Marco fell apart. The tropical warnings came down. We got a little wind and even less rain. Dodged it.
Now comes Laura. She won’t even come close to New Orleans. She will make landfall as a Category 2 or 3 hurricane around Lake Charles. I have a fond spot in my heart for that little city. After a couple of weeks of living in nowhereville after Katrina, I set up a temporary base there. I was there about a month, then on to New Mexico.
I was reflecting about all of this last night and again early this morning. I am amazed by how much hurricanes have affected my life. Before I moved to New Orleans I never even gave them a second thought. I grew up in Southern California. We worried about earthquakes. Wildfires weren’t a thing back then.
But, now I track them. I prepare for them. I read weather reports from NOAA. I worry about outbound routes even though there is no place to evacuate to during the Age of Corona. So, we batten down the hatches and wait.
We were lucky this time. Eventually our luck will run out.
That’s for another day.
The scene is the same old one. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve used this as a go to location. I made kind of the usual picture. When I started to process it, I thought enough of that. Let’s see where I can take this picture.
After a lot of false starts, I decided to move in an entirely new direction. I smoothed everything. I turned strong clouds into cotton candy. I sucked a lot of color out of the picture. If you look closely at the power poles — normally black looking — they look almost transparent.
Eventually I got there.
You will too.
Stay safe. Stay mighty. Look after each other. Enjoy every cup of coffee.
No. I was not having a near death experience. What started as a pleasant dream stayed with me as I started to wake up. It is still in my head as I write to you. It helps that I’m listening to a Spotify playlist that I called “My Summer Rewind.”
Dreams. There are many theories concerning their meaning. I like one of Jung’s theories. Dreams are the answer to questions that you haven’t yet formulated. I suppose that I’m not looking for answers. I’m looking for questions.
Questions, for me, come in the form of looking for and finding a photograph.
Which brings me to this picture. I finally got outside away from home. I made a bunch of pictures. Bunch is a technical term like boatload. I saw this flower which is in the same family of the purple flowers that I’ve been posting. From the second that I saw it I knew what I wanted to do.
I want to to do this. The image that you are looking at.
I saw the flower in its purest form.
I had some clarity restored to me. It’s been missing for a while. For as long as we’ve been in lockdown I couldn’t find it. We are now in semi-lockdown. I kept thinking that it wasn’t affecting me. Little did I know that it was. The invisible cage that I put around myself really did it’s job. It left me feeling trapped. Caged. Limited.
You know that my work requires being out on the scene. I suppose that I could have made pictures of life at home. But, I’ve done that a couple of times. It seemed boring to me this time.
All of this brings me to something I read. While you are keeping your distance, wearing masks and really just practicing situational awareness, keep watch on yourself and your loved ones.
There’s a pretty good chance that a kind of PTSD can overcome even the best of us. If you are related to, or know, any front line responders take good care of them, even if that means letting them have their space. Their work is almost like being on a battlefield. They’ve seen and done things that no one should see or do.
As I’ve said repeatedly, this isn’t going away anytime soon. For the short term we must learn how to live with it and manage it. It may never entirely go away. The Spanish Flu which killed so many people, eventually morphed into the seasonal flu we call H1N1. I read a piece by a longtime coroner who basically said live your life and don’t listen to anybody. He still likens CoVid 19 to flu, which it isn’t. A lot of my friends were agreeing with him. What a load of BS.
Sure. Live your life. Just take the recommended precautions. We’ve made every military person a hero. Follow what they do. The ones on the battlefield wear protective gear, they carry long weapons and handguns. They live with heat, humidity, cold, rain and sometimes getting shot at. In combat zones they are never without a weapon.
Our leaders are just asking of us is to wear a mask and keep our distance. Our weapons are pretty simple, don’tcha think. Nike once used as a tagline, “Just Do It.”
It’s a slight inconvenience. It isn’t battle gear. It doesn’t weight 50 pounds. It weighs a few ounces. At least you won’t get shot at. Oh, wait. I live in New Orleans. We could get shot. Maybe I should pick a better city.
One more thing. Don’t let your guard down. That’s when you get sloppy. When you get sloppy bad things happen.
That’s what I’d hoped for when I returned from the desert, like a prophet, back to the swamp. Well, I’m no prophet. And, this isn’t that place. I don’t know about the rest of you, but during this period of down time I’ve had a lot of time to think. After all, there is only so much time that I can work. So much time that I can read. So much time that I can watch Netflix.
Try as I might to stay out of my head during this time, sometimes like a bad neighborhood, I can’t avoid it. You just have to pass through it.
That can be illuminating.
I’ve done some good things. I’ve lived through some wondrous times. I’ve been to a some amazing places.
I cringe at the thought of some of the things that I’ve done. The choices that I’ve made. The moves that I’ve made. They are in the past. I can’t do anything about them. That doesn’t stop me from doing a face palm and thinking, “Oh my God, what was I thinking?”
And, the time. All that time.
I’ve made lot a career moves. Career often drove my destinations. Some of this thinking came from thinking about the start of my newspaper career. I lived in Radford, Virginia. I still have friends there. They are good storytellers and share on Facebook a lot. I have this ongoing fantasy of taking the world’s longest road trip and visiting my spaces, places and people.
I started using Google Maps and Globe. I could not find the street where the newspaper used to be located. I thought I just look up the history of the paper. Still no address. I thought I’d just open the maps as big as I could and just find it. I’m good at dead reckoning. No joy. In fact, I couldn’t find anything.
That little town has grown. It’s very different now. It may not seem it to the people who have lived there all this time, but it is much bigger than when I left. I have no clue where to look for anything on the streets on which I drove daily, looking for pictures.
Then it hit me. Like a thunderclap. I left there in 1980. I came back on and off for a couple of years, then I moved west. Home. To California. It’s been forty years. What I think? That the town was set in cement?
Where did that time go?
It left me feeling a new sense of urgency. If I never left the house, I have enough work to keep me busy for years. And, there is so much that I want to accomplish in the world. Still.
A lot of it involves traveling. I could be frustrated by CoVid19. I’m not. The river flows in its own time.
The picture. I suppose you are wondering about it. It’s a multi-layered piece of art. Within it is a bit of every season. My seasons. If all my time was passing by, my life was just a season. So said the Byrds. And, Bob Dylan.
How’d I do it? Oh, the usual way. I stacked layer upon layer until I reached a starting point. I worked on it from there. It took some time even though I had a pretty clear vision. You have no idea how those pictures wanted to be free, out on their own. But, I tamed them. For now.
I am coming to my first crossroads. And, I need your help. Or, at least, your thoughts. I have another website. Supposedly, it’s my more commercial site. It isn’t. A lot of the work you’ve seen here is there.
It’s a fairly clean site. It needs reconstruction. I probably could make it all art. No New Orleans culture. No really old career spanning work. Simple. Clean. To the point. Oh, and it has a blog component. I think that I’ve said this in the past. I cannot import you from here. WordPress with let me take my work, but not you.
Many of my followers are ghosts. I have no idea why, but during some times of the year I get a lot of new followers. I suspect many of them are students fulfilling a class assignment. I never hear from them. But, I have you. A lot of you.
There is a modern business theory that says in order to succeed you don’t need the whole world to follow you. To buy your product. To help you keep paying for kibbles. Instead, you should build a community. As long as you have that, you have the freedom to do whatever you’d like within bounds. I have that here. No. I’m not going to do a hard sell to get you to buy my work. But, I do need an audience. People to whom I write. People to whom I post photographs.
My question. Given my choices. What would you do? Move on? Or, keep building here? I have my thoughts. They change every day.
One more thing. This is long enough.
I’m experimenting with Storyteller, mostly from a design standpoint. Today, it’s a drop cap. These are a little to leggy for me, but it’s a start. The trick in editorial design is to create conventions and use them.
I know. Nothing has changed. In fact, it’s getting worse. The United States is now number one. That’s not a good thing. The virus grew by almost 50% in one day in the state. The deaths in the city are growing by leaps and bounds. The governor sounded as stressed as I’ve ever heard him.
It’s Friday. Time to rest. Time to relax. Time to think. I know, those pastimes are normally left for Sunday. But, time has no meaning. Days pass without anyone realizing it. I sit down to work at noon. Suddenly, the all seeing dog taps me on the leg. It’s 5pm. Time for her evening walk.
I spent some of the time creating this image. It’s quiet. Calming. Peaceful. It wasn’t easy to do. I made more mistakes than usual. That didn’t matter. I had the time. I wanted to play a little. That’s the thing. Time. It’s meaningless.
As we all work through summer, I’ve tried to think about what makes a summer picture. Since almost every tree is green, there are few new blooms and we start heading into a visually boring season, how do I find summer?
Especially for my summer project?
In this case, I didn’t. I made summer. I layered two pictures. The obvious tree image was combined with a macro image of condensation on my window. That’s what gave this particular photograph the extra glow.
The picture looks and feels like something summery. It’s not real enough like the rest of the summer portfolio. I won’t include it.
But, it is a nice warm feeling picture. Since I pretty much created it, it’s my summer picture. Just not the right summer picture. I need to find some people doing something. Summer something.
The start of the start. Little seeds. Little seeds that eventually become little red berries. They don’t seem to grow based on seasons. Usually, I’m not wide-eyed enough to see them at this point.
The point of the point is that they usually show up in harsh light. The whole scene looks a little ugly. I likely ignore them as much as not see them. This time they were in my face. So I did what I do.
I made a picture.
I was right the first time. The scene, and the berries, was ugly.
I did what I do. Sometimes.
I tinkered in post production. I did it very heavily. Pretty soon, the scene took on a look of its own. I’m not exactly sure what it looks like now. But, it looks. It looks different. It looks however you want it to look.
That’s the thing about art. Or, semi-art.
You, the viewer, makes most of the meaning from whatever you are looking at. You bring your experience, your life, your soul into the picture. You make the meaning. I doesn’t matter what I intended.
That’s not unusual. The older I get, the less I know. So, somewhere along the line I’ve got to be learning. What I learned sort of stunned and saddened me all in one.
I am in a lot of LinkedIn groups. Some are artistic. Some are business oriented. Others are about SEO and growing your online audience.
That’s where I learned something.
Someone asked about auto-posting and scheduling. Someone else suggested a site called HootSuite. Depending on your subscription, you can auto schedule everything. Then, there was one level that allows you to auto schedule “content.’
The word content as it is used today has always made me queasy. It seems that I’m not a photographer. I’m a content creator. Same with a writer or musician. They don’t create what it is they do. They create content.
It doesn’t stop there.
HootSuite suggests that you clip and past content that you might find interesting all over the web as a method of growing your fans or followers. It doesn’t matter if you are a photographer — as I am — if you post something about, oh let’s say weapons of mass destruction. Or, something favoring Neo-Nazis, when, in fact, you are liberal. Just as long as it draws eyes and you can convert them to followers and maybe buyers of whatever your products might happen to be.
This explains a lot.
I get a couple of emails every month asking me if I need content for Storyteller. If I reply with something even mildly affirmative, the “content producer” sends me a sample of the work that “fits” in Storyteller. Usually, it is so far off the mark that I don’t even bothering to reply.
If I read HootSuite’s theories right, and then confirmed them by visiting similar sites, I now understand why most of social media is so boring. I understand why “fake news” is a thing. People are making money sitting in little rooms, in front of little monitors, churning out nonsense. Obviously, there are some people with suspect agendas pouring out content that is pure lies. Can you say Russian trolls?
That said. I promise you that Storyteller will never become one of those sites. I will never post nonsensical provided content of the sake of blog growth. Sure. Storyteller might grow. But, at what cost? I’d like to think that I’m an ethical and sincere person. Besides, even though it’s taken a little while, I’ve grown fairly holistically with original material I post. Every day.
The Picture. It’s one of those found objects. To tell you the truth, I made it look more like junk than it is. It is a functioning electric meter. Of course, the weathering is real. We live in Southeast Louisiana. The home of extreme weather. Stuff gets rusty. Stuff gets moldy.
That’s the news from the swamp.
Oh yeah. We have a new mayor as of 11 minutes ago… 11am. She’s probably going to be the worst mayor ever. I could tell you all the reasons, starting with a general incompetence and graft, but I’ll leave you with this. After she started assembling her transition team she made them sign and NDA. That’s Non Disclosure Agreement. Huh? City government must be transparent by law. For example, if the city council needs to go into executive session they have to follow very strict rules. Her explanation? It allowed people to say what they really felt. Excuse me?
Sometimes, I’ll show you a portrait that is just a portrait.
This is one of those times.
Yes. Of course, I reworked it in my current new style of art. I’m not sure how much longer that will last. I made a bunch of pictures a day or so ago that are a little more “normal” in style. And, are my more general style of photographing people on site. In a little bit I won’t be in the position to work in that way. Again. I may stay in my archives out of sheer necessity.
This picture. The base picture is over 40 years old. It was made on Tri-x. Black and white film. By filtering it, I could add color that wasn’t there. Not in the negative. Not in the print.
The subject is a long-lost friend of mine. By combining her first name and her last name’s first initial we called her “soupy.” That was in college. Way back. Back. Back.
The rest of the picture is layered. And, mixed. And blended. I’ve come to learn that it is best to do manipulate each individual layer. Blend them and do the work again. It gives the final image a look of depth. This picture has four layers. The work took some time. Especially when I went too far. And, had to backtrack. That’ll happen. I always say that you should just keeping going until you go too far. Of course, as I get older I’m pretty sure I rarely go far enough.
I’ve been having some very cool dreams lately. They are so interesting that I seem to willing myself to stay asleep longer so I can explore them. That’s very nice. Dreams can go either way. There are times when dreams are close to nightmares and you can’t wait to get out of them. And, there are good dreams.
My dreams are colorful. Kind of makes sense. That’s how I see. I think the world is a colorful place. I aim to help you see it that way. I also hope that you enjoy exploring with me.
I have no clue what my dreams are about. All I know is that I am having a lot of them. They seem to be sequential.
The best and most workable theory about dreams came from Jung. He said that dreams are answer to questions that you haven’t thought of yet. The word best is relative. Best for who? In this case, me. If you’ve got a better idea, I am all ears. And eyes.
The picture. I wouldn’t wish this on any of you. I’m not sleeping all that well. I have a good idea why. I’ll tell you later. As I awake these dreams come to me. It might be 3 am, but I get up and mess with a couple of pictures. I try to get what I saw in my mind’s eye into some sort of digital file. Of course, that means I’m up even later. But, then I fall back asleep. Into a deep, sound, sleep.
In the clear light of day, some of my early morning work doesn’t make sense. I’d probably have wake up in the middle of a dream to understand it. But, this image did make sense. So, I finished it in the morning.
What is it? I can hear you thinking. Magical powers. Tinfoil coming next.
Seriously. You’ve seen all of the elements in the past. Some on Storyteller. Some on Instagram. And, some in the background of other pictures. What looks like windows came from the Winter Palace. The portrait is the Thai farmer. The floating bits of color are little flowers that were stuck on the black hood of a car after a rainstorm.
I cannot tell you about the mixing, blending and leveling. Remember I was awake when I did this, but I was trying to live inside my dream. My work transitioned to my own personal autopilot. So I made this image which, really doesn’t look like the dream. Except in the color palette.
Is this from the past? Is this in the future? Or, should I be headed to some fine institution?
I don’t know. I’m not sure that I care. Just let it roll.