Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Voice of the Sea: Hurricanes in Life & Literature - by Ingrid Norton

Ingrid Norton is a very talented writer and essayist who came to New Orleans by way of Austin and Detroit. The tone of her writing perfectly evokes the sense of mystery and wonder of the Gulf Coast that I try to capture in my photographs. The piece linked here was published recently in the Los Angeles Review of Books. My project The End of the Great River is inching closer to being published in book form, and I am glad to have Ingrid on board as a writer for it. The above photo shows Braithwaite, mentioned in her article:

The Voice of the Sea: Hurricanes in Life & Literature

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hurricane Isaac

It's still hard to believe that Louisiana would be hit by a hurricane on the eve of Hurricane Katrina's seventh anniversary, and that's probably why most people chose to ride this one out at home, as I did; no one I know thought it would be as bad as it was, but Isaac suddenly gained strength shortly before making landfall at the tip of Southwest Pass (Burrwood) the evening of August 28th. Now it's obvious that if there's any place where lightning can strike twice in the same place, it's Louisiana.

The storm itself was actually not too bad wind-wise; no more than minor wind damage is seen around the southeastern part of the state. Instead, this was another flood event. New Orleans' new and improved levee system worked just fine and the pumps kept up, resulting in no more than mild street flooding for a storm that lingered for 48 hours in our area. 

However, areas outside this system got flooded just as badly as in Katrina, even though Isaac only registered as a Cat-1 storm with top winds of 80 mph. The size of the storm was huge, however, and this pushed a 15 foot surge onto the coast. Parts of Plaquemines Parish, La Place, and the North Shore got it the worst, making it apparent that to have Louisiana perfectly hurricane-proof, major flood control structures must be built at the Rigolets and Chef Menteur Pass, along with a higher and reinforced back levee for the east bank of Plaquemines Parish.

I have made one venture into Plaquemines so far since the storm, and it is so heavily policed I am not able to work as comfortably as I'd like, but I did manage to get a few shots yesterday, with the above photo showing a drowned cow near the west bank half of Pointe a la Hache.

The barbaric stench of rotting dead animals was almost unbearable -- over 1,000 cattle drowned in the storm -- and I was literally gagging while I took the above photo. I'll be heading downriver again many times to continue documenting the after-effects of this storm for my project, The End of the Great River, which has had yet another twist put into its plot.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Citrus Nurseries, Plaquemines Parish

Images from Becnel's Citrus Nursery, south of Belle Chasse. Late morning before the daily thunderstorms rolled in.

Friday, June 22, 2012

St. Bernard Parish

"Times are hard in St. Bernard," goes the old saying, and parish residents have plenty of reason to gripe. Deliberately flooded in 1927 presumably to save New Orleans from a flood, evacuees were never wholly compensated. Ruled for many years by Plaquemines Parish crook Leander Perez; even got a major street in Chalmette named after him, though parish officials deny it's named after that Perez. 98% of homes flooded up to the eaves during Hurricane Katrina, cutting its population in half, and remaining so nearly seven years later. Many miles of cypress swamp and wetlands eaten up by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet -- a financial flop and environmental disaster. But there's peace, quietude and beauty there for me, which is why I keep going there on picture hunts, and it never disappoints. This time I was lucky enough to catch a boat ride out to Fort Proctor, on Lake Borgne.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


After applying for an Everglades artist residency for next summer I decided to look back through photos made in the Everglades in August of 2008. At the time I decided I wanted to visit South Florida at lowest tourist ebb and sniff around for something other than travelicious photos. I stayed in a wonderfully cheap and private hotel in Florida City, and ventured out daily from there. The rumored clouds of Everglades mosquitos that could snuff out a lamp turned out to be not that bad, as long as I stayed in the sun, and the daily thunderstorms made for great dramatic photos. I had overlooked these five shown here because the mood is more on the muted side. The canal photograph above is a place that has been photographed by at least a handful of people who posted the result on Google Earth; it marks the spot where civilization ends (right), and the Everglades begin (left). At bottom of this post is an overlooked outtake taken at a vantage point I was fascinated with - the southernmost tip of the Florida peninsula at Flamingo. No beach -- the land ends and Florida Bay begins. The many borders, artificial lines, and end-of-the-line type "attractions" I find so interesting are what's behind South Florida Unseen. Been feeling pretty restless about getting back there lately. Grrrr. (Click for larger view.) 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nothing and Everything (South Florida Unseen)


The above photograph, SW 336th Avenue, Florida City, FL, is from my personal project South Florida Unseen, a project I'm always over-eager to work on, and always the one that seems to take the most explaining to get anyone to understand. I shopped around proposals for this project over the past few years, usually met with absolute silence; the one organization who "got it" and was most enthusiastic about it sent regrets that they had nothing to help fund it.

The idea for the project is to amass a huge collection of images of South Florida, behind the tourist/travel magazine curtain; the South Florida that is off the beaten path, or overlooked in lieu of more sumptuous Floridian visuals. I wanted to show the parts of metro Miami, the lower peninsula, and the Florida Keys that intrigued me the most: the endless undeveloped lots; the strange, pronounced line of demarcation between suburbia and the Everglades (certain housing developments border an untamed wilderness that you probably couldn't survive the night in); the suburban cinder block cubicles that hold people who either came here for work or to chase dreams; the greenish-blue water of Florida Bay; and, like the photo above documents, named but undeveloped streets and avenues that lead to nowhere.

For some odd reason I'm fascinated by these roads to nowhere because they instantly fill my head with ideas about what they wanted to be, could have been, or what they exist for now.
I imagine perhaps the road above was named and cut so it could eventually be developed into some suburban lot with houses for sale, but somehow it never wound up happening. Not enough people moved to Florida City. But this is one of the last named blocks of metropolitan Miami, right before entering the undeveloped miles south on the way to the Keys - a most desolate area 25 miles south of a major city.

I made this photograph just as a major thunderstorm was entering the area on an extremely hot and humid summer evening; thunder was roaring, it was just beginning to rain, and if you look close enough (I won't say where) you can find a water droplet on the lens. This was a place I felt both the pleasure of solitude mixed with slight fears about what I would do if someone came behind me on the road; there was no place to turnaround, and I'd be trapped. This is a private place where people sometimes come to do "bad things," and there was no way out of this road other than to back up. Some might think there's really nothing to this image but I've always really liked it and I'm still moved by it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2012

A wonderful day at Jazz Fest. All images from May 4th -- a day with no overcrowding due to no major arena rock star being on the bill. Instead we enjoyed a steady lineup of local and regional jazz, blues, and Cajun music. A day for locals, as some would call it. There are times I wish Jazz Fest would not book huge heavyweight acts such as Bruce Springsteen, who on April 29th apparently caused gate campers, impossible lines for food and drink, and such overcrowded conditions that it took 30 minutes to walk from one end of the fairgrounds to the other. But I have found that if you go on a day when no huge acts have been billed, you get great music, never have trouble getting a good seat, and no lines at all for food or facilities.

Red Hawk Mardi Gras Indians

Mr. Okra
Hot 8 Brass Band

Larry Sieberth

Roland Guerin

Kid Simmonds Local International All-Stars

Refuge From the Heat

Germaine Bazzle

Germaine Bazzle

Sundown Playboys

Shannon Powell

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Iberia

My presentation at the Gulf States Camera Club Convention was a lot of fun and very well received. It was a great honor to be a guest speaker at the convention; I hope they'll invite me back for some future event. On Friday evening there was a fais-do-do of sorts for 200 shutterbugs at Shadows on the Teche - the historic home built for sugarcane planters David and Mary Weeks, completed in in 1834 - where these photos were taken. I got completely stuffed on some terrific Cajun food and had great dinner conversation with other photographers from Louisiana and Texas.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Iberia/Gulf States Camera Club Council Convention

Off to New Iberia tomorrow for the GSCCCC. I'm speaking Friday at 1PM; hope to see you there. On the way home I might stop off at Avery Island or maybe lower St. Mary Parish for some photography so I'll post results if I do.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Grand Isle

A recent visit to Grand Isle. Both Grand Isle State Park and Elmer's Island were open - no oil on the beaches. The head of Grand Isle was closed, east of the pier at the state park, for reasons unknown. Fourchon beach was still mysteriously closed to the public. Signs read "no pedestrians beyond this point." A great spring day - sunny and warm, coming on the heels of major rains the day before.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gulf States Camera Club Council Convention in New Iberia

I will be a guest speaker at the annual Gulf States Camera Club Council Convention, hosted by the Lafayette Photographic Society, being held this year in New Iberia, LA, at the Ramada Conference Center.
My slot is at 1:30PM on Friday, April 20th; I will be giving a 60-70 minute presentation on recent works and experiences in photographing Louisiana's coast. I plan to show a little bit of what's been cooking in the kitchen lately and just give a general talk on my approach to things, what motivates me to make photographs, and other aesthetic matters. I love giving talks and mostly improvise once things start rolling, avoiding instructional advice and getting into what is most important to me - photography as a means of sharing the feelings stirred by being in places.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2012 Grand Isle Juried Art Exhibition

A 20x24 C-print of this photograph, Lake Arthur, LA, has been selected to be in this year's Grand Isle Juried Art Exhibition, April 14-22, at the Grand Isle Community Center on LA State Highway 1. 

This was one of many photographs made in the town of Lake Arthur last summer, and shows my daughter Maureen and her friends, the twins Katie and Ella, looking over the bow of a boat we were on, at the edge of Lake Arthur looking up the Mermentau River. It was just one of those "moments" - in no way a planned, rehearsed or posed image. As we began entering the the river from the lake, the girls instinctively moved to the bow of the boat for the view. A heavy summer thunderstorm had hit about an hour before we got into the boat and was still clearing out; we could hear thunder rumbling in the distance, there was no wind, and we were still blocked from any direct sunlight, which provided for the eerie light (no Photoshopping or blending of multiple exposures was used for this image; exposure was 1/180 at f/16, using the 10-24mm Tamron lens). I visualized the completed image as it is here, lined it up, and pulled the shutter before the silent mood changed. It's probably my favorite shot from that particular trip, and to distinguish it from the other Lake Arthur images made, it has acquired the unofficial nickname "Heinies." 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mardi Gras 2012

Just a few images from this year's Carnival season. Seen here are the Krewes of NOMTOC; Mid-City; Zulu; Okeanos, and others celebrating. Click for a larger view. More to come - enjoy.