Where else do you see a musician walking on city streets carrying his instrument? A drum and a cymbal. This is about as New Orleans as it comes. It happens all over the city. This picture could only get better if he was carrying a horn. A trumpet or a trombone.
This picture was made on both of our ways to someplace else during the Super Sunday events.
There is one more New Orleans thing to this picture. I would never make fun of anybody. But, it speaks to the city as being one of the most unhealthy cities in the country. We drink too much. (I don’t drink.) We eat too much. We eat too much of the wrong things.
For instance, for Catholics, it is the Lenten Season. A lot of fish is eaten everywhere in the city. It’s not broiled, or poached or boiled. (For crawfish.)
It is deep-fried. Along with everything else on the plate. A typical meal might include deep-fried shrimp, deep-fried catfish, french fries and hush puppies. You could eat that every day of Lent. Forty days, forty pounds.
I’m not a deep-fried eater. Nobody in this house is. The most we usually eat is fried chicken. We may eat that every six months or so. Sure it is good, but we’d like to live a little healthier lives.
The picture. When I say on our ways to some place else, I mean on Super Sunday. Often locals take side streets when we can, rather than fight the crowds. I saw him coming. I stopped and started following him with my camera. You can see the progression in my RAW files. As he got closer I smiled and said, “Carrying musical instruments in the street is sort of a New Orleans thing.” He laughed. We talked for a minute and that was that. F 5.6 and be there.
That’s my biggest change. A change in my personal viewpoint. It took my Storyteller break to help me see the difference. It took those days to help me understand that I’d better stop reading so much bad news. More importantly, I stopped reading viewers comments at news websites. Both sides are nuts. I’m not on either side. Most people seem siloed. The more you try to change them, the deeper they dig. They angrier they get. I’m not angry.
Who needs that?
Even though I don’t make New Year resolutions, I did kind of did make one. By all accounts 2018 was a disaster. It left everybody unhappy, depressed, out of sorts. Me too. A lot of that was well beyond my control. You know what I’m talking about. Some of it is within my grasp, yet I didn’t do much to fix it.
That can’t go on.
For me, personally, if I live my life feeling negatively I don’t get much done.
Let’s just use Storyteller as an example. I started worrying about my yearly numbers. Don’t do that. It starts a cycle of posting for one reason only. Reader views and likes. Those numbers add up to nothing. Instead of doing that, post your truth. Post your best picture whether or not you think it will be well received. Post your best story. Let it fly.
Stop overtly selling.
There are a couple of bloggers that I’ve just stopped reading. They wrote a book. In an effort to drive people to the book, they stopped telling their stories. Everything is sell, sell, sell. Lead me to your work. Don’t shove it down my throat. That’s sort of a rule among more sophisticated sales people.
Besides. Probably 20% of the emails I receive want to sell me something. Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram have become never-ending sales tools. Don’t drown me in it. My reaction is to never buy anything. We both lose. You don’t make a sale. And, I don’t know what I missed.
I’m not leaving social media unless personal security becomes a bigger issue than it already has. I want everybody to see my work. But, I’m not going to convince you to buy it. I’m not going to share most news events and I’m not going to get in what used to be called a flame contest. There’s no need.
I’d rather post about art. In all of its forms. That’s what I understand best. That’s what I like.
That said, this picture. I made it at a second line. The tuba, or sousaphone if you want to split hairs, was resting. It was waiting to be played on a long walk through Central City. I saw it. I photographed it.
You can look at the picture in one of two ways.
The instrument is busted up. The sidewalk behind it is busted it up. My city is busted up.
Or, it’s well-worn and repaired from playing a lot of music. The sidewalk is torn up because the city is 300 years old and that’s why a lot of us live here.
Yeah, sure. There is plenty to repair. The streets are potholed. The water pipes and pumping stations break down. Power fails.
Yet, one yearly statistic made me smile. The murder rate was lowest that it’s been in 50 years. That’s a start. A pretty big start. Hang on to that and build. Build a little more. And, keep building.
A little housekeeping. The new website/blog is about ready. I’m a little afraid to push the button. There are a couple of reasons for this. They all center around the unknown.
I have no idea what Facebook and Twitter will see through my distribution channels. I have no idea whether I can build portfolio pages from which pictures are sold or licensed. I have no idea about static background pages that are not the main page. And, I don’t know if I can post multiple pictures in one post. There is no going back once I push the button. I can’t know those things until I do that.
I suppose that I should jump and fix things on the fly. Nobody will die if I get parts of it wrong.
Not only in New Orleans, but everywhere. It’s a huge thing. It came back. Especially in urban places. Biking is a much more efficient way of getting around the normal ground transportation. It’s better for the planet. It’s better for the city. And, most importantly, it’s better for the bike rider.
Look at the bottom picture. That’s a ghost bike. Do I need to write more? Just in case. A ghost bike is a memorial to a biker rider who was killed in traffic. Get that? Killed. In a stupid way.
This is where a kind of rant starts.
Be careful. On the street. Take nothing for granted.
A few weeks ago, a bike rider passed me going with traffic in the other direction. That was fine. But, then he passed me agin. Right next to my driver’s side door. He apparently made a u-turn, rode up next to my car, cut in front of my car and kept going in the other direction. In rush hour traffic.
I saw another biker make a sharp left turn in from of a big semi-truck because the truck had to swing out to the right to make the left turn. Wide load, you know? The biker made his turn just to the left of the truck. The truck driver could have hit him and never have even seen him. This is at an intersection were a couple of riders had already been killed.
Bikers want bike lanes and drivers to pay attention to them. I’m with that. I certainly don’t want to hurt anybody. But, some bike lanes are truly impractical on our very old narrow streets which were designed for horse and buggies or Model-Ts. Most bikers will say that drivers should pay attention to them. I get that. I do. But, a car is much heavier than you and your bike. Look after yourself. Don’t do stupid things.
More to the point, bikers must (not should) follow normal traffic rules. The two events that I described could never have been done in a car. Maybe not even on a motorcycle. If those two riders had been killed or even hurt, I’m pretty sure it would have been their own faults.
Who cares about blame? Dead is dead. Unless something has changed that I don’t know about, you can’t come back from it.
So, that’s it.
I suppose this falls into the category of taking care of, and looking after each other. An ongoing subject on Storyteller. At least this time, we can work on this a little more easily. It was brought on by an old colleague’s post on Facebook who said that he got his first ticket for not stopping his bike at a stop sign or red light. He’s in his forties. He has a family.
The funny thing about beads is that they really have no value. Yet, we fight for them when a parade rolls by. People will do weird things for them. You’ve heard the stories I’m sure. Other people will wander around French Quarter streets wearing about ten pounds of beads on their shoulders and necks as some kind of badge of honor. You can even buy them in souvenir shops for about three dollars a bead. That’s local talk for a strand of beads. Beads and other “throws” cost each float krewe member about $1,500 – $2,000 to toss them into the crowd. That’s pretty expensive when you think about it. There might be twenty people on a float. I’m sure that you can do the math. That doesn’t include the krewe membership dues, side events, masking and so on.
The value drops the minute Mardi Gras comes to an end. That’s not entirely true. Most of the beads you see are made in China. They are cheap. There are also old-fashioned glass beads that are usually made in the Czech Republic. Those are keepers. You don’t see many of those anymore.
There are some rules to this bead-catching thing too. Catch them in flight. Never pick them up off the ground unless they are really special. Never grab beads from a child. Never fight over them. Whoever caught them first keeps them even if you caught them at about the same time. I do one more thing. Since I work close, a lot of beads almost just fall into my hands. We can go catch our own beads when I’m not working. So, if there is a child behind me, I just give the beads to the child.
Beads end up discarded in the streets. Stored in boxes in the attic or an almost unused closet. Normally, we recycle them by giving them to an organization for learning disabled children. They untangle them, sort them out and resell them. Some time last year we used a big box of beads as the base to patch a pothole that was causing big problems for us near our driveway. Just pour them into the pothole, tamp them down with a shovel and pour some asphalt-like looking stuff over the beads that we bought at Home Depot. Tamp that down. And, you have a pothole patch that looks as good at the city’s pothole-killer machine’s work. The city says that’s illegal. Trying getting some NOPD officer to enforce that. They get tired of having their teeth rattled as they bounce over our never-ending potholes.
There are beads just about everywhere in the city. In every neighborhood. Not just the places where a parade passed by. All year round. You see them hanging for power lines. From streetcar lines. On fences. On trees. On bushes. You see them faded into a kind of metallic gray. You see them crushed into the pavement.
It’s a year round thing.
The big Uptown parades start tonight. Wish me luck.
That’s how long the Young Men’s Olympian Junior Benevolent Association, Inc. has been organized. Can you imagine that? They began in 1884. My grandmother was born the same year. She’s not here anymore. They are. Not the original members. But their ethos, their culture and their traditions are. That’s been passed on from generation to generation. That is so important.
I believe I told you what social aid clubs were established to do. They looked after their neighborhoods, their members and their families. They helped with groceries when money was low. They looked after their sick. They buried their dead.
Today, one of the most important things they do is to teach young men how to be. They teach honor. Integrity. Generosity. Kindness.
Oh yeah. They teach them how to dance. To mourn properly. To celebrate life.
That’s really what this second line was about. The route changed slightly. But, when they walked past Lafayette Cemetery No. 2, they stopped. The band played a dirge. The members walked slowly and reverently. That’s where their dead are buried. After they passed the cemetery, the dirge was replaced with a celebratory song and the dancing resumed. Like a jazz funeral.
The pictures. They are pretty simple. Young men dancing. Elderly men dancing. Somebody to play music in between. Sort of a direct line from one to the other. In reverse. Or not.
Despite my discussion of using photo manipulation to make the picture that you intended, this is just pure photojournalism. Street photography.
Sure. I cleaned up the pictures. The color is balanced. Contrast too. But, not much more. These pictures stand on their own. They have to. One more thing. Black and white clothes in high noon light is a nightmare in which to work. If you look closely, you’ll see that I took these pictures in a little shade. Makes a big, huge difference. Work smart, they told me.
One more thing. This is where I started. When we returned after our storm driven exile in the desert, this is the first second line I photographed.
I’m getting to the place where I’m getting very low on pictures that I want to show you. That’s not to say that I haven’t been working. But, I’m shooting pictures for all those book projects. Standing alone they don’t always make sense. They need to be hung together in some kind of story form.
It’s spring. Time for a little spring cleaning.
I realized that I’d never shown you these pictures, so here we go. Dancing Part Two.
While I was trying to upload them to Storyteller, WordPress said. “Nope. Storage too full.” I was expecting that, so I went into my files and cleaned out the extra stuff. Boy… let me tell you. I started this blog on eBlogger, many years ago. When I transferred the published pages it appears I transferred everything including pictures that were just saved via Google. Some that were never intended to see the light of day. That made my housekeeping easier. I also removed huge files, which was my way of doing things early on. I also removed anything that was remotely duplicated.
Why am I telling you all of this?
I suppose I’m really addressing the photographers among you. WordPress gives us a pretty good amount of free storage. No complaints there. But, learn from me. I didn’t really make any mistakes. Blogging is really just a process. You learn as you go. The biggest take away is to Just keep your stored files cleaned up and up to date. You know. Relevant.
I’m still trying to decide if I should delete just about all the picture files from WordPress. Every image is stored twice on various hard drives and in clouds — actually six times total. Twice as a RAW file. Twice as working TIFF. Twice as a finished TIFF. I don’t save jpegs made for Storyteller except on WordPress servers. They are generally too small do much with.
They are a nice record of the blog. But, the blog itself is that. The pictures will live on in the published pages.
Whaddy’all think? Should I clean out all the back files? Or, should I just leave them until the next time I need more room?
Wow! Spell check truly hates the word I just made up. “Whaddy’all.”
Sort of a quiet Tuesday. There is a lot of work to do today. I probably should just get on with it. Keeping up on various social media sites takes a lot of time. Probably too much time for the return.
The pictures were made at the Black Men of Labor second line. The top image is sort of an experiment in framing. I’ve been playing with this a lot. The main subject — the sharpest man — is pushed way to the right, leaving the background out of focus, but containing a lot of information. This picture might be caught in the middle. The focus might really should have been on the man’s sleeve where there is a stylized musical note.
There was one really odd thing about this parade, aside from being walked on a Saturday. There was a very fast loss of general energy. Normally, these guys are dancing and bopping around from stop to stop. They started with a little dance, but within maybe 100 yards of the starting point the parade sort of slowed down and the energy drifted away. Or… maybe it was my energy. Could have been. I feed off of the paraders.
I had a clever title for this post all ready to go. “Scenes from the Seventh.” Except, I learned the other day that the St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery and the streets I passed through were not located in the 7th Ward. They are located in the 9th Ward. That’s where I took these pictures. The 9th Ward. Not, the 7th Ward. I’ll figure it out one of these days.
There are two things about this post.
One. No rants. Today. No rants. No fools. No fun. Figure that out.
Two. Although you might think I visited the inside of cemeteries again in order to make these pictures, I promise you that I didn’t. Even the angel in the clouds was made from the street. I made a point of staying outside the cemetery walls, even when I took a picture of the cemetery walls.
So. Let’s start with that. The cemetery walls.
Walls like these, usually made of brick, were erected to protect the graves, tombs and markers from creatures of the night. No. Not vampires. Worse. Knuckleheads with spray paint who think that they need to tag everything that doesn’t move. And, some stuff that does. The thing for you to also note, is our city streets. Look at how well they are maintained.
Nope. I still didn’t go in a cemetery. This is in some guy’s side yard. I wanted to show you some details so I worked as close as I could with a chain link fence separating me from the scene. The guy — at least, I think it is a guy — is taking no chances. Yes. Our Lady of Guadalupe is in the center. But, that tannish-brown thing at the bottom of the picture is the top of Buddha’s head. The read and blue mirrored bits are kind of Hindu and at the top, out of the picture, is an old 35mm camera. I didn’t know there is a camera god. Maybe I should start praying to him or her. Think about it for a minute. The camera god is the god of negativity. Negatives? Get it?
Nope. I still didn’t go in the cemetery. I promised you. And, I always keep my promises. Sometimes. Or not. That little square bit in the bottom right hand corner is part of the fence at the gate.
Things have a way of balancing themselves out. Nature seeks stasis. Human beings seek consistency. Safety. Happiness.
We use rituals, touchstones and routine to help us get there. We make stuff. We pile things up. We keep things neat and orderly… even though there is no reason to continue doing that.
This is what I saw on my latest drive through the hardest hit neighborhood in the Lower 9th Ward.
As usual. Captions are below the picture.
I found this little carne near Claiborne Avenue which is one of the main streets that pass through the Lower 9th Ward. It is the remains of pilings that were supposed to keep water from entering the building. If the building was old enough — I doubt that it was — it was also sort of a natural air conditioning. Somebody is still looking after it. For that person, it’s a memorial.
I promise that I didn’t pile these tires into this shape. All the open land and very few people make the Lower 9th Ward a natural dumping ground. In some ways, it mirrors the carne in the first picture. This was once a vibrant neighborhood. Aside from the street, it’s pretty much returned to its natural state.
Seeing mowed lawns among all the natural growth always makes my heart jump into my throat. They are a symbol of hope. Of pride. Of strength and resilience. This lawn was obviously mowed earlier this summer, but the grass is certainly shorter and better kept than the surrounding areas. I’m guessing somebody loved the house that once stood here.