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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?


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*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*


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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!


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See what I mean about “interesting fuzziness”?


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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.


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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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Diana F+: Louisiana Renaissance Festival

This was the November meetup, although we had it on December 1st, because the last weekend in November was Thanksgiving weekend. I figured people probably had plans with their families. I also shot some Velvia in the Lomo LC-A+ that I’m probably going to get cross-processed, and a roll in the wide angle Pink Slim Dress. But I only shot about half of those rolls so I have to finish them.


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Pink Slim Dress: Napoleonville, LA

February’s meetup was actually yesterday. We met in Napoleonville, the seat of Assumption parish. It’s a cute little town of less than 700, and apparently so boring that teenagers can’t think of anything better to do on their weekends than wander around town beating stop signs with sticks.

 


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This little Episcopal church was built in the 1850s, and Union soldiers stabled their horses in it during the Civil War.

 


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There’s always a cemetery on the agenda.

 


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The doors were tiny. They just barely cleared my head, and I’m only 5’4″.

 


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We found this ornamental concrete place that was like someone on a giant meth bender with an unlimited supply of concrete made an acre of statues and fountains all at once.

 


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This was where we were going to eat lunch, but it turned out to be closed on Sundays, so we found the local Dairy Queen rip-off.

The last weekend of this month is our first annual road trip, to Mississippi. I’m very excited!

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