Pink Slim Dress: LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

The Pink Slim Dress has a dumb name but is an awesome camera. It’s the SuperHeadz knock-off of the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, which it re-created faithfully except for the Viv’s annoying habit of breaking if you breathe on it too hard. It’s great for photographing large buildings, like LeBeau was before a bunch of gas-huffing chucklefucks burned it to the ground–I used it last spring, when Trish and I photographed the house in slightly better days.

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

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LC-A+: LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

LeBeau Plantation, after the fire

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I didn’t realize that idiocy was so flammable

As previously mentioned, I drove down to Arabi on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and photographed what’s left of LeBeau Plantation. There was police tape strung across the property line along the road, but I just stepped over it. It was obvious I wasn’t there to vandalize the place or anything and I didn’t seriously think anyone would call the po-po on me, but I was technically trespassing on a crime scene so I didn’t hang out. I didn’t rush, but I did my thing and left. (The gaping hole in the chain link at the back of the house is still there, but I guess the damage has been done.)

I also shot film in the LC-A+ and the Ultra Wide & Slim, but didn’t finish the rolls. These are the digital shots.

LeBeau: after the fire

LeBeau: after the fire

The whole thing still stank of charred wood. And the property was all muddy even though it hadn’t rained in several days, because they kept the fire hoses on for hours, to make sure it didn’t flare back up.

LeBeau: after the fire

LeBeau: after the fire

LeBeau: after the fire

I think public stocks need to be brought back as punishment for shit like this. Put those morons in them for a week, plunk down a giant bin of rotten vegetables, and let people hurl away. Look, I was young and dumb once, I drank and smoked pot, and obviously I understand the allure of abandoned properties. But holy fuckballs, I never did anything a fraction as stupid or callous as purposely setting fire to a 165-year-old building.

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LeBeau Plantation: 1850-2013

487650-R1-18-7

I sold a print of this house, which Trish and I photographed last April, on Friday morning. Which is good, but the reason why I sold it sucks: it burned to the ground about 2:00 in the morning.

plantationruins

The woman who bought the print said her husband grew up across the street from the house and used to play in it as a kid, so she wants to give him the print as a Christmas present. He was one of nine kids, and they all played there as children, so she might be buying more.

No one’s lived there in decades and it has no electricity, so when I heard about it I pretty much figured it had to be arson. But I thought it would turn out be accidental: teens having a bonfire or homeless people trying to stay warm, it got out of hand, oops. Turns out it was deliberately set by a bunch of grown-ass men; they were drunk and smoking pot and trying to “summon ghosts” (the place has a reputation of being haunted, which I’m sure is bullshit), and when they didn’t show up, one of them decided to set the place on fire. You can’t see it, but I’m making the angriest, most disgusted face you ever saw right now.

I never could figure out who owned this property when I researched it earlier in the year; turns out a foundation has owned it since the 1960s with the stated intention of restoring it. They’ve collected about $100 million towards that goal and spent about 1% of it, mostly in the form of huge salaries for themselves. Typical Louisiana corruption, in other words. Too bad they couldn’t have parted with some of that money to hire a night watchman.

It’s a very eerie feeling, to know that something I photographed is gone forever. That must have been how Clarence John Laughlin felt towards the end of his life, going over the plates for Ghosts Along the Mississippi and realizing that about 1/3 of those houses are just gone.

I’d like to go photograph what’s left, but that’s going to have to wait because it’s probably still an active crime scene right now.

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Pink Slim Dress: LeBeau Plantation, Arabi, LA

(The Pink Slim Dress is the SuperHeadz knock-off of the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim; it has the camera’s exact body and 22mm lens, but not its annoying habit of an extremely easily broken film advance. It comes in a variety of colors.)

I take my color 35mm to… Walgreen’s. I know, I know. Their ignorance of photography actually works to the Lomographer’s advantage, because they don’t try to “correct” screwy film. They just develop it and slap it on a CD. But lately I’ve been having trouble with them. One roll came back with the colors all muddy, which almost certainly means they were using old chemicals. And 2 of them had weird spots, like water spots, all over the prints. They tried to tell me the film was damaged. 2 rolls seems doubtful, but they were from the same package, so… not impossible?

I decided the problem wasn’t so much with “Walgreen’s” as it was with “the Abbeville Walgreen’s”. This isn’t a very big town, and there isn’t a deep talent pool to draw from, which is probably why our local Chili’s can’t get a simple hamburger right. (Seriously, every 6 months there’s an “under new management” banner out front, every time my parents try it out, and every time they come home and are like “Yeah, no, it’s still terrible”.) I mean, the woman whose name tag says she is the “photography dept manager” once told me they couldn’t cross-process my slide film (which I had had done there like, 20 times at that point) because their machines couldn’t handle E-6 “size” film, only C-41. I patiently explained to her that E-6 and C-41 aren’t sizes, they’re chemical processes. The size of both films is 35mm.

So I took this roll (and the roll I shot in the Smena 8M) to the Walgreen’s in Lafayette. And even though this roll was from the same batch of film as the 2 that had spots on them, it’s spotless. So I think I’m going to take it there from now on.


487650-R1-24-1, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

487650-R1-18-7, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

487650-R1-19-6, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

487650-R1-15-10, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

487650-R1-13-12, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

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LeBeau Plantation, Arabi, LA

I spent weeks researching plantations in Louisiana, trying to find one that hadn’t been restored but that was still standing. That turned out to be pretty rare; if a plantation wasn’t kept up by a family who didn’t lose all their money in the Civil War, or get turned into a paying attraction (B&B, tours, etc.), it tended to have disappeared years ago. I kept finding photos that looked promising, only to find out it was an old photo of a house that had burned down in the 1950s or been demolished in the 1970s.

Finally, paydirt: LeBeau, in St. Bernard parish just south of New Orleans–and I mean JUST south, you could probably walk there from the city limits. The most recent photos I was able to find were taken in January of this year, so I was certain enough it was still there to make the drive (and to convince Trish to meet me there). After the war it was a hotel, a brick factory, and an illegal casino. A fire destroyed much of the inside in 1986 and it’s been uninhabited since then. There were some plans to restore it, but then Katrina happened, and it dropped pretty far down the priority list.


PICT0858, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT0863, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT0861, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT0868, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I was pretty sure, from some of the photos I’d seen, that there was a hole in that chain link fence somewhere. And I don’t think local kids sprayed that graffiti on from a distance. Trish spotted it, round the back, just big enough for my butt to squeeze through.


PICT0866, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT0865, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

We didn’t try to get inside. For one thing, the inside is probably dangerous, because of the fire. That house is several feet off the ground, and falling through the floor could mean breaking a leg or worse. For another, the steps that lead from the ground to the porch either washed away in the storm, or were removed to keep people away from the house (doesn’t appear to have worked for the local graffiti artists), we would have needed a stepladder. Also, see that thing in the doorway that looks like a brain? That’s a GIANT BEEHIVE. Like icebergs, what you can actually see of a beehive usually represents just a small fraction of the structure. The inside of that house probably looks like Candyman’s home.

All that aside, I still wouldn’t have tried to get inside. It’s boarded up, and to get in you would literally have to break and enter. I’ll trespass for a photo, but I draw the line at destruction of property.

So mission accomplished! I photographed an unrestored but standing plantation home. (I also shot some 35mm in my Pink Slim Dress, some 120 in my Diana F+, and several Silver Shade instants.) And Trish sold me a bundle of slightly expired 35mm Fuji–2 dozen 400 and 200–for just $10. So I won’t need to buy any color 35mm for a while!

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