Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Areas Covered:
West End

That is all.

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Everything you're about to see is real."

Areas Covered:
Lower 9th Ward

Lake Pontchartrain
City Park Golf Course

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.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Do you breathe? Have a pulse? You may be alive!

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.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Flying Pop Cans

The first lesson of the day is to divide your heavy camera gear between more than one hard case. I learned this when trying to check my ninety pound bag. I figured it was a reasonable weight, so I put it in the trunk of the car and went to the airport, and if there were problems, then they could charge me for their inconvenience. Well, turns out they do have a limit to how heavy any one bag is. That limit is seventy pounds. It's a good thing I have an academic director that is willing to give up their LeSportsac bag so I can cram as much heavy equipment in there as I could. That bag made me look good. Really good. Too good.
I think I'm going to really like New Orleans and I have a more positive outlook on the whole thing than I did yesterday. Don't lose faith on me now, though, there are plenty of things that can go wrong. Seriously, though, I'm excited and you should be, too. So there.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bus Stop Boxer

On occasion, I slip into bouts of cynical anger in between listening to the Eels and the Arcade Fire, among others. I wonder quietly to myself how James Nachtwey deals with such...daunting odds. Of course, this is on a slightly smaller scale than warring nations, but nonetheless, this project is the biggest I've ever taken on. I suppose it's natural to be a little apprehensive.
So for any readers outside of the photo essay class, I'm not dead. This has been a long time coming and I hope to make the best of it. Hopefully, I'll be able to give you all something worth seeing.
G'night all.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Last stop, this town.

On When the Levees Broke:
I think the thing to remember when watching this documentary is simply this: sometimes, it's more economical to not do the right thing. We've seen this dog and pony show before, and I can guarantee, beyond a reasonable doubt, that we'll see it again in the very near future. This time, however, we saw a domestic example of this occurring, but more importantly, this was seen as an anomaly, so it was well-publicized. This was the first category five storm to hit New Orleans in decades and I think a lot of people that survived Betsey and were building the subsequent levees did not bank on the possibility of such an event happening, just like we thought it couldn't happen again in 1927. Apparently, if we choose to nothing at all, or at the very least, feign a caring attitude, we can save a ton of money. You can't lose any money at a casino if you never gamble.
As I was watching this for the first time years ago, I was surprised. Those were more naive times, however, and as I watched it again and again over the years, I became less and less surprised. Our country's sweep-it-under-the-rug attitude, combined with its penchant for screwing its citizens makes it a hotbed for corporate, or more precisely, capitalist, corruption. It is the economics of amnesia that allows them to sleep at night. It pays better. The United States has a very long and colorful history of doing the wrong thing in order to make billions and doing the wrong thing to save billions. Either way, the house always wins. Businesses took the lessons that the government had learned and adopted them into their policies. Where do you think the insurance companies learned it from? It became acceptable. Many Americans see the government as the ultimate source of conduct. They create laws, we follow them. They feed us information, we believe them.
When I saw interviews with people that were trying to file insurance claims, I knew exactly where they were. Navigating that world is one of the most helpless and frustrating experiences you'll ever experience. The insurance companies, though they have their commercials saying that they'll be there on a moment's notice, are a commercial business. Commercial, as in they intend to make a profit off of you. So what happens when you want to get money from them? Prepare for the fight of your life. Honestly, I feel badly for these people that got taken for a ride, because, in some ways, I got taken for a ride, too. Fortunately, I had the time and stamina to sit on a phone all day for over two months in order to get what my insurance policy promised. Insurance companies, just like other commercial businesses and governments, find it very economical to do the wrong thing as much as possible.
I found the whole thing a bit sickening every time I watch it, though. I just can't understand how some people can be so apathetic when they're paid or elected to respond to problems. Maybe I would understand if I came from that culture, controlled by money and the necessity for power. Maybe it is cheaper to sweep these people under the rug, but it gives me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I think of the idea of somebody thinking that way. I really wish we could shy away from the idea of a cost-benefit analysis being needed to perform any action.

How to not get screwed by your insurance company: a primer.
1. Have documentation for everything. By documentation, I don't just mean receipts, but actual files containing information about your past equipment purchases. This will be immensely helpful if you have to file a claim. Receipts get lost and with them, invoice and order numbers. If you have these numbers written down somewhere else, they can typically be reprinted, thus giving you a proof of purchase. Also, as I found out when I was trying to recover a few lost receipts, it's very valuable to have your accounts attached to an e-mail that cannot be deleted. B&H's policy to recover passwords, and thusly, receipts, is to send your password to your e-mail. If you've changed service providers, or in many Comcast customers' cases, your service was taken over, your past e-mail addresses will be inaccessible. So they may have sent it to your e-mail, but your e-mail no longer exists. GMail is truely a godsend, sometimes.
2. Do not have your equipment insured under your homeowner's policy. I will repeat that, because this is important. Do not have your equipment insured under your homeowner's policy. Homeowner's insurance has limitations as to whether or not they will pay out. For example, if you're a photo student and you take a few jobs and you make some money, then you better make sure you got paid in cash and hide it under your mattress or else you'll be classed as a commercial owner...without a commercial policy. Thusly, your equipment will be either broken or stolen and it will likely stay that way, because your insurance company will not pay out, I can guarantee it. If you never take any jobs and you're too cheap to get real insurance, be prepared to furnish all of your bank records going back as far as five years as you will be audited as part of your settlement. Commercial policies also have the advantage of providing you with money for renting equipment while yours is being replaced.
3. Do not get bullied around. If somebody seems incompetent or doesn't seem to be doing anything for you, ask to be transfered to another adjuster or speak to their manager. If you don't do this, your claim will circle the department for months before anything happens. Go as far up the chain of command as you have to to get your way. If you need to, call them every single day to ask them what they are doing for you. Put them at your mercy instead you at theirs. Hopefully, they'll get so annoyed with you that they will settle your claim to save their sanity.
4. Have five copies of every single receipt, invoice, purchase order, etc. Divide these up into five files and put them five different locations, one of them being off site. One of these copies will go to the insurance company when you file a claim, and one will go to the insurance company when you buy the policy. If possible, get pictures of every piece of equipment and record the serial numbers. There is a reason why Canon sends out warranty cards with almost every piece of equipment. It's to cover your ass, not theirs. A lot of things have serial numbers, too, so write them down.
5. Have money saved up for mailing thing via Priority Mail. Insurance companies will not take anything via fax or e-mail. Snail mail will become your saving grace, but often times, insurance companies are located in different states and will take about a week to arrive, minimum. Priorty gets there in two days, maximum. Time is money and that time will keep your claim moving along and settled more quickly.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The happiest place on earth.

This was shortly after the march began. Nick and I were way up front. Apparently there were over fifty thousand people in attendance.

This is, as you can see, right outside the Children's Museum.

This is a picture of those dreadful anarchists (not the ones we were following, however). They were rounding up dumpsters to tip over in intersections.

The white stuff you see on the ground is coagulated tear gas. The rags were soaked with something that neutralized them somehow.

Up front are the National Guard with the bean bag shotguns. Right behind them are the riot police. Apparently the batons are supposed to break on impact, making a loud crack, causing you to be deaf for the remainder of the day.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Read Music/Speak Spanish

Though this is not at all directly related to the impending New Orleans trip, it is still photojournalism related.
Yesterday, Nick and I ventured into St. Paul to record the events relating to the march and resulting protest. Cameras in hand, we followed reports of property damage and tear gas assaults throughout the city. Eventually, we got dug in with the Black Bloc and Indymedia to cover the protesting more effectively. We photographed other photographers and entire news crews being arrested. We also heard from other embedded photographers that the police officers were confiscating cameras, not just film, from photographers covering the event. All the while, we were wondering whether or not it was legal, or for that matter, ethical. Nick and I both felt that we were targeted because we had the capability to record the events. I should make it clear at this point that we weren't on either side of the dispute and neither of us took any part of the protest. I should also say that greater than 95% of the police officers we talked to were very respectful and courteous. Whenever we asked them about something, they didn't hesitate to give us clear, concise answers. When they closed off streets, they were more than happy to give us alternative routes around the city. They were also very receptive to the idea of documenting all parts of the protest. There were however, police officers that were extremely disrespectful and couldn't separate the idea of the protester from the idea of an observer or documentarian. These police officers judged us incessantly and gave us very generic labels, to our face, that we didn't feel was necessary.
It wasn't long before we were in the middle of yet another tear gas assault, this time involving National Guard troops with bean bag shotguns. Nick and I observed medical crews, not hired by the organizers, but by the protesters themselves, help those who were effected by the tear gas, dehydration, and wounds sustained from the bean bag shotguns. It was clear the police wanted this to be the "final showdown" as I'm sure they were dehydrated and tired, just like we were. More and more riot police emerged from the curtain of tear gas. The police informed us that if we dispersed in the opposite direction, we would be able to leave. Neither Nick nor I believed them as we had seen this happen before at other protests. Eventually, myself and everybody else remotely close by were surrounded. Protesters, observers, and concert-goers, alike. Then we were informed that we were under arrest. The cameras kept rolling and the photographers kept photographing. Nick and I were arrested and detained, but eventually let go after they found out we, along with about 90% of the other people they arrested and detained, had not actually commited a crime.
On our way out of St. Paul, we walked by the Xcel Energy Center and discovered how much they had beefed up security since the protests began. The Xcel was completely surrounded by a 10 foot tall fence and all entrances and exits were guarded by armed National Guardsmen and sturdy crash barriers. I thought this was particularly interesting to see. When I got home, I was disappointed to see some photographers had introduced their opinions, rather heavily, into their photos and introduced their own short-sighted commentary. I thought I would take some time to clarify a few things right now.

1. If you stick a camera in the face of any 16-20 year old person, without their permission, at a political rally, please do not act surprised when they give the middle finger, or any other "obscene gesture". This is not ground-breaking.
2. Not everybody wearing black is an anarchist. It will be very clear when you encounter one. If you still can't figure it out, they'll be the ones wearing black and red and traveling in a very large group.
3. Bandanas at a political rally are not for concealing identity. When soaked in vinegar, they are used to filter out tear gas in the air. Believe it or not, some poeple don't want to cough up their lungs for an hour when police decide to really let themselves go.
4. The numbers written on peoples' arms are not for their hot date later that evening, but for their lawyer. They're written down on their arm so big so you can still see them after you get blasted in the face with pepper spray and your cell phone gets confiscated.
5. None of the protesters are going to kill you. They won't even maim you. If you walk up to them and treat them with respect, they'll be extremely nice to you in return. Personally, if you're too scared to talk to them, then you shouldn't be at the rally. As they say: if you can't handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Those were just a few things that irritated me about the photographs that resulted from the protests. I suppose my griping originates from both Nick and I actually having a working knowledge of all the organizations that were present at the rally and actually talked to and interviewed many of the groups that had members arrested, then coming home to see people acting so foolishly about the whole situation. I believe that the situation was way overblown due to reporters and photographers having no idea what they're talking about. So when you read reports, take them with Dead Sea worth of salt.