Wildman in an artistic mode.

It happened again.

I got a little bored last night so I started playing with another human being in post production. This time, it was a Mardi Gras Indian Wildman who I photographed on the Westbank for their Super Sunday.

As I recall, it was a busy Sunday. There were two second lines on the eastern side of the Mississippi River. One was Uptown, the other downtown. There was also the big Westbank Super Sunday.

The picture is a couple of years old. At least, the base picture of the Wildman is that old. In those days I had more energy. I photographed both second lines and drove across the Crescent City Connection and found the parade route at just about the right moment.

Finding anything on the Westbank is a big deal for me. I get lost the moment I cross the river. And yet, there is a wonderful New Orleans neighborhood called Algiers Point that I just love visiting. It looks like Uptown New Orleans, but it isn’t. There is also a great Asian grocery store called Hong Kong. I’ve been there many times. I count my blessings if it doesn’t take me more than fifteen minutes to find after I’ve gotten lost and driven around in circles.

Anyway.

The picture.  The base image is the Wildman — the guy with the giant bones and skull in his hair.– who protects the Big Chief. The rest of the pictures that make up the background are images that I’ve made along the way.

Pro tip number one. Never delete anything. You just never know. There are backgrounds hiding in your archives. Besides you can study the out takes to learn something about your mistakes.

Pro tip number two. Make sure whatever background image you choose stays in the background. With most editing software, you can move the second image forward and back.

Once you positioned the two or more images, then go back into the editing software to smooth out the look and finish the image.

I have no idea how long it will take you. But, you shouldn’t rush it, While downloading, backing up, adding meta data and developing images can be a chore, this process should be fun.

As I once wrote, I gave up video games to learn how to do this. This had better be fun.


Dressed for Super Sunday.

Working.

We all have to make a living. Somehow. I’ve seen her before. I saw her on Sunday. Super Sunday. She’s really a sweetheart. Check her out. She may be working. But, she’s dressed for the day.

I never mask. Maybe I should. She’s inspired me. After all, there are all sorts of Mardi Gras themed inexpensive clothes at Wal-Mart. You know. The place that you go to buy things for walls. Ah ha.

The picture. It’s a great example of what I do. A kind of photography that I find to be very fulfilling. I go to an event. I use that as a spring-board for something else.

Like making an environmental portrait of somebody not directly a part of the day. This picture is also an example of not getting yourself so focused on one thing. Keep your head in the game. Photograph what you see. Don’t self edit in the field. Just keep looking and seeing. You’ll have plenty of time to edit at home, after the fact.

It’s Friday. I’m glad. This has been a long and strange week.


Queen Tahj.

Super Sunday.

All the pretty suits. All the pretty Indians.

I didn’t plan it this way, but today’s post is all about the next generation of Mardi Gras Indians.

The top picture may be the most important. Queen Tahj is a senior at Tulane University. She is truly becoming the leader of her tribe, while paying the utmost respect to her Big Chief. She is starting to change the look and feel of Indian suits. Her’s are lighter. Easier to walk miles and miles. This suit pays homage to the women in her family, especially her grandmother. She is so popular that when the time is right, she could possibly become the chief of chiefs. At a young age. And, assuming her career doesn’t take her away from New Orleans.

The rest. Wow! So many young Black Masking Indians. Most are unofficial, but their interest is already there. The little girl playing the tambourine in two pictures is so sophisticated at about 5 years old that she asked to see my camera’s LCD monitor to see how she looked. Figures. Her dad is a big chief.

You know the rest about the pictures. F/5.6. Be there and shoot.

Me? I’m better. What I believed was something terrible, was a relapse of a cold that I thought I’d defeated. I’m far better today. Tonight is St. Joseph’s night. I’ll go out again. And, probably get sick again. Oh well. Life is short.

Smiling portrait.
Coming to the main parade.


Mardi Gras Indian suit detail.

On Super Sunday.

I told a friend of mine that I was toast from chasing Indians around Central City. That’s not true. It’s worse. I’m toast because I’m really sick. So, I’m later than usual. Much later.

I did manage to download, back up and edit everything. But, I am not ready to finish many pictures.

I selected an image that likely most of you won’t see, even with my work. An extremely close detail of the labor intensive work that goes into making a suit. Everything you see in the picture is done by hand. Each bead is strung and sewed by hand. The velvet is hand sewn. As were the feathers.

That’s why each new suit takes about a year to make. For sure an indian takes a break from time to time. Life gets in the way. But, this is an almost daily labor. A labor of love.

Because.

For the most part, after all this work is done and the suit is debuted on Mardi Gras Day or Super Sunday, last years suit is destroyed. A few are preserved through various museums, a few indians have large enough spaces to save them. But, most suits are either burned or cut to shreds and tossed in a dumpster.

It’s hard to imagine that art like this is worthless. But, it is. Even if a suit can be sold, it’s likely the return will be much less than the investment.

What can I say?

Unless you are at the top of the art ladder, it’s hard to make money doing whatever your art may happen to be. The photography world has been decimated by “everybody is a photographer.” I get that. I don’t agree with it. But, I get that.

But, not everybody can sew like this.


Sitting, think and waiting.

Yes. It’s a long story.

The picture seems fairly simple. These two guys are waiting for Big Chief John to dress and make his appearance. That part is simple enough.

But.

Oh, you knew this was coming.

The Original Wild Tchoupitoulas were getting dressed next door. In a private home. One that was rock solid. The building next door had been falling down for years. But, gentrification is coming to Central City. It was being restored. I said to somebody at the time that now it looked like it was ready to fall down.

I was right. It did.

It fell down. The next day. On Monday. It completely collapsed, trapping three workers, and onto Washington Avenue, closing it in both directions until the debris could be cleared.

I’m trying to figure out a couple of things. It’s one of those chicken and egg things. The building was abandoned for years. For years, we sat on the stoop waiting for Second Sunday activities to start. Drummers played their drums on the porch. Brass bands practiced there. It was solid. Now with new construction and the shoring up of the foundation, the building became fragile. We all did the things that we usually did. It fell down.

Did we cause it to fall down? Was it the new construction? Was it simply the fact that it sat abandoned for so many years?  I don’t know. It’s probably our faults. Luckily, the workers who were trapped were not injured. And, the building didn’t block traffic during rush hour.

The picture. It was one those extra pictures I made during the main event. I just liked the position of the two men. I did a lot to it in post production, including adding that frame. I’m not sure if it helps or hurts.


Big Chief John.

Big Chief John.

Of The Original Wild Tchoupitoulas Tribe.

I’ve been knowing him for at least six years. He was a Wildman then. His queen taught me how to present myself to a tribe who didn’t know me. And, how to behave when I work around suited indians. I see a lot of disrespect from some photographers when they get too excited to think about what they are doing.

I’ve pretty much documented his suits since then. For me, this is his prettiest suit yet. It’d bold and powerful. As we say, “Pretty, pretty.”

I had great plans of posting a nice little portfolio of work today. But, work and other stuff piled up to the point where I have no idea when I’ll get done. So, more cherry picking. I guess it’s better to be busy than bored.

Thank you, both here and on other social media, for your kind comments about my work these past few days. It matters. Even if I forget to say that.

 

 


In black and white.

Slowly.

Ever so slowly. Because, I’m still recovering from a long and gruelling weekend.

The story so far. I’ve managed to download, backup and curate the images from four events. But, I seem to run out of steam early in the afternoon. So I cherry pick for you. At other times I sleep. I did way too much of that yesterday. I have a couple of big projects that need doing. They are going to need doing for the rest of the week.

Of course, my images must come first. So, today I think it’s this work. Walking the dogs. And, hitting the gym. That may not sound like much. But developing and fine tuning this work is very time-consuming. At least ten hours. Dog walks take about an hour and there are at least two. The gym also takes about an hour. Obviously, I won’t complete the photo work today.

That said, here’s my Super Sunday picture for today. I like it because of the black and white, highlighted by the touches of red. I think this guy is a Wildman. But, he turned away from me so quickly and got lost in the crowd that I couldn’t talk to him. Or, he could be repping something else. He comes very close to being masked as a skull and bones member. That’s sort of a violation of street code. Know who you photograph. Since Storyteller is distributed to Facebook and Twitter, maybe somebody will jump in and tell me. Please.

Anyway.

I’m sort of struggling with next steps. A lot of you here and on Facebook really liked my Sunday art work. I think that’s my direction forward. But, I’m a photojournalist at heart. And, the crosses at sunset seemed to confirm that with a lot of you. What do y’all think?

Trust me. I do listen. Tim suggested that I photograph the funeral first and I did. He helped me gain clarity. Sometimes, you just need to listen to somebody outside of your family.


Listening to her Big Chief sing.

You could say that I’m confused.

I have three fairly important shoots to show you. Where do I start? How do I start? I did the easiest thing. I cherry picked for today. I haven’t had time to curate, let alone develop, and finish the images that I made this weekend. I just picked a picture that I like to show you.

Call it a teaser.

This is mostly what you could call a street portrait. But, it’s more. She’s listening to her big chief sing. She was standing on a short stage with Big Chief John and a couple of others. I was working slightly below her. Pictures made at this angle often have a majestic look to them. This one certainly does.

So.

There will be lots more pictures coming this week. I’m pretty sure I’ll run into next week when Easter Sunday images will be current. There are the big French Quarter parades and an Easter second line way, way Uptown.

At least I have a schedule. Of sorts. It’s funny. I’m trying to move towards the more artistic work like I published yesterday. Cultural events seem to be getting in the way. I suppose that’s good. Depending on how you look at it.

Oh. I have yet to experiment with culture and turn it into art. Somehow that seems sacrilegious.


A little experiment.

Tinkering.

Sometimes it’s best to just do whatever it is that you do. So, I did it. I try to do something photographic every day. Sometimes, I don’t actually make a new picture. Sometimes, I so some experimental post production. Sometimes, I read about photography. Sometimes, I continue the never-ending work of archive organization.

I’ve done a little of everything in the last few days. I’m mostly staying home and working on stuff. I started this picture last night. I finished it this morning. The two-day workflow wasn’t because what I was doing was hard. It was mostly because I wanted to let the first bit of post production sort of marinate overnight. I didn’t really think about it. It just sort of wandered around my brain.

And, this came out.

Along with a very weird dream. About a smudge pot. The house in which I grew up. And, my dad ignoring the smoke pouring out of the house and mowing the lawn. Don’t even try. It’s beyond explanation.

Anyway.

This is a portrait of a Mardi Gras Indian, or a Black Masking Indian, depending on your point of view. I made it last Super Sunday. In Central City. The picture started out in color. It was a pretty good picture.

Could I leave well enough alone?

Oh no.

I just had to mess with it. In terms of software, it’s a combination of things. Stackable. Snapseed. And, Efex Pro. That may have been overkill. Sometimes, the process of one steps all over another one.

Oh. I’m reading a book at the same time. It’s called “Gene Smith’s Darkroom Sink.” It’s one of a series of research books on the life of the legendary photojournalist, Eugene Smith. It’s a mix of photography and music. That’s a story in itself. And, it’s about Smith’s loft on the 6th Avenue in New York where the who’s who of jazz musicians gathered in the late 1950s and early 60s.

Luckily, the author doesn’t take himself too seriously. He wrote at one point, that it was a good thing Smith had a career because it gave him (the author) something to do for the last twenty years.

There you have it.