Voodoo in black and white.


Hearts an love.
Hearts and love.

Voodoo.

Another thing some visitors to New Orleans want to see or learn about. There are a couple of shops scattered through the city, mostly near or in the French Quarter. But, the place to start, or at least where I like to take visitors who are interested in Voodoo is to Rosalie Alley. It’s tucked away in a corner of the Bywater. Legend has it that the alley itself was a secret pirate path from the river to the French Quarter. Most of the paintings are supposed to be real.

I dunno.

I suppose the art is real enough. I suppose people’s beliefs are real enough. In many ways, it’s like all art. The maker puts whatever his or her life lead them to the point when they created the art. The viewer makes meaning of the art according to his or her past experience. It’s real enough for both of them.

It’s also a big reason that often times an artist cannot connect with the viewer, even if the viewer commissioned the work. We see things in very different ways. It strikes me that’s how the world works. No two people see everything alike. That’s a good thing. It would be pretty boring any other way.

That’s it for today. I may go photograph a second line. My location is uncertain. The weather is uncertain. My health — I’m catching a cold or the flu — is uncertain. A perfect day to go to work.


Store window in the French Quarter.
Store window in the French Quarter.

Oh, I dunno.

This is what happens when you walk. When you look in windows. At details.

I’ll let you guess which kind of spiritual belief this group of icons represents. It may not be what you are thinking.

For those of you who are wondering about avoiding reflection in glass, it’s pretty simple. If you don’t want reflections just take the lens hood off and press the lens against the window. No external side light. No reflections. It also works like sort of a tripod. At least, sort of a brace. You can work at lower shutter speeds. And, slightly higher f stops.

One more thing. Since I rarely chimp — that is, look at the LCD to see how the picture “came out” — I often shoot a little more than might be necessary. Then, I edit. Or, cull. Or, curate. Whatever you want to call it. Even if I took — oh, let’s say ten pictures to get this one — one is what I’ll show you. Less is more. I come from an era before digital. An era when paper cost money. Publishing space was prime real estate. You picked the best picture. The rest went into your files.

Oh yeah. Chimping? Why don’t I do it? It breaks my shooting flow. I’d rather explore and interact with the subject than look to see if somehow I managed to take the picture. That’s important. Especially if you are working with people.

That’s all for today.


Tagging, Rosalie Alley
Tagging, Rosalie Alley

The end of the month. Time for a little wrap up. Lots of pictures to show you, and this isn’t all of them. But, I do try to keep current. I do try to show you newish work. Every now and then, I dip back into my files… usually when I haven’t been around enough to make new pictures for Storyteller. This is, after all, supposed to be a New Orleans blog.

So. Monday. June 1. Hurricane season starts. With this also being the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and what many folks call “The Federal Flood,” it’s an all hands on deck media circus starting, well, it seems like about now. I’m trying to ignore it. As August 29th rolls around, I’ll talk a little bit about it and show you some work that I’ve been holding back. But, that’s it. For me, it’s going to be like a jazz funeral. Start with a dirge, celebrate, recover, heal and move on. Ten years is long enough.

Anyway.

A little bit about what you are looking at.

1. The top picture is graffiti in Rosalie Alley. The alley is an old historical Native American and pirate path from the river to the French Quarter. It is located in The Bywater. It is known for Voodoo now. And, pool parties. I made two versions of this picture. The first, is with the graffiti cropped very tightly. Somebody else’s art became my art. The picture I chose for this post is something that sort of combines nature with man-made art. That’s why I like it.

2. More plastic flowers at Lafayette Cemetery No. 2. I’m sort of facisinated by this stuff. Unlike human beings and most things in nature, these flowers never die. Hmmm. I’ll tell you a little story. Once after eating a Chinese dinner, I got a fortune cookie. The fortune said, “Protect and honor your friends. Seal them in plastic.” Maybe there is something to this.

3. Graffiti number two. This time in the 9th Ward. I’m of two minds when it comes to tagging. Is it art? You know, like folk or street art. Or, is it vandalism? Should the police get involved? Probably not, since they are still short 500 officers and just yesterday two people were shot during broad daylight in the French Quarter. They have better things to do than chase down some kid with a spray paint can.

4.  Voodoo. An offering, I suppose. Or, it’s just a bunch of stuff piled up on an old bird bath. I know. I know. Don’t get snarky. This is important to somebody. Just not me.

5. And… more graffiti. I just like this bit of spray painting. It almost looks primordial to me. I think it’s about fire raining down on our heads. No. No. No. It’s not some kind of end of days thing. I’m easily influenced by what I read. Today I read about exploding houses. Yeah, yeah… now you’re interested. Okay. It seems that back in the 1970s houses were exploding in newer sections of a city called Metairie, whose boundaries abuts New Orleans. Apparently, their gas lines were just run under cement slabs poured without any pilings below them. Pilings are important around here. We live on reclaimed swamp land. Our land is always settling for a whole host of reasons. Pilings must be driven deep into the ground to support the foundations, or they will crack. Prior to the early 1970s, that wasn’t a zoning law. You could pour cement slabs right on the ground. So, the land would subside and the gas pipes would bend and crack. The gas would seep into the house. Somebody would ignite a spark and BLAMMO. The house would explode. Usually, that house was in splinters afterward. Houses nearby were destroyed. Windows would be shattered a block or so away. There were many of these explosions. Somehow, nobody got killed. Yeah. I know. Voodoo. 

There you have it. Exploding Houses. Right here in New Orleans. We are nothing if we aren’t exciting. And, you thought this would be a peaceful Sunday post. HA!

And, that’s it. Happy Sunday

Dead Flowers.
Dead Flowers.
Broken and tagged.
Broken and tagged.
Voodoo offerings.
Voodoo offerings.
Tagging as art.
Tagging as art.


More of the "Things in Windows" series. No, I can't explain this picture.
More of the “Things in Windows” series. No, I can’t explain this picture.
Another of the "Things in Windows" series. At least i Get the voodoo idea.
Another of the “Things in Windows” series. At least I get the Voodoo idea.

Well. I’m back to it. More pictures about… well, maybe nothing. Or, maybe I’m working something out . In my head. Who knows. I try not to think very hard about that stuff. It’ll make you crazy. Or, crazier. There’s enough crazy around for all of us. So, most times I just try to record what I see. When I look at window dressings like this, I realize that my notion of there being “enough crazy for all of us,” is probably pretty much right on.

Anyway. One of the reasons I like walking around The French Quarter at night is because stuff like this just pops out. You don’t even have to be looking very hard for it. It’s just there. Right in front of you. Yes. I know. It really is someone else’s art. I put a little spin on it, but it’s not really mine. Most of my spin comes not in the photographing of it. It comes in post production, even when my post isn’t all that heavy.

A few bits of housekeeping. I have about 40 or so long, long blogs that I wrote for hub. I’ve decided that their style is not for me. They seem to equate long with good. I come from the Mark Twain school of thought. You know. He once said something like, I’m sorry this letter is so long. If I’d had more time it would have been much shorter. So…. These hubs are all “how too” posts. A few of you have read them and seem to like them. More, importantly, they are my content. I can do what I like with them. I’m going to move them here. To Storyteller. Where they belong. I’m thinking that I’ll post one a week. Probably on Sunday. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m taking a short cut. Nah. They are easy to move. Just a little cut and paste. But, they need to be reformatted. Pictures must be placed where they belong and make sense. It’ll probably take me as long to do that as it did for me to write them. And, unless I really want to take a shortcut, I’ll have to research or make new pictures since you’ve already seen them in one form or another. If there is one thing that I try to hold to on Storyteller is that I do not repeat my images. Sometimes, I come close. But, that’s just because I tend to travel in only a few circles… at least when I’m in New Orleans.

Anyway. Something a little new. Probably tomorrow.

 


A trip to Rosalie Alley reveal a lot of signs and symbols about voodoo.
A trip to Rosalie Alley reveal a lot of signs and symbols about voodoo.
A very old gate post.
A very old gate post.
Hearts and snakes. What could be more exciting?
Hearts and snakes. What could be more exciting?

More images from Rosalie Alley. I guess that I could stop right there. But, you know me.

Two things to know. One. I promised myself I wouldn’t post very many multiple image blogs. It seems that they are just a little too much to look at in one go. But, after looking at the many detail images I made here, there seems to be no way around it. You can’t get a feeling for the place looking at one image at a time. Two. Just dropping into a place doesn’t really work. I’ve known this for a long time. But, this shoot and take reminded me of it.  Strongly. There are signs and symbols all over the place. But, there were no people. Despite the rumors and stories, nobody was around practicing voodoo, or its evil cousin, hoodoo. Quite frankly, I have no idea if what I read and heard is true. But, in order to really know, I’d have to hang out there a lot. And, at all times of day and year. I guess that I could. I probably will for a while. This places intrigues me. There is a real sense of history there. Well, there is history throughout most of New Orleans. How could there not be? But, this place has a very odd vibe. Even in daylight.

We’ll just have to see.

The pictures. Well, two of them are about voodoo. Or, hoodoo. I’m not well enough versed about those practices to be able to tell the difference. All I know is that voodoo is good. Hoodoo, bad.  The third picture is a detail of an old wrought iron gate post. I have gate posts where I live now. I had gate posts where I lived on Esplanade Ridge before the storm.  Those were the older of the two. That house was built in 1837. The gate posts were added in 1888. This detail pre-dates that. I don’t know by how much. A lot, I’m guessing. You can see what it represents. It is an upside down horseshoe. It keeps the luck from flowing out and away. I bet you think that I don’t know that. Ha! I’m full of useless information.


Steam punk guard to Rosalie Alley.
Steam punk guard to Rosalie Alley.

A giant thing. A steam Punk guard to the place that took me a couple of tries to find. Rosalie Alley.

What is that?

Near as I can tell, it’s one of the last remaining dirt alleys in all of New Orleans. Let’s talk about this for just a minute. In New Orleans, the definition of alley is a little different than most places. But, you were ready for that, right? Most things are different in New Orleans. In New Orleans, it usually means the narrow walkway between the back and front of a single piece of property. I once had a sugar brick paved two foot wide walkway that lead from the back of my house to the front. That’s an alley.

Anyway. Rosalie Alley is a dirt alley. It’s about eight feet wide. Today there are the fronts of very old houses that form the edges of the path. That, or ancient fences.  The fences are all painted up with voodoo and hoodoo symbols. But, that refers to its modern day usage. They say. I’ll explore a little more and try to find out. In the days gone by, rumor has it, guys like Jean Lafitte used it when they disembarked form the pirate ships and walked to The French Quarter… the alley was a pathway that was in use as early as the late 1700s. Likely, it was used well before that since American Indians roamed this land before the pirates did. Oh. Jean Lafitte? He was a pirate. He mostly worked in the gulf and swamps. But, he also joined Andrew Jackson to defeat British troops in The Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. For those who don’t know, that battle was fought after the war ended. I guess that mail service was a lot like today’s mail service.

The picture. There are a couple of steam punk guards at the entrance to the alley. I’m not exactly sure what this one might be. Looks like some sort of killer grasshopper to me.