2nd visit to Istre Cemetery

I first went to this cemetery, which is about an hour north of Abbeville, in Acadia Parish, in late spring of last year. I read about it in the south Louisiana guidebook that I took from Granny’s apartment after she died—I love that book, it mentions some really out-of-the-way places that I probably would never hear of otherwise and has led to many photos I might not have taken without it. The book mentions this cemetery because it’s the only one in Louisiana with grave houses, a custom that is more common in the mountain south (Appalachia, mainly) than the deep south. I wanted to see if any new houses had been constructed; the practice had been dying out, but is undergoing a local revival and there were 2 new houses when I last went.

There weren’t any additional houses, but instead I became interested in all the Virgin Mary statues. This is a heavily Catholic region of the country and those statues are by no means unusual, but it seemed like this cemetery had a particular abundance of them. They never seem to get re-painted or cleaned, and you can judge their age by how much blue paint is left on Mary’s robe and how much lichen is growing on her.

11/08/14

11/08/14

11/08/14

11/08/14

11/08/14

That was Saturday before last; last Saturday I went to the Frog Festival in Rayne but the only photo I took was an Instagram of deep-fried Oreos. I try to go to a new festival every year, but this one has always been on Labor Day weekend before, which is hot as balls, so I never went. I guess the town decided they were competing with too many other festivals on that weekend and moved it. I couldn’t complain of the heat this time, it was a lovely 60° or so, which of course means the natives were bundled up like it was January in Detroit.

It wasn’t that interesting, to be honest. It had the same fair rides, the same ugly crafts (there’s ALWAYS a booth selling hideous fake-leather purses covered in fleur-de-lis at these things), the same local bands as every other small-town festival in south Louisiana. I guess the bands are okay if you like Cajun music, but it all sounds the same to me. (Same with reggae music. Every song has the same beat!) But they had good food, so it was worth the drive. Frog legs of course, both fried and sauce piquant. Frog legs are an old-fashioned kind of food, not very many restaurants around here still serve them. They taste like a chicken and a fish had a baby. And there was selection of all the other wondrously unhealthy kinds of fair foods you find in south Louisiana: boudin balls and red velvet funnel cakes and fried… everything. Pickles, alligator meat, Oreos and Twinkies and Snickers bars.

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Port Gibson, Mississippi: “Too beautiful to burn”

I’ve been trying to post these photos for over a week, but I’ve been insanely busy during the day—I’ve been staying late at work and I came in for a few hours on Sunday—and almost as much so when I get home. I need a real vacation, not just a day off here and there. I’m taking 2 days off Thanksgiving week, which with the weekend and the holiday will give me 6 days in a row, but I’m going to spend them driving to Virginia and back so I don’t know how relaxing that will really be. I’ll have a few days off at Christmas, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to take anything like a real break. Maybe after the holidays I can borrow the ‘rents condo for a few days and veg out—I like the beach in winter.

Anyway, these are the photos I shot the day after Halloween in Port Gibson, a town that Grant allegedly said was “Too beautiful to burn” when it was part of the Siege of Vicksburg. Funny how all these small southern towns adopt slogans uttered by Union soldiers; the fort on Dauphin Island is forever reminding visitors that the Battle of Mobile Bay was where Admiral Faragut said the famous words “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”.

Gemiluth Chassed Synagogue

Wintergreen Cemetery

Presbyterian steeple

hollow building

chimney & bird

old building

Westside Theater

And of course I couldn’t be that close to the Windsor Ruins without stopping by.

11/01/14

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Ghost town on Halloween

So as previously mentioned, I took Halloween off because I had some PTO I needed to use up by the end of 2014, it was a Friday, and no one else in my department had taken it. I like Halloween but normally don’t do anything with it other than watch a scary movie and eat candy, but I decided this Halloween was the perfect time to re-visit the ghost town of Rodney, Mississippi. I went there about a year and a half ago with my friend Trish, but we didn’t have much time because we’d met for lunch, wanted to shoot the Windsor Ruins after Rodney, and were going home the same day. So I’ve always meant to go back, and this trip I didn’t schedule anything else that day and got a hotel room in Natchez, so if could get there around noon I’d have 3 or 4 hours. And I brought lunch with me, too.

Rodney was quite an important town for most of the 19th century and was just a few votes shy of being the capital of Mississippi Territory. Quite a lot of important people in the Natchez area were originally from Rodney, including the Nutt family, one of the sons of whom built Longwood, the famous unfinished plantation in Natchez that I toured earlier this year on a previous visit. But after the Civil War the river changed course, then there was a cotton weevil blight during the 1930s, and it was pretty empty by the end of WWII. There are still a handful of people living there today, a few new-ish houses surrounded by a town of decayed old buildings. I live in a pretty rural area and understand the appeal of peace and quiet, but this is like a whole other level. None of the roads leading into/out of the town are paved, and it’s miles from anything. Just to get a tank of gas or a carton of milk would take more than an hour.

Trish and I managed to find it last year, but I always felt like that was luck more than skill and I didn’t want to leave anything up to chance this time. The Presbyterian church is on the National Register of Historic Places in Jefferson County, MS on account of it was fired on by a Union gunboat during the war–there’s an old cannonball embedded in the front. I was able to find the GPS coordinates for it and plugged them into my Garmin. It took a more circuitous route than I remembered, I think because it was sticking to mapped/named roads–I remember looking at Trish’s Garmin (we have the same model) last time and seeing the car just kind of floating in the middle of a blank whiteness, which was a little eerie. Anyway, it got me there in the end. It looked more overgrown than I remembered, but maybe that’s just because it was the first week of March when we went last year and still pretty wintery.

Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Presbyterian Church

Presbyterian Church

house parts

second floor

I shot some film too, but I haven’t gotten it back yet.

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Saints of New Orleans (not the football team), round 1

So I have this project I’ve been ruminating on for a while, Saints of Louisiana. About 2/3 of what I photograph seems to be religious in nature somehow: churches, cemeteries, shrines. And last fall I read Judika Ille’s Mystics, Saints, and Sages. Every entry has a section at the end listing major international places of worship or veneration for each figure, and gee, there certainly are a lot of them in south Louisiana. Most, but by no means all, in New Orleans. Coincidentally, I had already photographed a couple of them, such as the St. Roch shrine, which I semi-jokingly like to claim is my favorite place in the city. (It really kind of is, though.)

So I thought, why not do them all? I’d like to turn it into a book whenever I’m finished, even if it’s just a self-made one from MILK Books.com.
I managed to get a couple more shot before summer weather shut me down, like Charlene Richard’s grave (the “Little Cajun Saint”), but then I kind of put it on hold until the weather got nicer. Like I said, a lot of them are in New Orleans, and I’d like to combine a bunch of them so I can do them all in 2 or 3 trips.

Saturday before last was one visit and I crossed a few things off the list. The primary visit was the New Orleans Chapel of the Santisima Muerte—“Most Holy Death”. I liked the Facebook page a while back and I contacted Steven Bragg, aka Sta Muertero Steven, who built and runs the chapel, through it. He was extremely nice, told me to photograph whatever I wanted, and even invited me into his home (the chapel is in his front yard, essentially) to shoot his personal devotional space.

The Three Robes

La Blanca

St. Michael

La Negra

La Roja altar

Halloween decorations

Next stop was the national shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the matron saint of both the state of Louisiana and the archdiocese of New Orleans. She has a double meaning, because to some followers of New Orleans Voodoo she is an avatar of Erzulie Dantor, and the child in her arms isn’t Jesus but her daughter Anais. Some people credit her with turning Hurricane Katrina away from the city (too bad she couldn’t keep the levee from breaking). The statue was commissioned by the head of the Ursulines (a religious order with very long ties to NOLA) in 1810. It was smaller than I expected! And in the photos I’ve seen it’s usually high up in a wall niche, but that day it was on a little table. There was some construction being done to the outside of the building, so maybe they were afraid the vibrations would knock it off and cause it to be broken.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor

Then I went to Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is the oldest original church in New Orleans. It was originally a mortuary chapel for St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which is right behind it. There’s an international shrine of St. Jude there, which used to contain a statue of St. Expedite. I didn’t see it, and I wondered if it had been removed because St. Expedite is such a favorite with rootworkers. I only saw a statue of St. Florian; but looking at the photos now, there’s another statue in there that might be St. Expedite, but I can’t see it clearly enough to tell. It looks like he’s holding something up and looking towards the ground, which makes me think it is, because St. Expedite is always depicted holding up a cross and stomping on a crow. If it is him I don’t know how I missed it, other than wanting to be fast and discrete because there were a lot of people in there. I’ll go back and take another look next trip.

Saint Jude Shrine

Peace Garden

Ex Votos

Then I went to the cemetery, because it was right there and I had time, even though it’s packed with tour groups on the weekends and kind of annoying. I just popped in for a few minutes to kill the rolls (I was using my Lomo LC-A+ and Yashica MG-1) with some photos of Marie Laveau’s tomb. Not the Glapion tomb; the unmarked one.

Side note: a while back somebody in one of the NOV/Hoodoo Facebook groups that I belonged to at the time (I recently quit several of them) claimed he was going to “sacrifice a dove” at her grave during an upcoming trip to NOLA. I don’t know why you would even do that, because animal sacrifice is not and has never been part of the veneration of Marie Laveau. People offer her money, alcohol, candles, flowers, even beauty and hair products (because she was a hairdresser by trade). She doesn’t want your tortured-to-death* animals, okay? I was like, you know there’s a constant crowd of tourists around that tomb, right? Enjoy the shocked/outraged reactions (which I suspect was the real motivation for this nonsense) and your stay in jail, probably.

*I have nothing against animal sacrifice when it is an established part of a religious ritual practiced by people who know what the fuck they’re doing. I’m pretty sure this proposal did not fall under either category.

Marie Laveau's tomb (maybe)

Marie Laveau's tomb (maybe)

Marie Laveau's tomb (maybe)

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Edgard, LA : Pink Slim Dress

This is a roll shot in Edgard that I brought in to be developed at the same time as the “lost” film rolls from last spring, but they neglected to include a photo CD even though I asked for one (and more importantly, PAID for one). So I brought the negatives in when I brought in the 35mm that I shot in New Orleans last weekend and asked them to please remember to put them on CD this time.

The Pink Slim Dress, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, is the Superheadz knock-off the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim, an amazing wide-angle plastic camera from the 1980s/1990s with a 22mm lens that has the unfortunate tendency to break if you so much as breathe on it too hard. The Slim line (it comes in a variety of colors) has preserved the wide-angle plastic lens and the fixed everything—aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/125th second, focus about 1 foot to infinity—while giving the user a body that isn’t so fragile. I don’t use it as often as I do some of my other 35mm cameras, but I’m always pleased with the results when I do.

House on Caire Court

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and Cemetery

Slave cabins at Evergreen

Slave cabin at Evergreen

10930027

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Forgotten in a desk drawer film roll #2

This was shot during my Mississippi road trip last spring–and I’m going back at the end of the month, so that’s appropriate. I’m taking Halloween off, because I needed to schedule 7 days off during the last 3 months of the year, and all the good days around Christmas were taken but not Halloween and it’s a Friday. I’m really, really hoping I can get back to Rodney, which I had to skip last trip because it had rained so much–getting there entails driving a few miles on a completely unpaved road. (I’m also hoping Mom will let me borrow her truck.)

Most of the roll is of the Windsor Ruins; a lot of the shots are underexposed because of how overcast it was all weekend. Still, I kind of like that, because they look how it felt. It was very oppressive.

Double Eagle Coffee

Windsor Ruins

Windsor Ruins

Windsor Ruins

Water Wheel

Old Mill with Kudzu

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Forgotten in a desk drawer film roll #1

There’s another one too, they’ve been sitting there since last spring. This one looks to have been shot during one of my trips along LA-82/TX-82 for what ultimately proved to be a futile attempt to photograph the Sabine Pass Light.

Grand Cheniere, LA

Grand Chenier, LA

Creole, LA

Creole, LA

Mouton Cove, LA

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