Mystic Krewe of Barkus: Bark Wars

I have this thing where every year I try to go to one festival I haven’t been to before (this year I’m reallyreallyreally hoping that can be the Los Isleños Fiesta in St. Bernard Parish, which I always seem to miss), and every Mardi Gras I try to go to one parade I haven’t been to before. Last year was Krewe de Vieux, and this year I went to Krewe of Barkus. It was yesterday, and they had ridiculously good weather for it in New Orleans, sunny and about 72 degrees.

I didn’t get very many good photos. I could kick myself because I aaaaalmost brought my old digital camera, even started to put fresh batteries in it, then thought nah, I’ll just use my cell phone, this isn’t going to be “art” and it will be one less thing to carry. Well, my phone picked yesterday afternoon to act like a toddler not getting its way. The camera function kept crashing; or the focus would get all weirdly shallow and focus on the wrong thing. Like the crowd behind the parade would be in focus instead of the dogs, or a dog’s paws would be in focus but its face wouldn’t. And almost everything came out blurry, that camera usually has better action capture. It’s not like anything was moving fast. I deleted about 2/3 of the photos I took and wound up with less than 20 worth keeping. Oh well, just means I need to go back next year, right?

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Bark Wars

Barkus’ human handlers must include a small army of discreet pooper scoopers; I didn’t notice any scooping but I walked back to my car along their route and I didn’t see any dog poop either.

I didn’t want to try to drive back through the French Quarter, which was a madhouse getting into–there were like 8 parades happening yesterday–so I decided to skirt the worst of by going down North Peter and getting on the freeway via Elysian Fields. Which I realized would take me past Island of Salvation Botanica, where I haven’t been in… gosh, I think it’s been a couple of years now. I just haven’t been hanging out in the Marigny, I guess. So I checked my phone and it looks like they’ve expanded their hours, they’re now open 7 days a week and even until 6:00 on Sunday.

The place has gotten a little more commercial, everything was slightly overpriced, and it even sells “Voodoo Dolls”, which I know they know is not actually A Thing, but it’s something tourists like to see. I didn’t see as many of Sallie Ann Glassman’s own oils, and the ones I did see had gone from 1 ounce to 1/2 ounce bottles–but the prices were still the same. I can’t really complain, because I know a lot of that money is going to the restoration of the city and the neighborhood–there were a couple of buildings I noticed that had businesses in them that were empty shells the last time I was there–but I think I will be buying most of my spiritual supplies from F&F Botanica when I’m in NOLA from now on.

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Lomographers of Acadiana meetup: Fort Pike and Fort Macomb

First off, I have to admit that it was dumb of me to schedule the meetup 2 days after I drove back from Alabama. Getting back in the car and driving 3+ hours was the last thing I wanted to do. However, I’ve been trying to shoot Fort Pike since last spring; it was closed for months after Hurricane Isaac, and when it finally re-opened last fall, first weather and then the holidays kept getting in the way.

Technically, the forts are within the city limits of New Orleans, but they are way the hell far away from anything. Macomb is part of the Venetian Isles community, which is outside the levee system, and it’s taken a real pounding in the last few decades. They had made some attempts to clean it up enough so it could be open to the public, but essentially gave up after Katrina. Pike, which is on the Rigolets, the strait which connects Lake Pontchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico, is even further away from the city. It’s fared better though, and has periodically been open to the public.

These are just the digital shots, I shot a roll in the LC-A+ that has to be developed. I also shot my last pack of Impossible Project color film; I bought a 3-pack when they allegedly improved it and was just as disappointed in it as I’d always been. The last pack has been sitting in the fridge for a year and I finally decided to get rid of it; surprisingly, all of the photos are worth keeping. Apparently the trick is to refrigerate it until it’s a year past expiration, and THEN use it.

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It looked like the state made some kind of half-assed effort at restoring this one room, which had new plaster and a few pieces of wooden furniture, then went “fuck it”. The plaster was filthy and coming off in chunks.

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I’m not sure Macomb is accessible by land anymore. It might be around the other side, but it was so beat up looking that I wasn’t even tempted to try and enter it. Hope and I drove past it and went into a bar to ask directions, they were like “It’s basically across the street”. We were looking right at it before we saw it, it’s almost camouflaged.

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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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Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans, LA

A lot of people think Metairie Cemetery is in Metairie, but it is actually within the city limits of NOLA. It got its name because it’s on Metairie Road. I think now that I’ve photographed it, the only major cemetery in NOLA that I haven’t yet photographed is St. Louis No. 2. (Major cemetery; there are probably dozens of smaller ones yet to be discovered.)

It’s one of those enormous cemeteries you can drive around in, and I nearly couldn’t find my way back out. The land used to be a racetrack, and the perimeter of the cemetery still retains the oval shape, so the streets aren’t laid out in a straightforward grid. Instead they snake all over the place, and the place is full of roundabouts. It’s worth it though, the cemetery is famous for huge and bizarre monuments and crypts. Some of these were taken with the digital Polaroid, and some with the Lomo LC-A+.

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This is probably the most famous crypt in the cemetery, it was originally the final resting place of Josie Arlington, who ran a brothel in Storyville. But her family sold it to a family named Morales and re-interred her in a more discreet crypt. Apparently this tomb drew sightseers and her family was mortified by it. Partly because they didn’t like it to be known that there was good money in whorin’, partly because a story got around that the girl represented Josie being turned away at her father’s door. Another version has it that Arlington intended it to represent a virgin being turned away at the doors of the brothel, as she always claimed that no girl ever “lost her virtue” in her establishment. The monument is said to walk around the cemetery at night, visiting other graves; and although Arlington hasn’t been buried there in nearly 100 years, you still often find coins at the feet of the statue.

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This is definitely the weirdest crypt in the cemetery.

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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.

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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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Blackbird Fly: Our Lady of Lavang & Holt Cemetery

The film camera I took on my most recent NOLA outing was the Blackbird Fly, a plastic 35mm TLR  rangefinder made by Superheadz (they also made my Golden Half). I haven’t used it in a while and I was considering selling it, but thought I should use it one more time before I made up my mind. I remembered it as difficult to use, but I think that’s because when I last used it I didn’t yet have much experience with rangefinders. Since then I’ve used several (and I collect Arguses, which are all rangefinders); my Yashica MG1 is my go-to camera for B&W, and even my Smena 8M is a rangefinder.

The only drawbacks to the Blackbird Fly is that a) it’s difficult to take horizontal photos, instead of using the viewfinder you have to compose your photo through a cut-out in the viewfinder hood, and that’s never a 100% accurate way to frame; and b) you have to really concentrate on getting your subjects level. I remember the first roll I shot looked like I had done it in a rowboat. And unless it’s really overcast or you’re shooting indoors, you need to stick to low-speed film (this is Kodak Ektar 100), because there are only 2 aperture settings to the camera–sunny and cloudy/flash–and both of them are fairly wide, I think F11 and F8. With higher speed film, 400 or even 200, in a camera with a normal range of aperture settings, I usually stop it all the way down to F16 when it’s a sunny day.

Anyway, I think I’ll keep it for now. It’s a little unusual to find a TLR that’s also a rangefinder, and the camera itself is fun to use and even rather cute. And like most rangefinders (except my Yashica, which has an in-viewfinder focus aid that allows you to be really accurate), the fact that you’re never 100% right about the distance from your subjects results in an appealingly soft focus.
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