I'm relieved that the quarter is finally over. Now we can all rest. Or, at the very least, sleep longer at night. I have many plans for my vacation and hopefully it'll be productive. Depending on the fruits of my productivity, I'll put some more pictures up here. It feels like it's been ages since I put pictures up and I think I may need to change that. Over this next quarter, I've decided I need to focus more on what I want from photography. It's been a very long time since I've really taken some time for what I want. Sure, I shoot photos outside of school, but many of those photos are for other people. It's time, I think, to make some time for myself.
"When every expression, no matter how radical it is, can be transformed into a commodity and be bought or sold like cheap soda, how is it then possible that you are going to be able to take "art" seriously?"
I will contest until the end of time that my presentation was circling the drain from the very beginning. I was overtired, underprepared, overspastic, looking at the room that, in my opinion, was overfull, which, consequently, made me overworried that I would stumble over my words. Maybe a bit overjaded as well, if we're splitting hairs. It was over soon, however. Maybe too soon, though, to be able to get a decent grade on the whole...event. Almost immediately afterward, though, was the beginning of the gallery show, which, contrary to the presentation, went very well. I very much enjoyed the pins that were available to purchase. I hustled all of my friends into buying at least one of them, so I figured my contribution was satisfied. Most of the people that I really wanted to show up did so as well as some very unexpected guests that made the night much better. I also got a very cool shirt.
Last night, while I was talking to a colleague on the phone, I was reminded of a site I used to visit for human interest stories that fell outside the mainstream. Many of the stories are about the prison system or religion in some way, but when I looked through the site again, it became so much more relevant. With stories about the people of the Appalachians that Shelby Lee Adams covered (found here) or Danny Lyon, when he was allowed into the Texas prison system (found here). I found it very interesting, overall, to trawl through the website again and listen to all the old stories again. Some are unsettling, like "The Execution Tapes" while others are very interesting ("My Lobotomy"). They shed light on a part of society that not many people know about. Unfortunately, many of the older programs are in RealAudio format, so you'll need something that can play those files. I would highly recommend against getting RealPlayer as it's clunky, filled with bloat, and will want to take over all of your media needs, which it does not do well. My recommendation is to instead get Real Alternative (found here). All the Sound Portraits are available here.
Today, I finally saw the video, which will be at the gallery show, and now I have a vague idea of what all the hub bub was about. Of course, there's some B roll of Keith and I attached at the hip and some intense interrogations about some of our Arby's eating habits. But that's okay, we can take the heat. Nevertheless, the video was well done, though I thought it was pretty funny when Colleen asked what I thought of iMovie. I won't comment on how I truly feel about iMovie, but I will say that there is a reason why I use Premiere Pro. On a vaguely related note, we finally hung the gallery show today and I must say, it looks delicious. I think I'm most excited to see what Keith's panoramas look like hung up on the wall. He and I were slaving away, trying to come up with a proper mounting solution. I'm not afraid to say that 3/16" Masonite has officially made my list. We did find a solution, though, I think. Let me just say that Gorilla Glue is a truly amazing thing, especially when nobody makes a screw for 3/16" Masonite. I'd be very curious as to how the goodly people of Digigraphics expected us to mount the damn things. Moving on. I'm very excited to see what the final arrangement will be and I hope the show will be to your liking. And in case you were wondering, Team Champagne will definitely be representing at the gallery opening. Team Champagne for life.
The number of trailers remaining in New Orleans and surrounding areas is quickly dwindling. According to FEMA, on September 20th, there were still 2650 trailers remaining, with 716 of them residing in Plaquemines Parish. FEMA has made it clear that they desire trailer-dwellers to seek permanent housing since June of 2007. Their optimistic stance, which is, essentially, "They can find their own housing and maybe get government assistance or help from non-profits" does not sit well with me. How, exactly, are they supposed to rely on government assistance when, over three years later, people are still without the necessary funds to rebuild? Funds that they were promised, I might add. In Jefferson Parish, 260 trailer-dwellers filed lawsuits, but now, after so many trailers have been hauled away, only 52 lawsuits remain active. It won't take much longer, at their current pace, to simply "get rid of the problem" all together. Citing pressure from civic officials, Jefferson Parish has stepped up its efforts to get rid of the remaining trailers and sweep the problems under the rug. It seems that Jefferson Parish's president believes that governments run on hopes and dreams instead of legitimate urban planning. Without informing people where help can be found (as if it exists to begin with), many of these people will find themselves without any sort of housing and no way of acquiring any in the near future. I'm sure, in the eyes of civic leaders, having an increased homeless population will really add to their sense of normalcy that they so desperately desire. Perhaps it's to give peace of mind to those that weren't effected or had the means to rebuild. Perhaps a better use of their time and resources would be to try to get a handle on their incredibly high crime rate or, perhaps, to help businesses rebuild so people have employment. Any of the things I outlined in my last post would also be fine ideas as well. So kudos to you, Jefferson Parish civic officials, you've continued to show us that special interests are more important than human dignity.
While I acknowledge the efforts being made by the district attorney's office, the inspector general, and the chief of police, we have to understand that the problems of society cannot be solved in a way that people think they can. If there are an increased number of burglaries in a certain area, for example, we may think that stepping up patrols around that area will solve the problem. We'll increase the likelihood of catching the criminal, right? Hypervigilance will not solve crime, nor can hopes and dreams. So what does solve crime? Understanding, intimately, why the problems exist to begin with will allow us to proactively solve the problem. So where do our problems begin? In our economies. Weak economies lead to higher crime rates. Cities that have less unemployment, smaller homeless populations, and fewer abandoned or condemned buildings generally experience less crime. When we were in New Orleans, we were reminded on a regular basis that government assistance was slow in coming. Getting rid of the bureaucracy would alleviate a lot of the problems that homeowners are facing, not to mention a restored sense of normalcy. Additionally, we can give landlords tax credits and grants to rebuild abandoned and condemned properties. Also, we can increase New Orleans' capacity for social work to make those that are homeless employable again. Whether that's through vocational education or simply by offering psychological help, we can take an unskilled workforce and give them skills, like carpentry or bricklaying. These things would have a relatively short training period and make them available to work on a team fairly quickly. At the same time, they can use the money they get from their job and put it to use on further education, such as business management or construction management. I realize that the infrastructure doesn't exist and it takes time to put this infrastructure in place, but if members of government would choose to understand the problem instead of trying to throw all of their resources into fighting it, they would be more motivated. In the end, it may become more economically responsible to understand the problem. Remember the "War on Drugs"? We've poured a lot of money into that. What about the "War on Terror"? How much money have we blasted away on that without any results? What about AIDS in Africa? We've thrown a lot of money at that with very little results. Why have these three things failed? Because we refuse to acknowledge what the heart of the problem is. All the money in the world couldn't fix those problems without understanding them on a base level.
I find it very unfortunate that frames for square images are impossible to find. Is the square not special enough? I always thought it was hip to be square. At least, that's what Huey Louis said. Was he incorrect? Did he misspeak? Perhaps. I suppose anything is possible. Now, I know some of you may be thinking, "Oh Ryan, why don't you just cram it into a 24x30 inch frame?" Should I have to compromise? I don't think so. I think it's utterly ridiculous that I should have to be held down by everybody else in the world that don't shoot square format. Mark my words, I will be Unchained (Capitalized as a reference to something else. If you can guess correctly what that reference is, I'll give you a piece of candy.) and transcend the world's rectilinear idea of itself. I rather like the uniformity of equal matting on all sides of the image. Does that make me unreasonable? I hope not. All I can say is that, for what I paid, they had better be the best damn frames I've ever laid my eyes upon.
I've been cranking out prints for the photo essay portfolio and for the gallery show the last few days. I was sweating bullets the other day when I was using a newish box of sheet paper that had the sides curled up a bit on both sides, due to the fireplace being on and raising the humidity in the air. Necessity is the mother of invention, though, and I popped the box in the fridge for about a half an hour and that settled the paper down enough for it to be usable. I was a little surprised that such a plan actually worked. Looks like printing from home really did pay off, aside from the other obvious benefits, like being able to print in your pajamas while watching Law & Order. Hopefully, I'll have the prints dropped off at the framer today or tomorrow. Woohoo!
I can print again after my printer got repaired this morning. Apparently, my story was so unbelievable to the Epson technician I was talking to on the phone that he was constantly trying to convince me that my eyes were lying to me. Apparently, if the platen is out of alignment, you can have all sorts of unbelievable problems. Regardless, the technician from Decision One was able to diagnose a truly obscure problem and fix it in short order, while we reminisced about the evolution of digital printing. Now it prints immaculately without ruining every piece of paper I put into it. All in all, it was a fairly pleasant experience and now I can experiment and try to make 24"x24" images when I get the proper roll paper. I think I may need to make my way to WestPhoto in the next few days to snag some big rolls of paper after I make the proper printing targets to evaluate which paper will reproduce the colors in a satisfactory way.
Today, the grand edit occurred. All went well and I shall be ruthless with my edits in the very near future and inevitably spend hours upon hours, burning my retinas sitting in front of a computer screen, editing my little heart out. I'm still excited about what will become the end results. Big prints? Yes, please.
Today, we left New Orleans to head back to Minneapolis. The past week has offered some incredible experiences (and ridiculous quotes) that I will surely not forget. As we were leaving, all I could think of were all the places that I wanted to go to and how I wished there were more hours in a day. When I was on the plane, I was trying to think of nifty titles for my essay. I've got a few titles pinballing around in my head, but nothing has really stuck. I know I want it to be a short title, so I can print it in bold letters, but that's about as far as I've thought about it. I have, however, started to write the as yet unnamed book and I'm already excited to see where it's going.
Day 5: This Machine Feeds Hungry College Students Areas Covered: Lakeview
There was an abandoned school that we had visited earlier this week that we absolutely had to explore. After navigating to it using the power of the Blackberry and the wonders of Google, we just had to walk through the open gate. After all, it was on public land. While shooting, a few locals from across the street came to talk to us about the state of the city. The area that we were in, known as Lakeview, had the highest return rate of any neighborhood in the city at only 38 percent. Within the city, there are still around 150 abandoned schools. The reason why is there are simply no kids to occupy the schools. Many residents fled New Orleans to go to other cities like Atlanta, where they could get jobs. New Orleans also just took Detroit's place as the city with the most blight, or abadoned buildings, in layman's terms. If you walk down Canal street, you can see all the abandoned office towers that line the six lane main drag. As we were leaving the school, a team from Florida showed up, presumably to start gutting abandoned houses on FEMA's behalf.
Day 6: Team Coal vs. Team Champagne Areas Covered: East New Orleans Boondocks
Today, we headed out to St. Roch, because Amanda wanted to get a shot. Keith and I wandered off to a nearby park to talk to some contractors that were hired by FEMA to resod the parks that were annexed by FEMA for the purposes of housing the displaced in trailers. The contractor we talked to was hired to refurbish nineteen parks. Apparently, they were also supposed to be done by October 1st, but they were delayed by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. At the time of this writing, only six parks had been completed. Following that, we headed East to go to Chuck's brother's home to see the damage inflicted by Hurricane Gustav.
Today, we got an amazing opportunity to ride along with Times Picayune photographers, some of which were awarded the Pulitzer Prize. I was riding along with David Grunfeld, the assistant photo editor. He showed us around the 9th ward and dropped me off for an hour to met Robert Green, whose trailer I photographed on Monday. An hour later, he came back to pick me up. I had a lot of trouble believing that an hour had gone by, because it felt like it had only been fifteen minutes. Robert answered a lot of the questions I had about the neighborhood he lived in, because he's extremely knowledgeable and as he said, nosey. I felt tremendously privileged to meet him. After David picked me up again, we went to a crab boil, which was really interesting. The process was explained in great detail, which offered a view of the fishing industry that is not often seen. I was pretty grateful to have that opportunity presented to me. When we got back to the paper, we were given a copy of the Hurricane Katrina book that was made by the Times Picayune photographers, which was really, really amazing, because it's not a cheap book. Hearing their stories was absolutely incredible and really gave me such an alternative view of the storm, which I would have never gotten othrwise. I feel like I understand why Hurricane Katrina was so culturally significant now as a result of meeting these people.
Areas Covered: Lower 9th Ward Lake Pontchartrain City Park Golf Course Lakeview
It was another early morning. One of many more this week, I imagine. The early morning light is absolutely amazing down here and I definitely want to take advantage of that as much as I can. The things we did this morning, I thought we did yesterday afternoon. Clearly, I have no sense of weight or time, it seems. I really need to work on those. Also, today I did not shoot at ISO 1600 in broad daylight, which resulted in much better pictures. Tomorrow will be another trip out to the West end where there was a significant amount of damage and also a fairly decent amount of FEMA trailers.
The day began at 6:00 in the morning, when we all woke up from what could better be described as a long nap than a full night of sleep. We went out to the bayou to drop Anthony off for a day of fishing. Along the way, we all took a picture or two. I shrewdly edited a few of them in Lightroom for you. Enjoy.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to being exhausted.