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New Orleans in the Summertime (notes on a show)

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Red, White, Blue, and Pink

 

She had understood before she had ever dreamed of a city such as this, where every texture, every color, leapt out at you, where every fragrance was a drug, and the air itself was something alive and breathing.

~Anne Rice, The Witching Hour

So here’s some info, and a last plug, regarding a photo showing of my New Orleans portfolio. The show is at a small gallery at 1027 Elmwood Avenue called Parables Gallery and Gifts. It’s a cozy little gallery with a gift shop in front and small gallery space in the back. It’s between Potomac and Bird on the east side of the street, here’s a map.

 

The photos will be up and for sale the entire month of November, but the opening is Friday, November 2nd and is part of the First Friday Gallery Walk from 7-9pm.

All of the photos that are hung are brand new and have never been on display or for sale before (albeit, a bit of shameless self-promotion on social media). What’s different this time, and this really makes sense to me, is that the photos are matted but not framed. By doing this I am able to cut the cost of the selling prices by two-thirds. The photos are 11 x 14 and matted to 16 x 20. They are all selling for $50 each, if framed they sell for three times this. (You are not obligated to purchase anything as I would simply love to see you and for you to see me and view my photos, but of course sales are nice). This way, if you were to purchase photos, you simply purchase a frame that speaks to you and slip it in. The gallery owner will have a limited supply of very simple frames available.

There will be wine and non-alcoholic beverages available as well as Gumbo Z’Herbes (super-delicious vegetarian gumbo), and a few other things to snack on.

Anyhow, I hope to see you there.

Peace,

Joe

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A Week Without Color…

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I think it’s because it was an emotional story, and emotions come through much stronger in black and white. Color is distracting in a way, it pleases the eye but it doesn’t necessarily reach the heart.”

~Kim Hunter


Last week I was invited to take part in black-and-white photo “challenge” on Facebook. The rules were simple…a black-and-white photo every day with no people in them. I usually carry a camera with me so this was not much of a challenge for me. Some of these photos were shot either to or from my way to work, others while I was on my bike on a day off. It’s interesting, I think, in that last week was not a great week for me. Nothing major, just one of those weeks where I was feeling down. In a sense I was seeing life through a colorless lens, so I really think it came through in these photos. In some ways, I believe, photography–like any art form–can me a type of therapy, I know it is for me. Anyhow, the photos are not in a chronological order, they are arranged simply the way the computer uploaded them. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Stalking Bellocq.

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 “We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.”

— Ralph Hattersley

So I just returned from New Orleans. Well, two days ago. But in many ways the city is still with me. The uniqueness of the place has not fully sweat from my pores. This was my fourth or fifth time to New Orleans. The first time I was there was the late 80’s when I lived and worked there for a very brief time. But I haven’t been back in almost twenty years. I’ve also never been there during August. I was expecting the heat and humidity but nothing could have prepared me for it. As one local commented on the heat, “Yes, it pretty much sucks the oxygen out of the air.” I had gone there for a bit of relaxation, and to take photos and drink beer. I accomplished all three.

Whenever  I find myself in an old historic city I can feel the ghosts of those before me (metaphorically, not literally). And  sometimes I’ll create my own sort of walking tours. In Greenwich Village, for example, I did a bit of research and walked around to places where Khalil Gibran lived, worked, and drank. In San Fransisco I hunted the old beat hangouts of Kerouac. And thus on this trip I stalked E.J. Bellocq.

Bellocq worked as a commercial photographer in New Orleans about 90 years ago, mostly in the French quarter where he spent his entire life. But he also had a secret side to his life in photography. He kept secret that besides his day job as commercial photographer he also photographed the prostitutes of Storyville, which at the time was a legalized red light district.

This at first may seem a bit pervy…a guy photographing prostitutes and not telling anyone about it. But it is the contrary. Yes of course some of the models are shown unclothed, but many were partially or fully clothed. He showed them in the places the lived and worked. In short, he showed their humanity. And it is beautiful. Keep in mind that while prostitution was legal having these photos at the time was not, they would have been considered pornographic and could have resulted in jail time at the very least, and even worse in many ways, personal and public disgrace. Click here to see a good representation of his work.

It’s interesting to note that his photos were never developed in his lifetime. Plates of his photos were discovered in an old slave’s quarters on St. Peter Street behind the Preservation of Jazz. Many of the plates were water damaged and some even had the faces of some of the models intentionally scratched away. There is a great article written at Exquisite Corpse that goes into this in more depth, to read that story, click here.

The morning after my arrival to New Orleans I headed out to St. Louis Cemetery #3 as this is where I had read that is remains were buried. I thought I’d pay him homage, but to no avail. On this day the temperature peaked in the mid 90’s and at the cemetery there was no shade. It hurt to walk around. I often visit famed cemeteries in historic places and was surprised to find that not only was there no office to offer information there was no information to be had anywhere. There were a few tours going on and I interrupted them to ask information but no one could offer any. Seeing a worker’s van down one of the long rows I approached it to find a man sleeping in the air conditioning. After startling him awake he did offer me general advice but nothing concrete. I approached another worker, this one spoke broken or at least heavy accented English. I am usually pretty good at picking up an accent upon hearing it but could not place this sweating and jovial man’s language. It wasn’t until he spoke into his walkie talkie that I realized he was speaking a form of French…Cajun French. But alas, still no info.

The cemetery is vast and as aforementioned has no shade so I began walking back towards the road to seek the shade of a tree. But not wanting to give up I googled additional info as I walked. Sweat was literally dripping from me and onto the screen of my iPhone. I emailed a person who had posted a picture of Bellocq’s grave and surprisingly she emailed me back right away. Unfortunately she could not remember the exact location but only general area. I did go back and look again but to no avail (though I did find the family tomb of Chef Paul Prudomme). At any rate, with the risk of severe sunburn or heat collapse I left the cemetery but  know that I had likely walked right past his grave as they all look so similar.

Over the course of the next few evenings I did what I came here to do…walk around and take photos. The temperature would dip to about 80F in the evening so it was still rather stifling. As I  walked I’d make a point of stopping at addresses that were once home to Bellocq’s studios…Rue Conti, Ursulines, Burgundy. And I’d try to  imaging what it must have been like to haul that heavy photography equipment of his day through this heavy heat.

As I walked I also thought about all the places I have been where I myself have walked at night with my camera on one shoulder, tripod on another, and a belly full of beer. In many this was a sort of deja vue as I had walked these same streets thirty years prior with a camera and tripod. In those days it was with my old 35mm camera, whose prints of that time are mostly lost or packed away in some box in an attic or closet in which I cannot find. When I was here during that time I was so young and had no idea of all that lay before me. I have done so much since then…have changed so much but at the same time am still very much the same. And it occurred to me as I walked that I was not only stalking the ghost of Bellocq but also that of my younger self.

To read a very nice article written about Bellocq for the Smithsonian, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

The View from the Top…

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This is a series of photos I shot last week from the observation deck of Buffalo’s incredibly beautiful City Hall. The observation deck is visible in the above photo as the strip of glass that surrounds the very top of the building. The first photo below was taken from the steps, looking up. This, in my humble opinion, is one of the most underused and free attractions to our city. To see photos of the interior of the building, here’s a series I shot last year, and if you’d like to see a couple photos of the building at a distance and lit up at night, click here.

Anyhow, the photos are as follows…the second photo below is looking east over the city just as you walk out onto the observation deck, when you are up there it is easy to see how the street patterns were laid out in a sort of wheel pattern in the same way as Paris. Walking around the side of the deck and looking northwest one can view Niagara Falls 20 miles away, that’s the next photo (if you look close you can see the mist from the actual falls). The photo below is a zoomed in photo of the tightly packed West Side, my neighborhood. The last photo is a zoomed in photo of the top of the Liberty Building, which is also visible (in the distance) in the photo looking out over the city. What I find interesting about this zoomed in photo is that if you look past the city you can see dozens of windmills in the distance, those I believe are the windmills off to the east of Buffalo in Cattaraugus and Wyoming counties. Anyhow, whether a local or visitor to the City of Good Neighbors, the observation deck as an excellent and interesting way to spend a (free) half hour or so.

Urban Simplicity.

I went for a bike ride on New Years Day and here are a few things I saw…

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Yesterday morning, being New Years Day, I woke feeling somewhat introspective as I’m apt to do. So I went for a bike ride and brought my camera. The streets were dead quiet. I rode to Buffalo’s East Side which is an area of the city that has not seen any of our area’s resurgence. If you have any ancestral lineage in Buffalo, chances are you have ties to the East Side. Both sides of my family, in years gone by, have lived on the East Side. Pedaling and coasting through these deserted streets on New Years day was really meditative in a way; I felt as if I were in some sort of post apocalyptic movie scene, but I wasn’t. Many people still live here. The images of the bombed out looking building below are of the old Buffalo Central Terminal train station. My dad, along with countless other young men, departed from this station on their way to WWII. It’s said that the train station is haunted, and on this day I could feel their presence. The photos are in no particular order. Click any for a slightly larger view. To see photos from previous bike rides through these neighborhoods, click here, here, here, or here.

Urban Simplicity

Manipulating Light…9 Photos of Fireworks

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So last night at about 20 minutes to midnight, after a couple glasses of red wine, I rode my bike downtown. Then I set my camera on a tripod in the midst of thousands of New Years Eve revelers and focused my camera. I had to grip the camera and tripod pretty tightly as it kept getting smashed into and tripped over. When the fireworks went off I snapped a bunch of photos and hoped for the best. These are a few of them.

Urban Simplicity.

Winter.

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Winter
You arrived so suddenly
It was a surprise
You hid in the shadows
For a long time
Camouflaged
Pretending to be Autumn
Gentle, sweet Autumn
But the door was left ajar
And you entered
Swiftly
Like a slap in the face
It stings
And now you are here
Muffling
Blanketing
Making everything shimmer
In your beauty
But please
Don’t outstay your welcome

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