As you know, I’ve struggling with ways forward. It’s not that I’ve lost my motivation. It’s more along the lines of how do I progress? I’ve been poking around in my archives for about a month. I’ve pretty much photographed everything that interests me in New Orleans about four or five times.
It’s why I didn’t work very hard last Mardi Gras. It’s why I barely went second lining during the 2018 – 2019 season. It’s why I haven’t been roaming around photographing the Quarter. It’s why I haven’t been chasing the things that a great sunset lights up. Then, there’s the traveling for my other side.
I can also say that it’s the middle of a Southeastern Louisiana summer, which lasts from early May until mid-October. It’s hot. I don’t like being in the heat. I can also say that I don’t trust my hip and back.
Truth be told, I’ve acclimated to the heat. Walking dogs will do that. My physical issues have somewhat settled down. I still have no idea why on one day I feel pretty good. And, the next day I feel like I’m 125 years old. But, I know how to manage it. I’m not fast anymore, but I’m a long time veteran of photography. You know what they say. “Young fox, old fox. Old fox always wins.”
Before you tell me that photography isn’t a competition, it is. With myself. I don’t care what the other guy does, but I have to make a picture that progresses beyond the last one, even if it’s only by a teeny tiny bit.
That’s what I ruminating about.
That, and what do I really photograph as the 2019 – 2020 second line starts in a couple of weeks? What do I photograph as Carnival Season starts? Do I just say that I’m done with that stuff. Or, do I figure out some other approach? What would that be?
The big wind down. I made these pictures on Lundi Gras. Today is Mardi Gras. I’ll go out in a bit. I decided not to really chase anything. I’ll go to a place. I’ll let the pictures come to me. As someone just said to me, “Aren’t you getting a little bit old to be doing this shit?”
Of course, she is right.
Forget the aches and pains that come with my back and hip issues, instead think of it this way. If I were playing major league sports, my retirement would come around 40 years old or so. Add twenty-plus years to that, and that’s me. While we aren’t intentionally knocking each other around on the streets, working the way we do is like being in some kind of football — no, make that rugby — scrum.
It didn’t help that I awoke in a terrible mood. A friend of mine passed. She was responsible from moving my creative thinking from photojournalism to whatever it is that I do today. She was a visual thinker/creative/agent. She found my first big assignment. For Delta Airlines. And, then for Bord Failte (Ireland’s Tourism Group) That was years ago. She was 59 years old. Cancer killed her.
So here I am playing Irish rock n’ roll. The Waterboys to be exact. A band that she turned me on to in maybe 1990. Letting memories wash over me. Yeah. I know what I always say. ‘The work is the prayer.” I just don’t feel like doing any damn work right now. Besides being tired from two weeks of pounding the streets, bouncing off of people, getting coughed and sneezed on, being pushed and shoved and getting rained on, I’m just not in the mood for it right now.
But, it’s Mardi Gras Day. To some it’s a spiritual day. To others, it’s one big drunken brawl fighting for beads and trinkets. For me, I’m just glad it’s coming to an end.
I could use my late friend about now. I need a shove. And, a push. In another direction.
Bananas. The whole thing is bananas.
Another day in New Orleans.
One way to get the drum there.
The pictures. One of you — Kim of Glover Gardens — asked some questions about my working methods. It’s buried in the comments section of a couple of day old post. I thought I would share the conversation with you where you could easily find it.
She wanted to know what I carried on the street. Do I work from a camera bag? What lenses I use when I’m making pictures like these?
As usual, it depends. It depends on my intent. But, my basic philosophy of working on the streets or taking travel pictures is simple. Getting lighter is righter. If I were just wandering around making travel pictures, I would use one camera body and one lens. Usually that would by my 18-105mm short zoom. If I wanted to get really small, I’d used a 24mm. My camera would be one of Sony’s small mirrorless cameras, like anything in the a 6000 series. Assuming that I actually make it out the door, that’s how I’ll work today.
I’m not trying to be a gunslinger. I’m just observing.
Hold on though.
That isn’t how I photographed all of these parades. I added another camera body. A matching body. This one has a 10-18 mm attached to it. I had a full range of 10-105 mm, which on an APC sensor is like using a 15-157 mm set of lenses. That gives me all the reach that I need since I like to work close.
I stuff extra SD cards, batteries, filters and a lens cleaning cloth into my pockets. Carrying a fully loaded camera bag was what destroyed my hip and helped to create the osteoarthritis that lives in my vertebrae. I don’t change lenses on the scene because you can introduce bad things into your camera body and rear lens element. Dust, dirt, water droplets.
No. I don’t use photographer’s vests. To me, they scream out “Hey, I’m a photographer. Rob me.” With the smaller camera bodies that I use, I can sort of tuck them against one side of my body and most people don’t see them.
Depending on the neighborhood, they can be made of brick, cobblestone, very old cement or even slate. They are usually pretty broken up. Tree roots grow up through them. The heat cracks them. They fall apart after years of use.
We are an old city.
I found this one while I was waiting for a friend of mine to close his gallery. He had a last-minute customer so I spent the time wandering around his neighborhood in The Bywater.
The Bywater is an old industrial, blue-collar neighborhood. Once, it was the place where coffee and South American fruits were offloaded from ships and processed. In those days, most of the people who lived and worked there called it by its real name. The 9th Ward. The Bywater name came later, apparently it was named after an old telephone exchange that was used in the neighborhood.
But times have changed.
There is very little industrial work of any kind going on there. After many years of decline, the neighborhood has come back as sort of a hipster, artist enclave. Houses that once sold for $15,000 now sell for $450,000. There must be 15 coffeehouses in a one mile square neighborhood. And restaurants? Sheesh. I can’t count them. They come and go very quickly. There are a few old standbys. Jack Dempsey’s comes to mind. It is named after a crime reporter. Not the boxer.
As NOLA sidewalks go, this one isn’t bad. Sure, it’s brick and looks perilous. But, it’s pretty well maintained. Of course, with our past few days of deep freeze, those leaves likely got very slippery. Down here, we really aren’t prepared for frozen or slippery.
The picture. I saw it. I made it. I actually worked the scene a little because the light was so pretty. This image is the result of getting down. To the ground. Actually, these kinds of pictures are much easier to make with new modern articulated LCDs. Just put the camera close to the ground and tilt the monitor up so you can see it from above. You have to be careful when you do that. You can accidentally stick a lot of unfocused foreground about half way up the frame.
Something a little more grungy. A little more urban. A little more made by hand.
Some people think graffiti is some kind of blemish. A kind of destruction. An attack on civilized society. Others think it is a kind of street art. I fall into the latter category. Sometimes. Some of this is just tagging for tagging’s sake. Leaving a mark.
It gets controversial when an artist like Banksy came to town a few years after Hurricane Katrina. He tagged 18 buildings. Almost immediately, 17 of his works was painted over in gray, by a guy who took it upon himself to cover all graffiti with gray paint. The remaining one was removed along with the wall on which it was painted. The owner of the building did that. He also had it restored a bit, and it is now on display as part of another show. I think it just opened.
I made these four pictures in The Bywater. I also turned the graffiti into my own art by cropping in camera and then bringing out the color in post production. On the other hand, if I actually knew who did the original tagging, I would love to credit them too. Unfortunately, unless you know the taggers’ work by name, secrecy is kind of the whole point.
Serve Somebody. That’s from an old Dylan song. I’m listening to the live version which was just released. Recorded in 1979. Released in 2017. It’s a long story. Let’s just say it was made during his “Born Again” period. A lot of people didn’t take him seriously. But, he was at his live musical peak. His voice was in great shape. His stage presence was amazing. He played Christian rock before it was a thing.
The picture was made on that day in The Bywater. Just like yesterday’s post. In fact, it was made about three minutes later. That should give you an idea of how I work the scene. When I’m on the scene. And, it isn’t moving. Like a second line. All I can say about this picture is find the pay phone. Heh!
The image works on almost pure color. Even before I tinkered with it, the thing that caught my eye is the contrast between the red car and the blue door. I made a couple of pictures without the car. Doesn’t come close. The picture needs the car. It needs the clutter of the stop scene.
Boy, I get so confused. The reaction on other social media to yesterday’s post — the one that focused on the pay phone and the building behind it — was wonderful. People who I respect as knowing something about art really like it. Thank you very much.
I never saw that image as being very good. So, either I’ve managed to get so good that I just burp out good pictures and don’t know it, which is as likely as me living to 300 years. Or, I have no idea what I’m doing and just get lucky sometimes. That’s more like it.
I’ve been thinking about it some. That’s always a bad idea. I think it harkens back to my photojournalism days. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you kind of know what I mean. All those black and white pictures really make me smile. They are of people. They are of the places in which those people live. They are comfortable to me.
This new work — all of it — is experimental. I have no idea if it matters. To me. Or, to anybody else. It isn’t very comfortable. I suppose that’s okay. It’s in that little zone where growth comes. Based on comments going back to may layer experiments of a few months ago, you like them. And, that matters. Some people say to do whatever you want without any concern about what others think.
That title? Serve Somebody. We all gotta serve somebody.
I actually went out looking for pictures. Admittedly, I had some errands to run near The Bywater. I used that to get me out and about. Away from the usual. Once upon a time, places like this used to be the usual. For me. Maybe, it’ll come back to me.
The picture. An abandoned pay phone and part of the building behind it. I made a normal picture. With a real camera. Then I did my tinkering and playing. On big boy software. On a big machine. This is the result.
Anyway, I was going to drop off some framed art for a juried show.
This juried show. I suppose for the next year, we are going to be all things Fats Domino. Not a bad thing to be. I just signed a petition to change Lee Circle — now that the statue of Robert I Lee is gone — into Domino Circle. Let’s see what happens.
Even though we were trying to cover a lot of ground fairly quickly, I slowed things down when we got to one of my intended destinations. My colleagues looked around and talked to the bartender. I made pictures of whatever I saw. Inside and out.
It really was just that simple.
Talk to people. Make pictures.
That po’boy sign always draws my attention. It’s been there, in that state, for at least the 19 years that I’ve been in New Orleans. It’s a sort of a landmark. It’s weathered all manner of storms, including Hurricane Katrina.
The bar has survived too. Unlike a couple of bars in the French Quarter, it closes during hurricanes. No matter what, it re-opens. The regulars come back. All is good.
While I was making my Easter picture selections, the choice came down to the yesterday’s picture and this one. Two things put this one in a sort of second place. First, you’ve seen it in the past if you’ve been hanging out on Storyteller for a long while. Or, a version of it. Second, I’m not sure how much it has to do with Easter.
The main subject is a statue of Father Peter Thevis, who came to New Orleans during a yellow fever epidemic in 1867. He prayed to St. Roch for delivery of his parish from the illness. In exchange, he built a cemetery, shrine and this chapel. That’s a very short history. I can post more about that if you’d like.
Today, there is a neighborhood that bears the name of St. Roch, which is really located in The Bywater, which is located in the 9th Ward. Yeah. It gets confusing around this place. Sometimes.
The picture. This is actually a digital image. Then I went to work on it. Again. And, again. And, again. This is the result. There are a couple of other versions that I like a little bit. But, they didn’t quite of the energy of this one.
The dumpster is made out of iron. See what I did there? But, not that. Tagging a dumpster just seems so ironic. In the usual sense.
Nice branding for the trash collection company, eh? That’s Sidney Torres IV. It has nothing to do with internet waste. Although there seems to be plenty of that. Mr. Torres owns and develops a lot of stuff and property in New Orleans. He’s a young guy. He helped out in the French Quarter by providing private policing who cruised around in mat black, tricked out golf carts. He’s developing a lot of property in Mid City. He calls out the mayor regularly and thinks he wants to replace him. All good, except… He owns a house behind a music club. He bought the house a couple of years ago. The club has been there since the 1920s. He turned NIMBY. (Not in my backyard) and want noise abatement rules instituted.
You can see where this is going.
Anyway. I made this picture on the way to a second line, This is an example of tagging that I don’t think is art. Since a number of you have started blogging about graffiti and street art, I’ll just add this picture the to conversation. Yes. The dumpsters do have a pretty nice, contemporary bit of typography on them.