Alvin Coco agin… at the second line for Leah Chase in Treme, in New Orleans.

A little clean up time.

Sometimes pictures don’t make the final cut. They are close enough. I thought I’d show you a few from two second lines that missed the first cut… a little bit. Single Ladies. And the jazz funeral for Chef Leah Chase. I thought I’d stack them up all in one big pile. Didn’t Doctor John say something like, in New Orleans nothin’ is separate from nothin’?

He’s pretty much right.

Next?

Maybe a Sunday second line. The Perfect Gentleman roll for Fathers Day. At 3pm. The very hottest part of the day. This was the parade that just about killed me a couple of years ago. The temperature was 114 degrees on the street. The parade was supposed to roll at 1pm. It was postponed for some reason. First, to 2pm. Then, 3pm.

I took refuge on a very deep stoop, with about a dozen other people. I tried to stay hydrated. When the parade was organizing itself, I was standing on that very hot street. I realized that my vision was getting blurry. I felt like things were moving around in waves.

Some kind of heat thing.

I bought more water, sat down in a little bit of shade. I rested for a while and gave up. I walked back to my car, turned the air conditioning on and drank more water. I went home.

That closed my second line season.

That won’t happen this year. It’s nowhere near as hot. In fact, for us, it’s downright pleasant. It’ll get a little hotter by Sunday. I won’t be bad. I, like all, the rest of us, know what to do.

Housekeeping.

I really do like this new format. Funny thing about it. I was struggling to add the details. Like buttons. Social media buttons. Translator. And, like that. I found out why I was having a hard time. It was already done. Apparently, the minute that I activated this template, everything started to migrate. It just took a little time.

If there is something that bothers you. Something that I could do better. Let me know. This is still a work in progress.

Oh. The title?

Something Bob Dylan said about his infamous “Rolling Thunder” tour. He said there weren’t enough masks. That caught my attention since New Orleans is all about masking. He added, that when a man wears a mask, he’ll tell truth. Without a mask, he likely won’t.

Now, that’s something.

 

Leah Chase was Catholic. That didn’t stop representatives of almost every religion coming out.

 

 

 

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Second lining to honor Chef.

We all came out.

Zulus. Chefs in their whites. Indians. Voodoo priestesses. Priests and ministers. Political leaders. And all the rest of us.

We walked. We talked to each other. There was a lot of kindness in the crowd. We came to celebrate a humble woman who believed the food could bring us all together. Who was far more than the queen of creole food.

Leah Chase.

I’ll leave the real writing to Ian McNulty of The Advocate.  https://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/entertainment_life/food_restaurants/article_3a7f93c4-8ba9-11e9-99da-6fbd07f978ac.html

I’ll let my pictures speak for themselves.

By kind. Be good to each other. Help your brothers and sisters when they need it.

 

From voodoo.


Chef Leah Chase.

Leah Chase.

The heart and soul of New Orleans changed last night. We were made a lesser place. Chef Leah Chase passed last night. She was 96 years old. She lived a life of service and good works. She believed that food could bring us together.

Although Ms. Leah was the grande dame of Creole cooking, she was so much more. She opened her restaurant, Dookie Chase, to both white and black people during the Jim Crow Era, when that wasn’t allowed. Illegal in some places.

Her restaurant was a base where the Freedom Riders could eat, rest and plan.

She put Barrack Obama is his place for adding hot sauce to her gumbo without tasting it first.

She collected African and folk art. She was steeped in jazz. I always looked for her blessing whenever somebody new came into my life. Going to see her and eat her food was for me — New Orleanians — like going to church. It was a spiritual experience.

She made everybody feel at home when they entered her restaurant. Yet, whenever I ate there I made sure I was dressed nicely, even in the summer’s heat when you normally find me in shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops.

I could go on and on.

I suspect that over the course of this week I will go on and on. It’s likely there will be unplanned second lines starting at Dookie Chase. There may even be God’s own jazz funeral. I’ve mostly retired from the street, but you know I’ll come out for all of whatever happens. If it doesn’t happen, that’s okay too. We’ll remember her in our own ways. We’ll tell Chef Leah stories. They will always be about goodness. About respect. About bringing people together. And, about the worth of working like a dog.

I, like most of New Orleans, will miss her. Her comforting clear eyed presence will be gone. She once said about rebuilding the city after Hurricane Katrina left us in tatters, “I suppose you should put on your pants and get to work.”

For those of you who want to know about the picture, I made it in 2002. On film. For a book project. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina flooded the city. My house had water, but it didn’t reach to the level of my film archives. No matter. With no air conditioning, mold grew everywhere including on the plastic base of film. I was determined to save this take. The book project take. The film was funky and smelly. Even the best scans couldn’t quite save it. The highlights blew out for no known reason. The film color changed as well. But, it’s the best I have. It’ll do.

When I made this picture Ms. Leah had just turned 80. I asked her what was next. She said that she would just keep cooking. At least until 85. She keep cooking until she was 96.

Rest in Heaven, Chef Leah.

You’ve earned it.


Portrait
Giant smile.

A portrait.

To be more specific, a street portrait. It’s hung around in my portfolio for a few years now. Depending on who is looking at my work, I often start with this picture. If this doesn’t catch your eye, I don’t know what will. If it’s printed, a 20 inch deep version of this picture stuns even the most jaded of viewers. Like me.

I hope you realize that last few weeks of pictures are from the past. Most of you have never seen them. A few of you might, if you’ve been here a while.

This picture was made during the jazz funeral of Uncle Lionel. His family name is Baptiste. He was kin to almost every musical Baptiste that came out of New Orleans. If you watch Late Night with Stephen Colbert, you know one of his family members. Bandleader and musician, Jon Baptiste. Yeah. He’s one of us.

Uncle Lionel’s funeral took forever. Nature didn’t want to let him go. It was rained out twice as I recall. The third time was a charm. It was for me too. I was energized. I was everywhere. I made about four or five portfolio pieces. I was beat afterwards. After all, July in New Orleans. 90 degrees with about 90% humidity. Staying hydrated was the key.

I’m not so sure that I could do it today. I could try. But, it would only be for somebody like him. We’ve had massive second lines after this one. Some were for David Bowie, for Prince. Like that. I get wanting to mourn and to celebrate. But, that’s not what I’m about. I’d rather photograph the culture. The things about New Orleans. The people who make the city what it is. Today.

Maybe tomorrow. If we are lucky.

Apparently, New Orleans has actually lost some population. This is the first time since Hurricane Katrina. There are a lot of theories about it. Some say it might be because of simple migration to Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard Parish. Taxes are lower. Services are better. Crime is less.

Another theory says that the folks who are the culture have been leaving because of gentrification. Where one building was divided into two or three apartments, now it is one house.

The final theory — at least among the ones that I heard — is that the gentrifiers themselves are leaving. It’s hard to live in New Orleans. It was made a little easier by Air BnB. But, now that they have been restricted, especially in The Bywater, the folks who moved here post-Katrina, are leaving.

I don’t know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, they brought  a lot of money to a city that needs it. Even if it was just for allied businesses. On the other, they are the leaders in killing the culture that brought them here in the first place.

It’s interesting to watch. This is my twentieth year here, with a break in New Mexico after the storm. I came here because I liked it. I never wanted to change anything.


The survivor.

New Orleans stories.

Some I have to dredge up from deep in my memory. Others not so much. This is one of the others.

I was walking down the street in Treme. I was headed to a second line. I didn’t know there was a second line that started earlier. A jazz funeral. As I passed by, I saw this man sitting on a box in front of what I assumed was his home. A couple of friends were standing with him and talking.

Look at this man. How could I not ask if I could make his picture? He said yes and I did my thing. Afterward, I asked if he was headed to the second line that I came to photograph. He shook his head and said no.

One of his friends told me something that sticks with me to this day. He said that this man had just finished playing in a second line. A jazz funeral. I asked, “who was it for?” His friend replied, “his brother.”

Looking at the picture now, I can see the pain in his eyes. But, it never occurred to me when I was photographing him, just as it never occurred to him to shake his head no, and say something like, “not today.”

It’s good portrait. It’s nothing earth-shaking, but it matters to me.


Always beads.

Time for a change.

I reckon that yesterday’s post about spring was a fairly good one. That’s a good way to go out.

No.

I’m not leaving. I’m just a little tired of photographing nature when I’m not even a nature photographer. I suppose it shows. Real nature photographers go places. Even if they stayed around here, they’d head out to the swamps, to the gulf, to the bayous that aren’t in the city.

Me?

I don’t even know the difference between most flowers. You know me. I describe flowers as a pink one, a yellow one, a blue flower. I make pictures on dog walks.

But, I am a fairly good street shooter being born and bred as a photojournalist. And, I don’t mean the kind of pictures that pass for street photography these days. You know the ones. Pictures taken from far across the street. Pictures taken of people from behind. Pictures taken of the street. All are fine if they are done for a reason.

But, most of the pictures I see on Facebook or Instagram are not done for a reason. They are made by people who are scared of other people. People who just “got” a camera and out the door they go. They declare their work to be street photography because they don’t know what else to call it. Or, themselves.

Why can’t they just say, “I’m a photographer and these are my pictures.”

I’ve just called myself a street photographer. Sort of. I wander the streets and photograph what I see. In my town. My city. If that makes me a street photographer, so be it. I don’t really care. I take pictures. For myself. For my clients. For my agencies. For you.

The pictures I make for myself are usually the ones I like best. That’s what you are going to see here. At least until the end of April. Maybe longer. Some will be “little” pictures like this one. Others will have a depth to them that makes them a “bigger” picture. We’ll see.

This picture. I started this little portfolio with beads on a fence because it says New Orleans. Even though most beads are thrown for Mardi Gras and a couple of other seasonal events like St. Patrick’s Day and so on, the beads don’t just disappear. They can’t. They are everywhere. These beads are fairly new. They haven’t faded yet, to the dull silvery-gray color that is the base of all plastic beads. With our extreme weather they will. I’m not sure how much experimenting I’ll do with this collection. As I said, these are more about photojournalism than not. The rules — well, my rules — say that you can’t do what I did with yesterday’s flower and call it street photography.

Anyway.

Enjoy the new collection of pictures.


Two trumpets, one musician.

This is a fine example.

An example of not letting pictures marinate long enough to see the good ones. The subtle ones. The slightly hidden ones.

As you know, I photographed the Dumaine Street Gang second line a week ago in Treme. I showed you a few pictures, moved into my comings and goings and thought I was done.

Oh no.

My final work flow is to run through the outtakes just in case I missed something. Then, I add  any further selected images to my archives.

This time?

Not so fast, buddy.

It appears that I missed five pictures. Five pictures that you might like. Five pictures that my more editorial agent might like. Five pictures that are just too many for me to miss. Miss one. Miss two. That’s okay. But, this was like I was culling with one eye closed.

Anyway.

Here they are. They are more graphic than documentary. That’s just fine. The top picture really caught my eye. Normally, you don’t see one musician playing two trumpets. You still don’t. Two trumpet players were facing each other. In the street.

The bottom picture is another one that made me wonder what I was doing all last week. I wanted to catch the mass of brass. Something like that needs a subject, like the man in the foreground happily playing away. It helps the building in the background is painted a light shade of purple.

In many ways, this is a weird set of pictures. Even though brass bands working the streets are a little chaotic, they generally face in one direction. You know, like a band walking down the street. These guys are all over the place. They are facing each other. They are off on the side. They are turned in every direction. I guess this is what happens when you crash a couple of bands with extras who normally don’t work together.

All brass. All light.

One more thing. A good thing. The dog who sees stuff is a full-blooded Cocker Spaniel. She came with an AKC registration. She’s also a rescue dog. The person who owned her passed away at 85 years of age. We scooped her up. She was never really trained well and often ate food near the table.

She’s smart as she could be. Training was easy. We make homemade food. Every dog loves it. But, she never had a bone. Ever. I felt terrible. Every dog should have a bone. I’ve tried in the past and she didn’t know what to do with it.

Tonight. We had really thick double cut pork chops. Nice, thick solid bones. I put one near her and walked away. Pretty soon she was tasting it with her tongue. Then she started it nibbling at it. Now she’s laying down happily chewing away at it.

Yipee.

Every dog should have a bone.


Through the crowd.

A hard picture to make. And, a very lucky one.

Sometimes I like to shoot into the crowd. Wait, wait. That’s not what I meant. I’m not that guy. The crazy guy. With too many guns. Let’s try this. Sometimes I like to photograph into the crowd.

There. That’s better.

I like to do that with a long lens. It compresses the subject matter. And, used properly long lenses can help me to make a more graphic statement. I rarely use a long lens to get close. I have feet for that. And, knees. And, one good hip.

While I was working the Dumaine Street Gang second line, I realized that just about everything I wanted to photograph would be impacted by the crowd, which was pretty good-sized with our nice day and their reputation.

So, I played to that. Yesterday’s picture was one way of handling it. Today’s picture is another. Today’s is a harder picture to make, because compression images depend a lot on luck. After all, I couldn’t see what was happening on the sides of this picture. People could be moving into the frame and I might not see them until they mostly fill it. In fact, you can see that almost happening.

The rest is fairly simple. A good exposure means a lot less work in post production on a documentary type picture.

Today is a quiet day.

It is The United States official day of mourning for the late President George H.W. Bush. Federal offices are closed. Most businesses are open, but I have seen a lot of flags flying at half-mast. As I wrote earlier, I’m not that much in mourning. The man was 94 years old. He lived a very full life. He lived many people’s’ dreams. For me, it is a day to think and to say goodbye in my own way. As you know, that means something to do with pictures.

After all, the work is the prayer.


Count the cameras.

See what I mean?

Look at all those people taking pictures. There are six smartphones that I can count and I think a see a seventh hiding behind the blue umbrella. That’s a lot of pictures made in just a few minutes. That’s a lot of uploads to these folks’ favorite social media. That explains why various social media talk about such high numbers of uploads.

It’s also a lot of noise. Not a lot of signal.

I mentioned to a Storyteller friend that the marginal to good pictures posted online was at least 80 to 20%, which is an old business ratio. Truth be told, it’s probably about 97% of posted pictures that make up the marginal side. There are so many pictures being posted each day that it is almost impossible for the good ones to be seen.

What to do? What to do? What’s a wise man to do?

If you are trying to build a career these days it’s tough. You can use various tags as a couple of friends of mine do to alert the gatekeepers to your new work. With luck, they’ll see it.

You can build a community, like many book authors do. Hopefully, enough people will see your work and may want to do a project with you.

You can work at your photography in such a way that it becomes unique and go old school by sending emails and other reminders like postcards to your selected gatekeepers. The warning here is simple. Don’t do it too often or you become a pest.

You can buy mailing lists. That’ll get you breadth but they may not be current. It’s a shotgun approach.

You can do what I do. Target about ten companies with whom you really want to work. Combine everything above and try to develop conversations with them. Don’t be pushy. Be yourself and show them work that fits their needs. Of those ten — remember the 80-20 rule — you’ll be lucky if two of them want to work with you. And, that might be in the year after you started your campaign. The cool thing about this form of relationship building is that visual gatekeepers will take you with them since they change jobs frequently.

A couple of other issues.

Don’t be competitive with photographers on the scene. Help them out. Good street cred is as important as anything. Besides, the only person to compete with is you.

Understand that even if you take a mind-blowing picture, there might be 20 other pictures that are just as good, or good enough. And, it’s likely that you’ll never know it. Don’t worry about it. I go out there because I enjoy it. The work that puts kibbles in the dogs’ bowls isn’t anything like this. Even if you do something else to pay the bills, come out because you have a real passion for it. That means all the subjects you enjoy photographing.

This picture. This was as intentional as it comes. I’ve been talking about pictures, picture quality and the numbers of people producing pictures for a while now. And, how people take them. I started looking for pictures on the street that could illustrate my words.

I suppose I found it. I knew that I wanted to have some subject in the foreground. The two women fit that nicely. The rest came from keeping my head on a swivel. Like a bobble head.

Yep. A bobble head. That’s me.