Great Blue Heron, Pensacola, Florida, 2012
This bird was on hand at the dock to watch our ship depart Pensacola. A setting sun paints the evening sky at one corner of the frame, while the heron readies for flight from the roof of a building at the other corner. The building also reflects the warmth of the sunset on its reddish, patterned brickwork.
Cruising Mobile Bay, Alabama, 2012
As our ship cruised towards Mobile, this placid seascape expressed a sense of calm. The bands of overheads clouds place their shadows upon the placid waters of Mobile Bay, revealing only a distant refinery on the horizon. Yet all of us were made well aware of the fierce Civil War battle that raged upon this very spot in August, 1864. It was here that a Federal fleet commanded by Rear Admiral David Farragut fought and destroyed a Confederate fleet and gained control of the last important port of the Confederacy. The battle was marked by Farragut’s bold dash through a minefield that had just destroyed one of his ships. The mines were called “torpedoes” at the time, and according to legend, Farragut uttered the famous phrase “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” That story did not appear in print until several years later, and some historians doubt if it ever happened, but it remains a fixture in US Naval lore.
Endangered Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island, Alabama, 2012
Fort Gaines defended the Confederate port of Mobile during the American Civil War. It fell to the Union Navy following Rear Admiral David Farragut’s defeat of the Confederate fleet defending the port, one of the three Confederate forts to be captured in the Battle of Mobile Bay. Federal troops accompanying Farragut’s fleet used their artillery to quickly force Fort Gaines to surrender. In this image, I’ve stressed the huge Christmas bow that graced the entrance to Fort Gaines during my visit. It’s bright red color contrasts to the rich green grass covered moat that once protected the fort. This bow could be also be interpreted as a potential memorial to the historic fort, because it is currently facing devastation by nature itself. It sits on the eastern end of Dauphin Island, at the very edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Ongoing erosion is destroying ten feet of sand dunes and beach each year, causing the fort to be currently listed as one of the ten most endangered Civil War battlefields in the United States.
Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana 2012
We spent the final three days of our journey in New Orleans. As we arrived, we found miserable weather awaiting us – leaden skies, light drizzle, and chilling wind. I looked for opportunities to use the adverse conditions to my advantage, and this image provided one of them. The centerpiece of Jackson Square, at the historic heart of the city, is a heroic equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson, who defeated the British army at the Battle of New Orleans in 1814. The light was absolutely flat, so I fragmented the image into thousands of tiny pieces by photographing the upper half of the statue through one of the trees surround the square. By focusing on its bare branches, I throw both rider and horse into ghostly soft focus. A cluster of tiny dead leaves is sharply visible on the soft statue in the background. Blended leaves, rider, and horse speak of the faded glory of the past, which is what I intended both Jackson Square and its statue to symbolize.
Mardi Gras Mannequin, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2012
Mardi Gras is celebrated here in the spring, yet it is promoted all year round. This passive mannequin, displaying Mardi Gras beads and costume jewelry in a shop window, is costumed in an incongruously spongy headdress, and wears this jewelry not only in on her head, but also on her nose. Yet she seems to be quite unaware of her mission. By moving in the subject, I stress the fine details that give this image its incongruous qualities.
The Queens of Proteus, Antoine’s Restaurant, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2012
Our ships tour group lunched at Antoine’s, the oldest family-run restaurant in the United States. It was started in 1840, and has been operating in its present location since 1868. We toured the numerous private dining rooms in the restaurant – one of them honoring the Mardi Gras Carnival Krewe of Proteus. On one of its walls, I found a photographic chronology of the Krewe’s Queens, going back into the 19th century. All of the portraits seemed to recede in comparison to the 1897 Queen, Juanita Lallande. For some reason, her print was much brighter than any of the others. She seems to ponder the moment, while the others are simply posing for a picture. I place Miss Lallande near the upper left hand corner of my frame and photographed her from an angle. Because of my camera placement, most of the other queens appear smaller and certainly darker. This woman, shown here forever young, comes through as a person, rather than just a ceremonial symbol. ( I researched Ms. Lallande, and found that she not only ruled the Proteus Krewe at the 1897 Mardi Gras – she both sponsored and launched the US Battleship “Louisiana” in 1904.)
Peacock Mardi Gras Mask, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2012
As a symbol of Mardi Gras, the festival most often associated with New Orleans, this gilded mask of Peacock feathers conveys the mystique and bravado of the annual festival. I found this mask in the window of a store on Royal Street, and filled my frame with a sea of purple, green, blue, and gold textures. The space left for the eye certainly draws the eye, as well.
Gathering of angels, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2012
The famed French Quarter of New Orleans is the city’s oldest neighborhood. Some of its present day buildings were built under Spanish rule, however a majority of them were refurbished in the Victorian Style after the Louisiana Purchase. Wrought iron balconies such as this one can be traced back to the 1850s. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this veritable gathering of concrete angels gazing through the balcony’s lavish foliage. The flag of Italy is only one of a number of flags that fly from this balcony – the building is most likely a hotel or bed and breakfast. I made this image on a cold December day, populating the frame with incongruous angels large and small. They may have been placed here in salute to the Christmas season.
On the street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2012
Evening has fallen on New Orleans. We had disembarked from our cruise earlier in the day, and from then on, I was free to make images when and wherever I wished in New Orleans. I made this image while looking for street shots just off the notorious Bourbon Street strip. The man at the far right seems to have failed at persuading the young couple just in front of him to eat at a small Middle Eastern restaurant. He looks as if he is still pleading with them, even though they pay no heed. Or perhaps he may just be asking them for financial help – there are many such folks on the cold wet streets of the Big Easy. The answers exist in the mind of the beholder.
Primary colors, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2012
The blue man with red lips, seated in a yellow gallery with blue Mardi Gras beads around his neck, makes for a shocking study in primary colors. I framed the seated sculpture in a corner windowpane, thereby layering the image and adding the illusion of depth. The rectangular paintings on the wall behind the sculpture echo the rectangles within the window, while the dark blue door brings the relationship of colors here full circle.
Reflecting history, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2012
When I passed the window of The Historic New Orleans Collection’s Museum, this 1840 portrait, known as “Creole in a Red Headdress” by Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans, made me stop in my tracks. The painting, recently acquired by the Historic New Orleans Collection, offers a memorable insight into the rich cultural history of the city. The window also reflects an array of 19th century windows just across the street. I made this image to blend this reflection with the haunting portrait, illuminating a slice of New Orleans history.
Bourbon Street Scene, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2012
The weather changed for the better on the final day of my visit to New Orleans: the sun finally appeared. Since I was photographing on my own, and not tied to the rigid schedule of a tour guide, I could take all the time I needed in search of expressive light and its effect on human values. While walking along Bourbon Street, I noticed a group of three men conversing in the shadows of portico supporting the façade of a 19th century building. I studied their relaxed body language from across the street for several minutes, moving my vantage point to change their relationship within the frame. (I never could have done this if I had been with a guided tour – the group would have already departed while I watched and waited for body language to fall into place.) Finally, the man in the foreground turned away from my camera, and leaned his head against the pole supporting the portico. The crouching man wearing a hat was talking, while the other two men listened. Six elements move the eye across the frame – the bike chained to the post, the red fabric in the window, and the three men, carefully separated from each other by a minimal amount of negative space. Meanwhile, the glorious morning light plays along the curb, sidewalk and the sills of the windows, as well as on the man at far right, who sits atop a newspaper container. Light itself becomes the stage upon which this photograph plays out.