Abita Mystery House

Saturday was probably the last Lomographers of Acadiana meetup. As mentioned, not enough people have been showing up in the past year to make it worth the nearly $200 a year I pay in organizer dues. The dues expire on Saturday; the other members will have 2 weeks to take over the group, and if no one does it will dissolve. It would be nice if someone took it over, but only if they actually keep the meaning of the group intact. Digital photographers were for some reason constantly trying to join the group, even though the fact that it was a group FOR FILM SHOOTERS was laid out in no uncertain terms, at several points in the joining process. If someone takes it over and decides they don’t care what anyone is shooting, I don’t really see the point. There are already a dozen meetup groups for digital photography in Louisiana. But obviously I’m not going to have any control over what happens to the group once I’m no longer in charge of it, so I’m just going to let it go.

Anyway, it was at the Abita Mystery House (and yes, one other person showed up!) in Abita Springs. It’s an homage to the classic roadside attractions that littered American highways before the Interstate Highway System was built in the 1950s. It’s full of dioramas, folk art, collections, weird signage, and things that defy easy description. If you’re a fan of the show American Pickers, you may recognize it.

These are just some cell phone shots; I also shot some Fuji Superia in the Yashica, but I didn’t finish the roll.

Abita Mystery House


Grand Isle Fish

Horrifying alligator-skull thing

Alligator-horse on a bicycle

Hot Sauce House

Googly-eyes President Washington

That's not how you spell patio

Bottle cap door

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Home sweet tiny home

Last Saturday was the meetup for my photography group, I scheduled it in Thibodaux, which is the home of Nicholls University (excellent culinary program, naturally) and about 2/3 of the way to New Orleans from Abbeville. I confess to an ulterior motive for having it there: the photography project I’m working on right now (and for the forseeable future, as I keep discovering new potential additions) is called Saints of Louisiana, and I read that the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph has relics (an arm bone) of St. Valerie. Alleged, anyway; I mean who’s to say the Pope didn’t just nip off down to the catacombs with a chisel and send any old arm bone off to Louisiana. Anyway, they enclosed it in an almost life-sized wax statue, which is in a kind of glass coffin, it’s super creepy.

Saint Valerie

WTF is up with the angle of her neck, she’s either having an epileptic seizure or a massive orgasm. Stay weird, Roman Catholic Church! Speaking of which, they also had a statue of my girl:

Saint Lucy

Yes, that is a plate of eyeballs.

Afterwards we went to Laurel valley Village, which I’ve been to before but Hope hasn’t.

Laurel Valley Village

To sum up: Giant sugar co-op has their workers (not slaves, this was after the Civil War) live in a little village, it goes bust during the Great Depression, place falls apart for a few decades until a history professor from Nicholls re-discovers it, they attempt to restore one building and go “Eff this, it’s too much work/money”, they settle for keeping it in a state of “arrested decay”. I think it makes a more interesting photo subject this way, anyway.

On the drive to Thibodaux, I passed a property along LA-14 in Iberia Parish that had tiny homes for sale and almost drove off the road. I have been obsessed with the Tiny House Movement since shortly after I moved to Louisiana, and I recently saw the documentary TINY: A Story About Living Small, so it’s been on my mind more than usual. Around here most people buy them to use as camps, but they were the real thing all right, less than 200 square feet and on a flatbed. He had 3 different designs, I’d love to see what they’re like inside.

 photo tiny-house-home-design_zpstfgpglrf.jpg

It’s a daydream of mine to get one and put it on my grandparents’ old property, although realistically I don’t know if I’d really care to live in close proximity with that many cousins. I’m saving for a car right now (my Pontiac has over 180,000 miles on it) and I’m seriously considering getting a truck, because if I have a truck, I can move a Tiny House wherever I need to. Hurricane coming? No problem, I’ll just haul it into Lafayette or Baton Rouge until it passes. Have fun re-building, suckers. I also wouldn’t mind having a boat one day–nothing at all fancy, just there are a lot of places I’d like to see that aren’t accessible by road nowadays (the Sabine Pass Light, Chenier au Tigre, Fort Simon). This is a boat culture and I’m sure I could get a used one cheap from someone who was upgrading.

Lomographers of Acadiana: Pointe a la Hache, LA

I had my photography group’s meetup here last month. Pointe a la Hache is the parish seat, but since Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon it’s almost a ghost town. It’s right on the east bank of the Mississippi and the primary business was fishing, so both of those things really hurt the town. There are less than 200 people living there these days, and the only business left is a combination diner/convenience store. (Unless you count the Catholic church.)

The damage to the courthouse precedes the hurricane, though. Some idiot who was about to go on trial in 2002 decided that burning down the courthouse would be a good way to destroy the evidence against him; instead he was convicted of his original crime AND arson. Parish business is now conducted in the town of Belle Chasse; there have been several ballot measures to move the seat there officially but they always get rejected. Sentimental reasons, I suppose.

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Jail

Plaquemines Parish Courthouse

Plaqumines Parish Courthouse

Plaquemines Parish Jail

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Lomographers of Acadiana: Algiers Point, NOLA

This was October’s meetup. Algiers is an old neighborhood, only the French Quarter is older. It’s on the Westbank, but because of the way that the Mississippi River curves around New Orleans, it’s geographically east of the Eastbank neighborhoods. And the most direct way to get there from western Louisiana is to cross the river twice: first via the Hale Boggs Bridge in St. Charles Parish; then again within the city, via either the Canal Street Ferry or the Crescent City Connection.

It’s a quiet neighborhood, mostly residential, since tourists rarely bother to cross the river. It’s really pretty though, I could see living there if I lived in NOLA. It felt like a real place, and not like the amusement park that the French Quarter and even some of the adjacent neighborhoods sometimes feel like.

Some of these were taken with the Smena 8M and some with the Polaroid Z2300.

French Quarter from across the river

Algiers Point is directly across the river from the French Quarter, you can see St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo.

Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church

The door to the organ loft was open in this Catholic church, so Hope and I poked around up there. I guess this leads into the bell tower.

Opelousas Street

Algiers Point is supposedly Hoodoo Central in NOLA, but none of the rootworkers advertise. I guess people just know about them if they live in the city and are into it. I’m positive that this place–which looked like a store building, not a house, but didn’t have any signage and had a residential-type door–was one of them.

Preston B. Delcazel Memorial Park

The Snow Dome

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Lomographers of Acadiana meetup: New Orleans Pharmacy Museum & The Historic Voodoo Museum

I was uploading photos from this weekend to Flickr when I realized that I never posted last month’s meetup. Unfortunately I only have digital photos, because the batteries in my flash were dead and I didn’t realize it until the morning of the meetup. Oh, well.

First we went to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum on Chartres Street. It’s a museum of 19th century medicine housed in the office/home of the first licensed pharmacist in the Louisiana Territory. All of the displays are authentic, none of the items are reproductions. If you’re in the French Quarter and looking for something a little different I recommend it. It was really interesting, there was a lot to see, and admission is just $5.


One of the things I found fascinating was how so many of the herbal medicines of the 19th century contained ingredients that are used today in rootworking–the apothecary jar 4th from the right on the top contained tincture of asafoetida, a foul-smelling herb sometimes called “devil’s dung” that is used in Hoodoo to both repel evil and harm enemies. I saw a lot of other names I recognized, too.


I really, really want this graduated chest of drawers!

Gold- and silver-plated pills

Pharmacists sometimes compounded silver- or gold-plated pills for their wealthy clients. They knew that the metals had no medicinal properties, but they also knew they’re inert and pass through the system without causing harm, and it got bored rich people to quit whining about their made-up problems for 5 minutes, so what the hell.

Medicinal tobacco and marijuana

This was a display about the medicinal use of cannabis and perique (a type of tobacco grown in Louisiana)–tobacco was apparently prescribed to treat asthma!

Voodoo potions

Display of Voodoo potions. People used to get their spiritual supplies from the same place that they got their medicine. The potions were numerically coded (hence “love potion #9”) so that rich white people could ask for them without admitting they practiced or believed in Voodoo, which officially was only practiced by slaves and free people of color.

(So, to the people who say New Orleans Voodoo is a 20th century invention of people who wanted to make money off tourists, riddle me this: if it didn’t exist before that, how do you explain these bottles?)

Pond's tampons

Tampons in the 19th century contained opium. I demand a return to this practice.

Soda fountain

Early 19th century soda fountain. Soda was invented to get people to take bitter-tasting medicine, they would drown it in sugary flavored syrups and add mineral water.

Afterward we walked to the Historic Voodoo Museum on Dumaine Street. It’s pretty small, just 2 rooms and a hallway. And their air-conditioning does NOT work very well, it was stifling. In addition, the exhibits were filthy with dust, and some of them were a little… exaggerated, shall we say. Kanzos in the bayou, etc. NOLA Voodoo is a non-initiatory religious system (which is why the terms “houngan” and “mambo” are not used), and practitioners who want to be initiated usually have to travel to Haiti for it.


Main Altar

The main altar. The wooden rod in back is where the lwa come down.

Yemaya Shrine

Yemaya is one of the Yoruban orisha that made its way into NOLA Voodoo in the 20th century, probably via Santeria.


Lomographers of Acadiana June meetup: National WWII Museum in New Orleans

I should have posted these last week, but I just never got around to it. I have to admit, I’ve never really been all that interested in WWII. I don’t, as far as I know, have any close relatives that fought in it. My maternal grandfather was drafted but received an occupational deferment; he worked at the docks in Port Arthur, at the time one of the most important oil ports in the US. My preferred era of American history is the decades surrounding WWI, the Gilded Age to the Roaring ’20s. I chose the museum because it’s large enough to take up an entire afternoon, it’s air-conditioned, and the restaurant is run by John Besh. ($12.50 for a Monte Cristo? Sheesh.)

That said, it was really interesting even to me. It pretty much only dealt with the American involvement in the Pacific Theater and the Western Front, which at first annoyed me as sometimes I feel like we try to pretend we fought that war single-handed (and conveniently ignore that we never would have won without the eeeeevil Soviets fighting with us). But it is the NATIONAL Museum after all, and the narrow focus allows it to go into lots of detail.

Japanese anti-American propaganda

You know how we had all that terrible, racist anti-Japanese propaganda? Well, they had it about us! This is supposed to be FDR, although the gent standing next to me opined that it more closely resembled “a demonic Jay Leno”.

cigarette rations

Soldiers got cigarettes in their rations. Cigarettes are good for you! They make you more manly and they cure syphilis!

dummy paratrooper

The Allies did a lot of crazy stuff to fake out the Nazis about where the D-Day invasion would land, including dummy paratroopers.

Enigma Machine

Enigma Machine! I’ve only ever seen photos.

French Resistance armband

“I’m in the French Resistance but it’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone.”

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Lomographers of Acadiana: Donaldsonville, Louisiana

This is going to be the last outdoor meetup for a while, although I might go a few places by myself outdoors for a while yet. When it’s just me, it’s easier to take a/c breaks, or just decide “eff this, it’s too hot, I’m going home”. I got some mild heatstroke: a splitting headache and nausea–I had a cup of turtle soup with lunch that was very good, but it started repeating on me in the form of burps, and that wasn’t so good. About 40 oz. of ice cold Diet Coke (sweet nectar of the gods) and some prescription-strength Aleve fixed me up; plus some rain clouds started rolling in and it cooled just enough, but even in the car I couldn’t stop sweating until I got home and took a cool shower. I didn’t grow up here and I doubt I’ll ever acclimate to the summer weather (which generally starts in May). Still, March and April and even the beginning of May were unusually cool, so I’m not complaining.

I think I’m going to have the next meetup at the WWII museum in NOLA, which I’ve never been to.

Anyway, Donaldsonville is the seat of Ascension Parish and almost exactly midway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. My GPS took me there via I-10 (which is how I drive to Baton Rouge) and home via LA-90 (which is how I get to NOLA), and both routes took just over 2 hours. It’s a small (about 7,500) town but a historic one. It was the state capital for a single year, 1831-1832. Apparently the politicians thought they’d get more work done without the cultural and social distractions of NOLA (Baton Rouge didn’t become the capital until 1849), but they must have gotten too bored, because they moved back after a single session!

Bikur Sholim Cemetery

There’s a 19th century Jewish cemetery in the town, Jews from all over south Louisiana requested to be buried there. There used to be a synagogue, but it disbanded in the 1940s (the building is now an Ace Hardware) due to there not being enough members. I guess religion wasn’t as important to the younger generation as fitting in, and they all eventually converted. There are still some Jewish names in the town, but none of them practice anymore.

Church of Ascension

The original Church of Ascension dates to 1772, although the present building was constructed about 100 years later. The stained glass is beautiful, but they keep plexiglass over the outside, which kind of dims it. But I guess you can’t pound boards into 150-year-old brick when there’s a hurricane coming (and some of the windows are really high up).

Bank of Ascension building

There are some cool old buildings downtown, but a lot of them are closed and starting to fall apart. This is the old Bank of Ascension building. It’s for sale!

Elk's Lodge

This was the local Elk’s Lodge. Of course, I couldn’t resist a giant stag head that seemed to be floating in space; I got a pretty good Silver Shade instant, too. The Masonic Lodge was directly across the street, do you think they rumble with each other?

Nathaniel Sanchez

This guy was a trip, he saw Hope and I gawking at all the stuff in his yard and was like “Hey, take my picture!”. Then I printed out a copy for him from the Zink printer and you should have seen the amazement on his face. He kept trying to give me money for it, I was dude no, it only costs me like 50 cents.

first Mormon church in Louisiana

They had this old building in their backyard, his wife says it was originally the first Mormon church in Louisiana. It used to be right on the river, but when they built the levee it was moved and became part of the property.

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Lomographers of Acadiana: Fort Jackson

April’s meetup had to be re-scheduled because of Granny’s funeral, so it was last Saturday. I chose Fort Jackson in Plaquemines Parish, a decommissioned masonry fort from the 1820s. There are a lot of those south of New Orleans, but most of them are closed right now because of Hurricane Isaac. I didn’t find anything online that said Fort Jackson was closed, and in fact there was a Civil War re-enactment there just a couple of weeks ago, so that must mean it’s open, right?

PICT0996, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

*bangs head repeatedly on nearest hard horizontal surface*

FUCKING LOUISIANA, I SWEAR. Of the many, many things that are annoying about this state, top of my list right now is that our parks and historic sites are constantly getting shut down due to hurricanes. And since fixing them up isn’t a budget priority, they stay shut for months or sometimes even years–and then by the time they get them open again, oh hey look out, here comes ANOTHER FUCKING HURRICANE. Katrina shut all the forts down for so long that they were only open for about 18 months before Isaac came along and shut them all down again.

What’s frustrating is there were still lots of people there; even just the outside is pretty interesting, and it’s right on the river. If they opened it and charged a small fee, they would probably have enough money to fix it up by the end of the summer. Maybe I’ll write a letter to whoever is in charge of parks and rec for the state. I’m not going to bother with Jindal, because he’s a Rethug douchebag who doesn’t give a shit about this state outside of how he can use it as a springboard to higher office. Good luck with that, brah.

However, driving through Plaquemines Parish gave me an idea for another shoot. I kept seeing signs for a town called Pointe a la Hache, which I thought sounded interesting, so I Googled it when I got home. It’s the parish seat, but it’s very near where Katrina made landfall, so it got pretty wrecked and only about 200 residents have returned since the storm. So it’s got kind of a ghost town vibe, and there are a lot of ruined buildings. The courthouse was damaged by arson over a decade ago and has been left as is, there’s been a “temporary” courthouse in nearby Belle Chasse since. The parish council has tried 3 times to move the seat to Belle Chasse, but it always gets rejected. Louisianans: we love to pay lip service about how much we cherish our history, but we don’t want to actually spend any money on preserving it. *sigh*

PICT1003, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT1011, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT1008, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT1010, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT1002, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT0999, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT1020, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT1023, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

First roll from the Smena 8M: slightly expired Fuji Superia 400

Saturday was my Lomographers meetup, in Jackson. It was kind of blah, the town looked more interesting on paper. Like, every other building was on the National Historic Register, even if it was built yesterday. And we couldn’t even find the abandoned building that (allegedly) used to be part of the Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System. I think it’s on the grounds and whoever took the photo that I saw just didn’t want to admit they were visiting someone there.

But it’s still fun to get out of the house and see other people and take photos. Lunch was good, too–we went to a BBQ place and I had a bacon blue cheese hamburger. And afterward we stopped off at the Port Hudson National Cemetery, which is on the way back to Baton Rouge. It’s kind of humbling, all those thousands of identical tiny white headstones. But next month (or rather, later this month) I’m going to have it at Fort Jackson, a decommissioned early 19th century masonry fort in Plaquemines Parish. That can’t help but be interesting!

However, the main objective of the day, for me, was to test out the Smena 8M, and mission accomplished. It took me like a half hour to figure out how to load it; eventually I realized that the original take-up spool had gone missing and the seller had included the guts of a 35mm film canister to make up for it. Which means the film lead has to be trimmed on both sides, instead of the one side, as it comes. The ends of 35mm rolls–the end that fits into the canister, not the end that sticks out–are very narrow. I’m also pretty sure that the lens cap is not original to the camera, it has threads on it, like the seller pulled it off a bottle. It was very thoughtful of them to include it, and to stick a little hammer and sickle pin through it–that’s just fun!

I like the camera a lot, it reminds me of the LC-A+ in that when it’s focused on infinity, you get perfectly clear photos; but when focused closer, things can get interestingly fuzzy, because there’s no focus aid and you’re always just guestimating. (With the LC-A+ it’s because there are only 4 focus settings, so you’re never really perfectly focused.) I didn’t notice any camera shake blur, either that trait has been exaggerated or I just have uncommonly steady hands. Maybe all those years of needlework!

487649-R1-20-4A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

See what I mean about “interesting fuzziness”?

487649-R1-23-1A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Nice saturation of color, too. It really is a good lens for a cheap camera. I believe the Soviets always had good optics factories, so even their “proletariat” cameras had quality lenses.

487649-R1-09-15A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

487649-R1-07-17A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

487649-R1-00-24A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I finished up the roll around the house when I got home in the evening. This shot really captures that lovely, golden late afternoon light. (It’s slightly double-exposed because it was the last frame. I could crop it out, but I don’t really mind it.)

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Lomographers of Acadiana: Tremé

(These are just some photos I took with my digital Polaroid, I haven’t got film developed yet.)

After re-scheduling once because of the holidays and again because of a member’s work schedule, we had our “December” meetup the second week in January. In my quest to explore all the neighborhoods in New Orleans, we met in Tremé, which incidentally celebrated its 200th anniversary last October. It was the main settling place for free people of color prior to the Civil War; and remains racially diverse and of historical importance to the city’s African-American, Creole, and brass band cultures.

I’ve been told, and read in online articles, that Tremé is a sketchy neighborhood, but I think that’s a lot of pearl-clutching nonsense. I felt perfectly comfortable there, and no one gave me a second look. That’s not to say there aren’t pockets I probably wouldn’t wander around alone at night, but the same can be said for all of NOLA, or any big city.

wing shack snack, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This is where we met for lunch. The name is actually Wing Shack, but it’s spelled on everything as Wing Snack. There are about 20 different flavors and most of them are “dry”, meaning they aren’t serving you shitty overcooked wings covered up with a lot of sauce. I got the garlic parmesan wings, ranch fries, and ghetto punch, which all the Yelp reviews recommended. I think it’s Kool-Aid mixed with pineapple juice? It’s sweet enough to make your teeth ache, but in a good way.

This part of Tremé is probably what people are referring to when they say it’s not the best neighborhood in the city. It’s right off the freeway, which brings crime into any neighborhood–you pay and pick up your order via a bulletproof rotating door, which I’ve only ever seen in episodes of The Wire. But still, on a Saturday afternoon, it doesn’t feel dangerous. And anyway damn, those wings are worth possibly getting grazed in a drive-by.

There is currently a renovation effort underway in Tremé, and one of their aims is to remove the freeway on/off ramp, to cut back on crime. North Claiborne Avenue was one of the most prosperous black business districts in the country prior to its being built in 1966. I doubt that was a coincidence.

underpass, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Wing Shack is just a carry-out place, so this is where we actually ate: under the freeway overpass. There were a few people there, eating wings or drinking beer or whatever. It was kind of like a park. I don’t know who’s responsible for the murals, but I suspect Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, whose headquarters are in Tremé.

st augustine, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

We went to St. Augustine Church, which is the oldest African-American Catholic parish in the country and was one of the earliest integrated churches in the south. Although how it happened is kind of funny: free people of color used to buy extra pews for slaves, and when white people heard about it THEY started to buy pews, because damn if the church was going to have more black than white congregants. It was integrated out of spite.

st augustine 1, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

It was locked, so I don’t know what it looks like inside.

treme, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Being an older neighborhood, Tremé is on higher ground than a lot of the newer ones, and was largely unscathed by the flooding after Katrina.

backstreet museum, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Around the corner from the church is the Backstreet Cultural Museum, which is dedicated to preserving the African-American culture of the neighborhood. It has displays of Mardi Gras Indian suits, and exhibits on social clubs and jazz funerals.

indian masks, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Masking started as a way to honor the Native Americans, who along with slaves invented jazz in Congo Square, and sometimes sheltered runaway slaves. The suits are made by hand and must only be worn once. They can weigh up to 70 pounds!

peacock headress, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

castle breastplate, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This was my favorite: an elaborate, 3-dimensional front piece shaped like a castle, complete with turrets, a courtyard and moat, and a model horse in the doorway.

marie laveau, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

We ended the day in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which I always thought was the French Quarter, but apparently it’s kind of a boundary area. Which makes sense because the Iberville Projects are behind the cemetery, and that’s where Storyville used to be, and Storyville was part of Tremé. (Parsing all the different NOLA neighborhoods is immensely satisfying to my inner OCD.)

I haven’t been there since before I moved to Louisiana, and it seemed smaller than I remembered it. But when I stopped to think about I realized of course it’s just one square block, like all the old neighborhood cemeteries. (The ones out on City Park Avenue are a different story altogether.) I think it seemed bigger because Mom and I went on a walking tour, and it took a long time to see it all. It’s extremely dense.

The cemetery is also a place I’ve been warned away from, because of the aforementioned projects. Everyone always says to only go in a group. But again, on a Saturday afternoon, that’s needless paranoia: that cemetery was full of people.

I was kind of depressed at how much Marie Laveau’s (alleged) tomb has deteriorated. People keep drawing on it and scratching off the mortar, and it looked like the offerings hadn’t been cleaned up in weeks, some of the stuff had mold growing on it. Clean it up or Marie’s gonna getcha! (Incidentally, the only grave in the country that’s visited more often is JFK’s.)

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