Do You know what it means to miss New Orleans?

January 22, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Holy two posts in a month batman.  I got a lot of great positive feedback on my last post so I figured I would follow it up with something that I've wanted to get to for the better part of a year now. So damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead: New Orleans. AKA the Big Easy, where the Saints like to come marching into, and home of the po-boy.  I attacked the city armed in a manner that suited it I think: two Leicas and a Rolleiflex. This was the first time in over 3 years that I made a major trip without a digital camera.  The small compact nature of my leicas and Rolleiflex were a nice change of pace from my Nikon D2x and D300 with bulky (read: Heavy!) zooms.

Hamburger Joint in the French Quarter. Leica M6TTL, Fuji Pro800. 50mm Summicron


   I had the chance to stay with some amazing folks while I was in New Orleans - Adrian, Giselle, Ronnie, Jaime, Matt and co; thank you so much for the hospitality and making me feel welcome in your lives or in your home. Without all of the wonderful people I met during this trip, I wouldn't have had the incredible experience that I did. For the eight days that I spent in the city, you made me feel like I had lived there all my life.
 

Street Performer, Royal St, French Quarter of New Orleans. Leica M3, 90mm Summicron, Tri-x.

There were a few ways that I could have tackled the city when I went to take my photos. I will admit, I fell trap to the lure of the French Quarter and it's easy tourist attractions. I hope however for the most part that I can show a side of New Orleans that in often years has been overlooked; the jovial and bright nature of its residents.
 

House a mile outside of the French Quarter. Still abandoned after Hurricane Katrina. Rolleiflex MX-EVS, Kodak Plus-x 125

Hurricane Katrina has left its mark for certain; but the populace of the city has not been beaten. What my photo above fails to show is the home next to it being renovated for a new family. Streets are still crowded with performers, tourists and residents going about their lives and enjoying what this city has to offer.  It is unlike just about any city I've ever come across in the United States. I've been told that my photos of it seem more like a spot across the pond then here. 

Renovated Home, New Orleans, LA. Rolleiflex MX-EVS Kodak 160 NC
French Quarter Hotel. Leica M3, 50mm Summicron, Yellow Filter and Tri-X.

The architecture of New Orleans is great. I loved looking at the different buildings and the variety of things compared to where I live in upstate NY.  15 foot ceilings don't happen around here (at least not if you want to stay warm in the winter).  The bright colors and stucco'd appearance of many of the places just isn't what I'm used to. Some spots in the French Quarter definitely evoke an old world feel, with dark colors, gas lanterns and hidden gardens that jump out behind gated entrances.  Visiting Mimi's made me feel like I was in bombed out Europe during the 1940's (aided in part I'm sure by the klezmer band that was rocking the second floor) with plaster falling off the walls to reveal the brick and wood underbelly of the building.

It is the people however, that make New Orleans into the intricate place that it is.  An amalgamation of its parts, New Orleans is both Modern and Antiquated in the same breath. It is home to the musicians that revel in the music of the teens, twenties, thirties and forties. As one of my friends put it, "You know the home of misfit toys? Well here we're the home of misfit instruments." Sousaphones, archtop guitars, bass saxophones and a variety of other, stranger instruments reign supreme here.  Yet modern jazz, rock, blues, and the ever-present singer songwriter find their place here as well. The 1940's streetcars still run (rarely on time, but the whole city is laid back about things like that) yet visitors are looking up destinations on their smart phones.  The antique charm of the French Quarter is offset by the Neon blitz of Bourbon Street, home to flashers, booze and strip joints galore.
 

Bourbon Street at Night, Leica M6ttl, Fuji Pro800 35mm f2.5 Voigtlander

The party truly never stops for some visitors and residents, especially around Mardi Gras. It's a bit weird and sad to see people still hammered at 10:00 the next morning because they haven't stopped going to the bars.
 

American White Ibises in a Tree in City Park. New Orleans, LA. Rolleiflex MX-EVS, Kodak Plus-X 125

Being a country boy though, I do have to try and find some sort of natural setting in every city I go.  I've done it in New York, LA, Boston, Chicago, Montreal and New Orleans. After a few days. I get tired of concrete and metal and I need some nature.  City Park was a nice destination for that in New Orleans. It still has playgrounds for the kids, concrete walkways and such to make city people feel at ease, but the variety of birds, turtles and other random animals makes it a fun place to reconnect for a moment. Spanish moss in the trees doesn't hurt as well.  I took my Rollei out to explore here and it was a lot of fun. One of my favorite photos is of this twisted up tree in City Park. I just love the tones and the feel of it for some reason.
 

Tree covered in Spanish Moss in City Park. Rolleiflex MX-EVS, Kodak Plus-x 125.


I could easily keep going about the trip; I've left out so much, from spanish grocery stores to cactus steaks for dinner to random crawfish boils at midnight with strangers.  I'll stop here though and say one thing; Go! If you've ever wanted to visit for the Jazz fest (more rock than jazz these days) Mardi Gras, or just to see this amazing city, don't wait. Do it. Get out of the hotel area, buy a pass for the street car and explore the city. It's worth it.  I haven't even touched on how great the parades are that they have.
 

Marine Band during St. Patricks Day Parade. Leica M6TTL, 50mm Summicron, Fuji Provia 100

(Thanks for reading. If you've enjoyed the post, the photos or anything else, please feel free to visit my website, www.awasos.com. Photography is what I do for a living, and without wonderful folks like you purchasing prints, hiring me for events, or anything else photo related I can't travel to wonderful places like this and take photos. If you'd like to see more photos from New Orleans, you can click here to go to that album directly - http://ericjenks.zenfolio.com/neworleans.)


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