Taking them home.

G

reen Streetcars. They travel from Canal Street, along St. Charles Avenue, making a turn on Carrolton where they come to their terminus after about a mile or so.

Many local people use them to commute to work, to shop, to visit friends, and to go to appointments.

It’s real live public transportation just like a bus, except that it’s much more fun to use.

I always tell tourists to get out of The French Quarter and go see the rest of New Orleans. The easiest way is to catch the street car on Canal Street and go for a ride.

If you do ride to the end, you can catch the red streetcar and travel down Canal Street where it makes a turn and ends near the French Market.

If you take it in the other direction you can ride to City Park near the art museum.

That’s my tourist advice for today.

T

oday seems to be experimentation day. I tried to enlarge the picture. Oh, I can, but it skews the page to the point that it is unreadable. Even small increases in size do that.

Then, I’m experimenting with different columns widths just to learn what happens. This one is a simple swapping of columns.

No worries.

I think it’s a little hard to read the main story. I’ll switch it back or do something that’s a little easier to read.

T

he picture.

That’s what you came for, isn’t it?

This is obviously a blurred motion picture. Everything moves and vibrates. That wasn’t my intent. On this night working in The Garden District I felt safe enough to use a tripod.

But, not on this picture.

I hadn’t planned on a streetcar passing by as it did. I swung around with the tripod pretty much hanging in the air. That’s not how you use a tripod but it was a “Hail Mary” sort of thing.

When I started to cull the images I realized that photographer’s luck came into play and I made this picture.

There’s not much you can do with it in post production. The biggest task is to make it light enough to view, but not lose contrast in the dark areas.

If you come to town, ride the streetcar. Make a better picture than this one.


Garden of Prayer.

N

ew Orleanians understand death. We mourn and we celebrate. We actually like our cemeteries. Personally, I like the older funky ones.

I like cemeteries like this one that is located in the middle of a working class neighborhood. It’s a Jewish cemetery called, Garden of Prayer. It’s fairly old.

I’ve roamed around the city enough to know most of the cemeteries. I like all of them for different reasons. One of my favorites is Holt, near Delgado Community College. It’s sort of a potters field.

Another aspect of our culture is how people are remembered. We mourn and then celebrate with our jazz funerals. Usually, the more well known in the community the deceased is the bigger the second line, which is really what a jazz funeral is.

I had to chuckle at one tourist’s online request. She wanted to know how she could plan to attend a jazz funerals since she was coming from out of town for a visit. The snarky answer was “die.”

Some people were more helpful than others, but unless you are plugged into the city culture bearers the only other way is to read the death notices in the newspaper.

If you’re lucky enough to attend one and you are on a trip for somewhere else, just follow the locals and what we do. These events can be chaotic so be prepared for that.

T

he top photograph had kind of a quirky approach to post production.

When I worked on it earlier, I made it very golden as if I made it during golden hour.

That fell under the heading of, “What was I thinking?” A lot of things that I do fall under that.

So, this time around I brought it back to its original coloring. That took more work that you would think.

The bottom picture ws simple. I just left alone, possibly enhancing the color a bit. I made it in 2019 so you can’t expect me to recall exactly what I did.

I believe that photographs like that are more long the line of photojournalism so I don’t like to tinker very much.

Second lining to honor Chef. Leah Chase.


Only in New Orleans.

What a day. The fire did not only jump out of the frying pan, but it burned the house down.

No. Not literally.

A photographer who is known to many of us and who has helped us in career advancement just resigned from Magnum in lieu of being voted out of the cooperative.

Let me take a step back.

For those who aren’t aware, Magnum is the premiere photo agency in the world. At one time they were purely editorial photographers. As time passed they grew into something else out of financial necessity. They are a co-op which means they can’t just fire anybody.

The photographer, David Alan Harvey, was accused of sexual harassment of 11 young women. A reporter from the Columbia Journalism Review investigated, talked to the 11 women and found their charges to be true. The women showed incredible courage in talking on the record.

This exploded via Twitter and if you Google his name, you’ll find it all over the internet.

Many of the tweeters are women. They are not yet satisfied. They feel like Magnum and Harvey are getting off way too easily. They feel like photographic gatekeepers are essentially a good old boys club.

A reckoning is coming.

I’m sad and a little bit hurt, not because of the oncoming discussions. We all need them. I’m sad because I know this kind of thing has been going on for years. I don’t know it directly, but there were whispers in the wind. It wasn’t just with Harvey, but with all manner of photo influencers.

In Harvey’s case, he was always sort of a cowboy. I had no idea he had gone as far as he did. This hurts. His advice mattered.

I suppose it’s true. You must separate the art from the artist.

I only have one question aside from what was he thinking? What is a 76 year old man doing chasing 25 year old women?

Oh, I know why.

And, that just sucks.

I don’t usually cross post. This picture first appeared on Instagram which is distributed to Facebook because they are one company.

It’s slightly elderly from Super Sunday 2019, the last one we’ve had because of the pandemic. I doubt we’ll have it this year because it is just too soon.

Those folks who have already looked at it bear with me. You are going to look at it again. Sorry.

This may be one of my best Black Masking Indian (Mardi Gras Indians) pictures. It’s good because I managed to be inside the picture.

No matter how you try, it is very hard to do. My advice is to take a couple of years and get to know the players. Then, they MIGHT part for you to work your way inside. They might not.

There is very little post production used in the picture. There didn’t need to be. Those Indian suits are as you see them.

I’m sorry to say that it was guys like Harvey who taught me to see and work this way. That was all good back then. Today? Not so much.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Get your jabs. Be good to each other.


USMC and the Flag.

Wow! What a busy weekend. For the of us who are in New Orleans we are think about the Mardi Gras parades that won’t happen. The celebrations in the quarter that will be muted.

But, wait.

There’s more. We are in the midst of the Lunar New Year. Or, as some say, the Chinese New Year. Gong Hei Fat Choi as they say in Hong Kong. Friday was the actual day, but like Carnival, CNY is celebrated for two weeks.

We are not done yet.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day to y’all. Lot of Valentines in this house.

Normally, on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday we have a big brunch. An open house. Not this year. Our pod is our pod. Our friends and family are not in our pod. Hopefully, on day we’ll all be together. In one extended pod.

In many ways, in New Orleans, this holiday is when the pandemic exploded and surged. I’m not celebrating that. Actually it was a week or two later because Carnival like The Lunar New Year follows the — wait for it — lunar calendar.

According to the traditions of Chinese New Year, you use this time to clean your house, make amends, pay your debits. Then you visit relatives and friends. The people you visit usually give your children Lai See, little red envelopes with money stuffed in them.

All of that sounds like a good idea. Except for the little red envelopes.

Many people use the calendar new year to reassess , make resolutions and set goals. Most of those good intentions are forgotten in about a month. This would be a good time to reassess your reassessments.

And, start again.

USMC. They carry the American flag and lead each parade group. It’s their honor to be there, and it’s our honor to have them.

Some are in dress blues, others are in camo BDUs.

The marines in their BDUs are on the street to help out if there is a problem. No, they are not armed.

I made this picture just as the lead marine was getting ready to unfurl the flag. This is truly photographer’s luck.

Since I don’t machine gun my exposures, and I wait for the decisive moment, I could have just as easily missed my picture.

For this series, I did all the things I do to tone the image down and add some extra artistic stuff to it.

Stuff is right. I don’t know that the work I did adds to the photograph.

You know that Storyteller is just a giant experiment.

For all you know, I’m just a giant experiment.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wear another mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Attempt a giant experiment.


The waiting…

Everyone knows that it’s the high school bands that I like best when they roll during a Mardi Gras parade. The floats are fine. The Rolling Elvi are fun. The motorcycle riders are fun.

But, the marching bands. That’s the thing for me. They combine three wonderful elements. Music. Energy, And, color.

If there was going to be a Mardi Gras parade season this year my plan was to focus on just high school marching bands. I was actually going to reach out to some of the schools so that I could have a little more leeway on the streets.

As always, my trade would be my pictures. Since mostly high school students and parents are their photographers I’m guessing mine would be a few notches above the usual work. Who knows? One of the parents could be a retired National Geographic photographer.

That said, it’s a good thing most of the public versions of Mardi Gras have been shut down. A scientific analysis was released today. It looks like one carrier infected 50,000 people during Mardi Gras 2020. Not directly, but one person infected another and so on.

We were blamed for the surge last March even though we didn’t even know there was a virus. While it seems extreme, I’m glad the mayor is taking such a hard line this year.

Yesterday, she had a group of Big Chiefs on the podium with her. Each one of them implored the Indian community not to come out so that they would be alive to roll next year.

It’s serious.

So.

Tourists stay home. There won’t be much for you to do anyway. You won’t be allowed on the famous Bourbon Street unless you live there. If you gather illegally you could be fined or you could serve jail time. You don’t want that. We don’t want that.

There is the Jefferson Parish issue. I’ll discuss that tomorrow.

Semi-monochrome. That’s what I’ll call this picture. As I said a few days ago, I let the picture guide me in post production. All I want to do is print them down a bit.

As I wrote on the left side, I like high school marching bands.

I work hard to photograph them. One year, two high schools were rehearsing ten feet from each other. A battle of the bands broke out. The drum majors were prancing in each other’s faces. They gave no ground. They held no quarter.

But, just like a good sporting match, when they were done they broke apart and shook hands.

I’ll look in my daybooks and find the year. If I can, I’ll publish some of the files from that night. I won’t tone them down. I’ll light up the page with them.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Listen to all the high school marching band music.


Scary face, without development.

This mask was scary before I worked on it in post production. It got scarier after I was done. To me, this looks like some underground subway creature who lives in the lost subway tunnels and tracks of New York City.

I have a big imagination.

Imagination will get you places, either to the top or in deep trouble. Mine is usually the latter.

Seriously, ideas and imagination are what art is about. That’s one of the reasons I’m not a big fan of Instagram, although I do play there.

Instagram is the worst of all possible photographic worlds. If some photographer posts an interesting picture, his followers copy him. Their followers copy them. And, so on.

That’s what make so much popular work so derivative.

It got so bad a week or so ago that I couldn’t stand it. So, I said something. It seems whenever a dusk or night picture needs a little something extra, some shooters drop in a person holding an umbrella. I don’t literally mean drop in. They usually have a friend hold an umbrella.

That’s fine, if the streets are wet or if there is falling rain or snow. But, the picture that broke my camel’s back was a picture of some guy holding an umbrella at night. The streets were dry. There was nothing in the air. The people in the background were’t even wearing coats.

Oh, Moses smell the roses.

I replied. The photographer replied to me in a snarky way to which I said, “Well, you must not be a very good photographer if all you do is copy others work.”

Silence.

Crickets.

Solitude.

I must have made a point to someone. Since that day, there have been far fewer umbrella pictures. Those that are still being shared make sense in their context. Or, they become art in themselves.

Imagination.

We all have it. Use it, or lose it.

Masking. In New Orleans it shouldn’t be a big deal. We mask for every damn thing that comes along. What’s the big deal about masking to protect ourselves or others?

That’s not what the right column is about, but I had to say it.

This is a daytime picture of all things. I was waiting to meet a friend when this guy happened to hop on a horse and rode towards me. What could I do?

You know what I could do. I did it. I made tight portraits. I made loser frames. My friend stumbled along and she made pictures too. It looked like a press conference.

I published one picture and left this one behind. This is the week to share it.

This is all post production. Nothing looks even remotely the same as the original file. I went darker rather than lighter because of the context. This dude looks evil.

He isn’t.

We talked while I, and then we, were making pictures. he’s a nice guy. He let us take our time while he was getting ready to lead his krewe.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Eat all the king cake.


A day of reflection, a day of hope.

Farther along and further in. Those words are about learning, reflection, truth and peacefulness. That’s what today is about.

We celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today. There is a lot we can do or not do. I started this day with — what else — a dog walk. I made a few pictures. You know me. The work is the prayer. The prayer turned into a sort of meditation.

Reflection.

Where to go from this place in time. Not necessarily about my work. More about me and my place in the universe. I looked at my past, not to worry about it, but as a guide post to my future.

What kind of person do I want to be? I think that I know, but a little thought always helps as long as I don’t obsess about it. How can I help? How can I be of service?

That’s just the start.

In a little while I’ll help clean up a stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Central City. You know, the work is the prayer.

The hood. My hood. Where I photograph second lines, Black Masking Indians, Zulus and Mardi Gras. Where I eat BBQ sausages. And, talk to the folks who live there.

And, then back to work. You know…

Stay safe. Stay Strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Do a little reflection.

Street portraits. For me they are easy to do. But, I talk to the people that I photograph. I don’t work from across the street. I learn their names and why they are doing what they do.

That’s how you do it.

Anything else is just cultural theft.

So.

The picture is small because I made it for another project with a maximum size.

No matter.

The picture is really about this young man’s eyes. And, maybe the flag.

I made this photograph while we were waiting for a Mardi Gras parade to start. It’s the best I could since I was very young when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. I never had the chance to photograph him.

That’s how it goes sometimes. You do the best you can with what you have.


 

Street portrait of a captain.

Back on track, I’d say.

I’m not that back on track. I thought that I’d written and posted this. Unfortunately, I fell back asleep before I completed this. I walked a lot last night. You know. Five parades. 164 floats. A billion beads. Not as many people as I thought would come out.

All that walking took its toll. First, my hip started killing me. Then, the pain moved to my knee. Luckily, I was able to depend on the kindness of strangers. They let me sit on their stoops, their porches and even on the bumpers of their trucks.

But.

That’s not all. Walking in pain is very tiring. More so than just walking. So, I decided to mostly rest today. The parades that I were interested in photographing have long departed, but are still an hour or two from Canal Street, another good place to work if you can stand the throngs of people competing for beads. Because of the pictures I’d like to make, that’s not a big concern for me.

However.

Now that we are in the heart of the season, parking will be dear or non-existent. Normally, I’d just park in Treme and walk over. And, walk over. I’m not so sure about that. Walking over.

Unfortunately, this parade season is my last. Unless there is a real fix to my issues other than masking them with pain meds, I can’t do this again. That’s sad because I’ve pretty much given up second lines. I’ll likely photograph this years two Eastbank Super Sundays, but that too, will be it.

There’s plenty of stuff to photograph, even without travel. I could document everything in New Orleans and never, ever be finished. That won’t require the long walks that the culture events do. I’ll still walk some. The dog who see things requires it. Those are slow and gentle walks, with places to sit if I need to do that.

The picture. I guess because I carry myself like I look like I know what I’m doing, people take me seriously. I stopped this krewe leader and asked him to just look at me. This took maybe 30 seconds, and I thanked him. See you later. Happy Mardi Gras.

I was exchanging comments with another photographer/poet. She would like to do some street photography but working in a people-driven genre sort of scares her.

I suppose that it’s something learned. I’m sure that because I’ve done it for so long, I don’t think twice about making pictures of people. I usually kiddingly say that with a camera in my hand I’m Superman.

 


The marching band arrived late.

This Mardi Gras parade season seems doomed.

Last night we had tropical storm level winds, the gusts were around 40 mph. So the parades were postponed. Two will roll tonight minus all the walking groups. The third will roll on Sunday. That means 164 floats will be on the streets tonight. At least one of the most powerful krewes in the city — The Muses — will roll during daylight, when their floats are meant for night time. At least they get to roll.

The last twenty or so floats of Nyx may never get to roll. Even if they did, they may not have many “throws” because they could mostly only take what they could carry after the tragic end to their parade The Nyx captain is is exploring joining the Krewe of Pandora, which rolls in Metairie on Sunday. The captain of the Krewe of Nix – Julie Lea — is also the captain of Pandora. They’ll know sometime today. There are two issues. Very few throws. And, they rent their floats. There may not be enough floats for them.

Meanwhile, we’ve learned a lot about the unfortunate woman who died on Wednesday night. She was 58-year-old Geraldine Carmouche. She did not trip or fall. She was trying to pick up some beads.

She gave her life for maybe ten cents worth of Chinese manufactured beads.

She was born and raised here. Toddlers are taught from the moment they come to parades not to run out into the street for beads. Do no cross in front of moving floats or marching bands. When I arrived 20 years ago that’s the first thing I was told when I attended my first parade.

Reading comments on Facebook was sickening. Many attacked the victim. They accused her of being drunk, of having no responsibility. Apparently, they never heard the old saying, “Never speak ill of the dead.” I guess this the the world in which we live.

I’m not buying that. I think she had a kind of tunnel vision. I’ve seen it a lot on parade routes. Parade goers see nothing but throws. They are aggressive and they want them all. Even though she was well old enough to know better, and a local, I think that’s what happened to Ms. Carmouche.

Four more issues to discuss. I promise that I’ll keep it short.

The picture is a leftover. With no parades last night, I ran out of culled and processed images. I also decided that the images I made while the Krewe of Nix was rolling will forever be unprocessed and will not see the light of day.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve changed my policy of not publishing names. While Storyteller remains art driven, I can’t tell stories without names. Of course I’ll follow my own ethical rules which are informed by years of journalism at a time when we were respected.

I’ve long said that the work is the prayer. If I believe that, I must work tonight. There are enough people who could use a few prayers right about now. And, that’s just in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras parades are an interesting thing. Just about ever local who participates in them does it for the experience, for the fun.

Really?

I talked to enough people on Twitter to realize that they were overjoyed at not having to be anywhere near the parades last night. One woman on NOLATwitter said that she felt free.

If that’s the case, just what the hell are we doing?

Do we feel so obligated to “celebrate” that it’s become work?

Even me. I was preparing to go to the parade route when I checked social media one more time. Even though I’m not riding on floats, or marching in bands, or throwing beads, I can’t tell you how relieved I was that I didn’t have to go.

What am I thinking?