Graham defended him. The rest of the Republican Party was silent.
Now we know.
The President of The United States is an out and out racist. Oh, we knew it. We knew his red lining record as a real estate owner. We heard him defend white power groups after the violence at Charlottesville, Virginia. But, yesterday he said it. He said what racists have said to people of color for years and years. He confirmed it.
Not only does Donald J. Trump (there, I said his name) have to go, but the Republican senators and representatives have to be voted out en masse. Gone. All gone.
I urge you in my country to run for something. Anything. It starts from the ground up. And, you must vote. We have to get these racist, mean, scared old white men out of power. I said it before Trump was elected, that we would leave the country if he won. We decided to stay and fight back. To resist. I can assure that that if he is re-elected, I won’t know my country, and we will leave. Even if we are strangers in a strange land it will be better than living in the country of my birth. That’s terribly sad.
One more note.
Before you think that everything was bad on Sunday, it wasn’t. Thanks to YouTube, I got to see Sir Paul McCartney play with Ringo Starr from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The last time that happened was when The Beatles played there over 50 years ago. Then, I got to see Neil Young sing with Bob Dylan for the first time since 1994. They played an old traditional tune. “Will the Circle Be Broken?’
First, the thing to know is that there was a breakfast meeting this morning of some local political heavy weights to discuss the reprehensible coverage of New Orleans and tropical Storm Barry by the national news media. When Walter Issacson gets into the discussion you know something is wrong. He’s not a politician. He’s a heavyweight editor, author and thinker who ran the Aspen Institute. He lives here.
Call this a rant if you’d like.
But, before you do, please understand that I spent the early years of my career — roughly one third of it — working as a photojournalist. I’d like to believe that I was even handed and fair minded. I’d like to think that my pictures and my words told the truth. I’d like to believe that I didn’t pour fuel on any fire.
The national coverage as it relates to this storm has been terrible. From my admittedly limited viewpoint, it was designed to elicit clicks. It was done to sell advertising. And, it was done with no thought to the people they were impacting.
At the very least, it was misleading. At the very worst, it was fear mongering. And, it scared our friends and family who don’t live nearby. I am grateful for all of those people who reached out to me. Old high school mates, college mates, even people who I know only from Storyteller. Some offered their spare rooms and guest rooms as shelter.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Trust me, I’ll take you up on your offers if we have a big hurricane. Especially if New Orleans is in the bullseye.
This nonsense has got to stop. The president who shall not be named calls it “fake news.” In his case, that means anything with which he disagrees. In my case, I’m sorry to report that most of the coverage was fake news. For me, the distrust that it sows means that I question everything that they publish or broadcast.
What’s the situation right now?
There is no wind. Rain is falling so softly that it isn’t pooling. It is so soft that the dogs who will not be rained on, didn’t realize that they were wet until we’d been out for ten minutes or so. Even then, when I asked “go home?”, they hesitated. Yeah. They know the word, “home.”
Of course, we knew that we’d get rain. Of course, we knew that we’d get a little wind. But, we weren’t scared. We weren’t fleeing. And, no. That wasn’t just our friends. When we went to the store to buy storm-related items as most of us do, there was no anxiety. I didn’t know the other shoppers. We all went about our business of preparing for a storm. Just as we always do. We helped each other a little. Just as we always do.
The picture. A couple of Crape Myrtle blossoms on a car trunk. With a few water droplets. I saw it and did what I always do. I made a picture.
That’s it. That’s the entire story. For now.
It appears, from rereading this post, that I always do a lot of things. Hmmmm.
By around 10:30 pm, the night before the big event, everything changed. No storm surge. The river would only rise to 17 feet. Well below flood level. And, the rain will average around 6 inches over 24 hours in New Orleans.
Yes. It’s windy. We may still lose power. So, I’m writing this around midnight just in case.
A grateful city is happy. I’m happy.
I’m so disappointed in national news coverage. The Washington Post flat out printed fake news. NOLA Twitter responded as only we could. The same thing happened with national television stations. Worse, the gold standard, The BBC went beyond fake news.
As many of you know, I started my career as a photojournalist. I made pictures. I edited. I managed photo staffs. I built a chain of weekly newspapers within a daily newspaper. I would have never published the nonsense I read today.
The Post said something about how fearful we were. And, that we were fleeing. Nobody that I know was fearful. Some people with children left. Family first. But, they weren’t panicked. We’ve been through this before.
The city, state, even the federal government got involved. We had emails, tweets and texts. There were the obligatory press conferences and so on. That was all good.
I remember that prior to the evacuation for Hurricane Katrina, a lot of my neighbors said they weren’t leaving because the city always reacted to potential hurricanes extremely and nothing ever came of it.
The rest is history.
When do people start disregarding hurricane lead ups again? What happens when the real deal occurs again and people don’t take it seriously?
Beyond my pay grade. I guess the Mercedes Dome will be a place of last refuge again.
One more thing.
I’m speaking only about New Orleans. I’m sure it will be rough when Barry makes landfall, wherever it makes landfall.
Written about someone who wants to stay on the road and not go home. That’s us right about now.
First, the good news. It is very likely that the levees will not overtop. We are expecting 10 to 15 inches of rain in the next two days. If it’s steady it won’t overwhelm the pumps. It will add more water to the already high Mississippi River.
There is even better news. The Rolling Stones will not be denied. They are already in town. And, their stage crew is building their stage, lighting and video screens as we speak. They are playing on Sunday. Come hell (not likely) or high water (likely).
The predictable news. The storm’s outer bands are reaching us. There are winds of about 20 mph with light rainfall. It is not steady, it is more like spitting. It’s on and off as the cyclone spins.
There is no bad news. We are as prepared as I’ve ever seen. That’s the city. The parishes. And, us. The only possible bad news are power failures, which are unpredictable. Yesterday, I saw Entergy crews checking the likely weak links. But, storms are storms and you can’t know what will fail.
Have a good thought for us.
The picture. Red skies at morning, sailors take warning. Red skies at night, sailors delight. We’ll see about that. It looks like I’m a million miles away. Nah, Earhart Expressway. The back way to the airport.
Just remember, you thought you knew what the Tibetan word Nameste means. Around here, that’s Cajun for the answer to this question.