Christmas balls everywhere.

Now it’s Christmastime.

I found this picture.  Actually, the dog who sees things found it. My head was wrapped in thought. Or, fog.

I walked right by it. The dog saw the shiny object and had to investigate. Good thing too. I had a back up picture for today, but it is plan B and all that it implies. How last-minute is this picture? I’m writing this at 11:40 am Central Standard Time. I according to my phone, I took it at 10:48 CST.

The dog saved me yet again.

So. What was I thinking about?

Going forward, I suppose it could be called. If this messed up Republican budget plan gets passed, it strips away a lot of deductions that are normally there for artists. Artists of all stripes. Photographers. Painters. Musicians. Designers. The list is endless. Somehow, I just know that it’s going to stretch into entire industries. This is going to hurt all of us. Then, there is the next step. Tax revenues are bound to fall. The current crop of Republicans will use that as a trigger to cut Social Security benefits and Medicare. I’ve paid all my life into those accounts. Now they are going to try to claim that I can’t have that. Hmmm…

I wrote, yesterday, that my real home is Long Beach, California. I may visit there, but if this budget and thinking goes forward, I’m pretty sure I’ll never live there again. I’ll probably pass through the Pearly Gates (I hope)  from some place like Costa Rica, or Peru. Or Hong Kong, or Thailand. That sounds exciting. But, those places aren’t home. And, as you know, I have really mixed thoughts about New Orleans. And, Brooklyn.

The picture. Oh that. 🙂 See it. Press the button. Do a little post production to make it pretty. And, stuff.


Leaf in the street.

Street photography. At its best.

If you are a photographer, this is kind of an inside joke. If you aren’t, let me explain it to you. I’d venture a guess that about 80% of “new” photographers call themselves street photographers. That means wandering around and taking pictures of whatever you see. Most of them don’t have a clue. Street photography, at its best, has an element of the decisive moment. It can also mean some kind of engagement with the photographer’s subject. Lately, there has been a trend of hiding the camera, or just sort of pointing and shooting. This is justified under the mistaken thinking of “what does it matter if you get a picture?” To which I reply, “A picture? How about THE picture?” And, “What are you so afraid of?”

One more thing. I don’t ever “get” a picture. I make a picture.

Anyway. This is a street photograph. At its best. Or not. I took a picture of the street. With a fall leaf laying on it. Then, I did my tinkering… and there you have it.

Funny thing. Somebody added me to a Facebook street photography group. I’m not exactly sure why. It’s a downtown (where The French Quarter is and further down river) hipster group who meet at a beer laboratory. Whatever that is. I think when I was growing up, that would simply be called a beer bar.

Two other points. I’m just a photographer. I don’t sub-classify myself. For instance, most street photographers of this generation have no lighting skills. I can light. Sometimes so subtly that you don’t realize I did it. And, I don’t drink. What am I going to do in a beer “lab?” Experiment with water?

The picture. I was crossing the street. There was a nice red leaf hanging around, so I took the picture. I did my post production thing in order to make some kind of art. Or, so I claim.

Yeah. I know. Very snarky this morning. Here’s why. Even though I always put my main computer to sleep, Apple thought it would be a good idea to fix some stuff remotely. I know this because things like their cloud which didn’t work properly since the new OS was installed now works. When I finally gave up and rebooted the computer this morning, one of their first prompts was to ask me if I wanted their help to set it up. Huh? I will, a little later, send their executive group a little legal love note reminding them to stop invading my privacy. Harsh? Maybe. But, sometimes these things have to be done.

I ought to send them an invoice for my lost time. That’ll make them smile.


All eyes.

A street portrait.

It took three attempts to write anything that I even marginally liked. Then, I realized I didn’t like the original crop of the picture.

So.

I re-cropped the picture. And, this is my fourth attempt at writing anything meaningful. I like the crop much better. It was too wide and skinny the first time around. I’m mostly just babbling, which is no different from the rest of my writing. But, usually I have a point to make.

I suppose that I really do have something to say.

Use it or lose it.

Because. The mojo comes and goes. Because. If you mess around too much with the marketing of whatever it is that you do, the magic leaves your fingertips. Your brain. And, your soul.

I’ve seen it happen way too many times. The marketing becomes the work. Often, it becomes the sole work. Market AFTER you are almost finished with your project. That includes blogging about it. Yeah, yeah. I know about creating a niche for your work. And, building towards it. But, if that becomes your work… well, you know. You’ll never finish your project.

And, before you are ready?

Work alone until the work is a little marinated. Then bring people into the project. Your work can become too distilled. Too vanilla. You can lose your original vision. Too many chefs and all of that. You know?

Once you get to that point, then share. You need a publisher. Or, a gallery. Or a label. Just about then, you need help. Outside help. Inside help.

Everybody needs an editor. Everybody needs another set of eyes. Everybody needs time. Everybody needs space. Start with your friends and family. Unless they can truly compartmentalize, don’t take their comments too seriously. They’ll either be jealous and unnecessarily cruel, or they’ll be too complimentary. Often without understanding the real world.

I’m not sure how I arrived at this topic. The picture has nothing to do with it. Except for the cropping issue. Maybe it was just the day. These things come in groups. A couple of you were asking about changing blog names. Another was asking how to review his work properly. And, so on. These were blog posts. Another guy asked me in comments if I would look at his work, posy by post. Uh… that’s a little too much to put on me.

The picture. It’s about my hand – eye coordination. I made it during the last second line. It really has very little to do with the actual event. I saw it for what it is — a street portrait. A millisecond either way and it wouldn’t exist. That’s a little of my mojo.

 

 


Down the street.
Down the street.

A moment.

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.


A quick phone call.
A quick phone call.

It almost looks like I took this picture in Europe, doesn’t it?

Nope. The French Quarter. A neighborhood that is French, Spanish and a little American. All in one. I suppose the woman has a little European look to her. That may be stretching things a little too much. However, the bike is as All-American clunker. Rebuilt and restored to navigate our streets.

The picture. I took a bunch of pictures. Maybe ten or so, with different framing. She finished her call and asked why I took the picture. I showed her. She thought the pictures were very cool. She asked a favor. The next two streets were not well lighted. Could I walk with her through them?

Of course.


The Joint.
The Joint.

The Bywater.

Or, the 9th Ward. As you prefer.

The Bywater was the industrial neighborhood and port  in which most of the coffee and South American fruit that we consume in North America passed through. That’s all changed. Much of the neighborhood has become gentrified. And, dare I say it, hipsterfied. The neighborhood has expanded across St. Claude Avenue. Some people don’t like that. The think the neighborhood borders should not change. Of course, they are forgetting that even though this place existed since the 1800s, it wasn’t called The Bywater until the early 1950s. Apparently, the telephone exchange was something like BW0-1234. Or, maybe even a shorter number. Prior to that additional local name, people who lived in this location just said that they lived in the 9th Ward. Maybe they said the Upper 9th Ward to distinguish themselves from the people who lived on the other side of The Industrial Canal in the Lower 9th Ward.

Freight trains and big skies.
Freight trains and big skies.

The pictures. Ah. So much to discuss.  First, these pictures were taken within 20 feet of each other. I didn’t walk far. There is a good reason for that.

I wanted to re-photograph The Joint — which became a signature picture when I when I first took it. Before the storm. So, maybe 12 years ago. I photographed it back then for Lonely Planet’s trade book division. The BBQ place was so successful that it moved from Poland Street to a much bigger building on Royal Street, where it is still successful. Today, there are all sorts of BBQ places in the city. But back then, a dozen years ago, New Orleans was not a BBQ city. The Joint is sort of the grandfather to them all.

I didn’t want my car to be in the picture of the Joint, so I parked across the street next to this covered stop sign. Easy pickings.

Then I turned around as the freight train was rolling through. Click. Click. Click. I thought the picture with the diesel engines in it was the one. But, after further curating, I liked the repeated shapes of the tanks cars better.

Note, the street. That’s a New Orleans street for you. It looks like a country road. And, that empty lot on the left side of the picture. It used to be run down apartment buildings. Pre-storm they had eroded into a bunch of drug and prostitution houses. An empty field is better than it was back then. There are City of New Orleans signs all over that field. They all say, “No trespassing.” Do you think anybody listens? There are swings and children’s gymnastic equipment all over the field.

And, that’s the story. For today.

One more thing. Good luck and Godspeed to all the folks who are facing Hurricane Matthew’s wrath as it heads toward Florida and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic coast. And, to those in Haiti and Cuba who are already suffering. We, in New Orleans, are your brothers and sisters.

 

Stop. Don't stop.
Stop. Don’t stop.


A good thought.
A good thought.

Cease Fire.

These signs started showing up a few years ago. They didn’t work. There are weekend news reports that read like a baseball box score. But, instead of hits, runs and errors it reads like shootings, muggings and murders. For a while, it seemed like the police had a handle on it. But, we are still short about 500 officers and they can’t be everywhere. Over the summer the body count started to rise. Even though experts disagree, a lot of people who live in inner cities believe that the lack of air conditioners and extreme heat have a lot to do with spiking crime rates. And, there are too many guns on the street. We aren’t taking about Second Amendment rights here. We are talking about criminals with guns.

That’s not the only point of this picture. I photograph what I see. Usually, I just make a few enhancements because I’m one of those people who believes that no picture comes out of the camera finished. That’s for the kind of work that I do. If I was shooting news or was a photojournalist it would be a whole other thing.

However.

I’m in an experimental mood. Part of it has to do with that summer heat I wrote about a couple of paragraphs above. I do have air conditioning so I prefer to stay indoors in the heat of day. Once my other work is finished I get to play.

This image is the result of that. I made it in Central City.

Central City is one of the last remaining ungentrified neighborhoods in New Orleans. But, that’s changing rapidly. It’s valuable real estate even though a lot of it is broken down because a lot of it is located above sea level. You know what that means. A good part of it is in walking distance to the Central Business District and to places like the Superdome.

That all sounds good. Right?

Nope. The home of jazz — Treme — has gone through a gentrification process. Long time families have been forced to move because the rented their homes. For years. They never had enough money to buy them. Their houses were sold out from under them. For a lot of money. Musicians and artists have left. They can’t afford it. I’m always amazed when I talk to some of the benevolent societies while I photograph a second line. Many of their members no longer live in the neighborhood. The very neighborhood they were organized to serve. Instead, they live upriver. Some live almost in Texas. They come home for the parade and drive back the same day.

That’s no good.

I fear the uniqueness that attracts people to the city will come to an end. The music will stop. The the color will turn gray. Luckily, and I say that with mixed emotions, the things that I photograph got very popular after the storm. People come from everywhere to see the Mardi Gras Indians Super Sundays. Or, for the really big second lines. And for just about every possible festival.

The picture. After all that I wrote does it matter? All I can say is that it started out like any normal picture. A good base exposure. Reasonable composition. Good shadow and highlight detail. Then I set out to destroy it. It appears that I succeeded. Heh!


Street schooling in The French Quarter.
Street schooling in The French Quarter.

Getting schooled on the street.

Tour groups. In The French Quarter. Some are historical. Some are architectural. Some are spooky. Some are musical. A lot of them are just a long walk with a group of random people.

Because.

Although most of the tour guides are licensed, they don’t all know their stuff. I’ve heard historical or architectural tour guides say things like, “This is an example of  architecture.” Or, telling really gruesome ghost stories that never happened. Or, saying that a launderette used to be a recording studio where rock n’ roll was invented. Oh, wait. That one is true. But, the other two? Not so much. After all, my out buildings are an example of architecture. Or, at least a carpenter with a blueprint and a hammer and nails.

The picture. This is one of those pictures I made on the way to someplace else. I like making pictures of tour groups in The French Quarter as I am passing by. They are so busy learning misinformation that they don’t notice me as I take picture after picture. One of these days I’m going to ask them to jump up and down and dance in the street. You’ll know if I do that. You’ll see it here.


Ruins in Hollygrove.
Ruins in Hollygrove.

Before I write anything more, a quick word of caution. If you are a Mac user, DO NOT download the latest their operating system called El Captain. It was bad from the original download. Now, two versions later, it’s worse. It’s slow. It doesn’t recognize other manufacturer’s software that I need to do my job, and it only took 27 hours to download. Yes. We have a very fast internet connection.

Now that, I’ve written that and gotten it off my chest…

I return to the scene of the crime — a past photographed location — every couple of months. I like to see the progress made in a particular neighborhood. This is a still unrepairedd house left over from Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters. It is located in a neighborhood called Hollygrove. You’ve been there with me in past stories. When I was there taking pictures, everything was fine. Three hours later it was a crime scene. A man was shot and killed there. I don’t know when the odds start turning against you, but it’s starting to feel that way. I’m very situationally aware –that’s the proper term for “I have good alarm bells in my head” — but life turns on a dime.

The picture. The actual image is pretty clean, but I added a ton of work to it in post production. The funny thing about this house is that it doesn’t look like a New Orleans house. It must have been a fine home pre-storm.