Windows & Doors

 

Today’s windows and doors are brought to you by the lovely town of Oaxaca, Mexico, where I spent a week admiring the graceful colonial architecture and shimmering colors, and showcasing my inability to take a photograph with a level horizon.

Some fun links for your Thursday….

Over the holidays I went to Florida to visit family, and for the second year in a row I was able to go snorkeling with the manatees at the Homasassa River. I went with these fine folks, who are very knowledgeable and also very careful of the manatee’s safety and wellbeing; I highly recommend them. I also highly recommend this Cressi dive mask; I snorkel whenever possible and I am always being driven crazy by leaky masks. Is my face a weird shape? Am I Max Headroom? Who knows. But this mask is the only one I’ve found that doesn’t leak on me and I think it was only about 50 bucks.

On the subject of safely snorkeling with manatees, and manta rays, and alligators – well, maybe those you just observe from a distance – my amazing friends Claire and Jeremiah have the first episode of their kick-ass webseries, Kickass Animal Encounters, up and running, and you should totally check it out, because it is – wait for it – kickass. You can also see more coolness on their blog! Go! Right now!

(And at the risk of blowing my own horn, if you watch the “Update” video, the huge map that Claire is pointing to is totally MY map, on the wall of MY den, so I feel I should get at least 12% of the credit for the awesomeness of that segment.)

(Although an argument could be made for 15)

If you need to chill out this chilly Thursday, I recommend Watership Song by User’s Atmosphere, which you’ll sadly have to listen to only on youtube because I can’t find a purchase link to it anywhere; or Clubbed to Death by Rob Dougan, which IS available on Amazon, and is the best thing about the third Blade movie, besides Ryan Reynolds’ abs.

If you’re into movies check out the Reel Snobs podcast! Sassy Chicks discussing Flicks. I love it. Reel Snob Kalena even got on CNN this week!

Finally, a quick shout out to my favorite instagrams of the week: @egzgiozcan, who I think is Turkish and fills her instagram with her quirky illustrations, which I love, and @javie.33, one of my favorite underwater/wildlife photographers on insta. His boat photo from yesterday is particularly gorgeous.

Enjoy! And have a great, safe weekend of adventures…

Oh, good grief, I almost forgot – I’ve written an ebook! As many of you know I work in film and television, and I wrote an ebook on How To Be A Movie Location, for anyone who’s interested in renting out their home/office/property to a film production. Money! Excitement! Craft Services! It’s all in there and it’s only $1.99 as a download so check it out!

 

 

Hold On to What You Can

Horse Mounted Police in Jackson Square, 2006
Horse Mounted Police in Jackson Square, 2006

I have to preface this post by pointing out that I don’t live in New Orleans, I’ve never lived in New Orleans, and I have the same romanticized view of New Orleans that everyone who’s grown up on a diet of Anne Rice and only been to stay in the French Quarter two or three times has, and also that this wasn’t supposed to be the post for today. But watching the Saints play the Falcons last night (and beating them soundly I might add) brought back some memories that I felt like sharing, especially with this fall being the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

I have extremely vivid memories of those few days – I wasn’t in the city at the time, but two close friends were, people I had gone to New Orleans with the year before, and I was getting phone call updates from them, hearing that they were okay, and then not so okay, and then cutting short their trip and running to the airport, where they quite literally got on the last plane that took off before they closed the airport down. My mother was in the hospital with a health scare, and I remember watching helplessly on CNN as the storm bore down on the city, in part because it took my mind off why I was sitting for hours in the antiseptic smell of a hospital waiting room, watching as the frightening initial story turned even more terrifying as the levees broke and the entire city seemed to descend into a scene of chaos and fear that made my mom’s surgery look like a manicure and a hair set. And I thought, this is the end of that place. I will never see that beautiful, romantic city again. 

Exactly one year later, I was back.

I got taken onto a commercial project that was shooting in New Orleans, and while that was normally out of my geographic range, a close friend was working on it and asked me to come down, she wanted the company and a lot of crew was coming from Atlanta and would I wrangle possibly hundreds of real people talent? I don’t think I even let her finish the pitch before I said yes and started looking for flights.

I got to spend a week or so back in the Quarter, in a little mom & pop hotel that was, I think, a converted carriage house, and because it was an easy walk 10 blocks or so to the production office I got to stroll every morning and evening through various neighborhoods, soaking in the clean, clear sunshine and admiring all the neatly restored houses. The Quarter was largely spared the storm damage, but most people hadn’t come back yet (and in fact many still haven’t returned) so all the restaurants were hopelessly understaffed and the hotels put apologetic notes on your pillow explaining that they could only service the rooms every third day, because they just didn’t have enough employees, but as I wandered and poked and ate crawfish with beer, I didn’t care. It was enough to see the town come back to life and see the bright flowers and paint, and eat beignets and smell the good smells of Creole food wafting out thru all the windows.

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Something else was wafting out the windows, too – broadcasts of Saints football games. It seemed wherever I walked, whenever I sat down to eat, someone had a TV or stereo or crappy AM receiver tuned to the Saints – the games, the replays, the analysis and commentary. It had become the background hum of the city. The Saints used to be a joke in the NFL, a team so bad that people said that the Superdome must have been built on a Native American burial ground, and fans would go to the games in disguise, saying they didn’t want people to know they were supporting the worst team in football. And then came Katrina, and the Superdome itself became a symbol of terror and death, with some of those same fans stranded there for days with no communications, no food, no way to let their families know that they were safe or find the loved ones that were missing.

And yet the next year, cleaned and renovated, it reopened. And the people who had been thru so much welcomed back their horrible team with open arms. They had this crazy new kid, Drew Brees, who had come to the team after a horrible injury in another town, and the team seemed to catch fire and damned if they weren’t making it work. Everywhere I went, people hung on those scratchy broadcasts like a lifeline, until if finally penetrated my thick skull that that was exactly what it was. As they cleaned and repaired and struggled, there was an almost subconcious psychic hum: The Saints are making it. The Saints are home. They are holding on for one more day. I am home. And I can hold on for one more day too.

I may be reading too much into the connection, but I can still feel that intensity, that feeling of joy as people watched and celebrated and hung on as their team went on to have their (up to that point) winningest season ever, a season in which they actually went to the second round of playoffs, a concept that would have ranked up there with, I don’t know, pigs flying or hell freezing over or cats and dogs living together. And I think – though I am probably wrong about this, too, I’m wrong all the time – that the team’s success fed as much off that energy as off their new coach and hot young quarterback. It was a mutual admiration society. You are our team. You are our city. Take my hand.  We will not let go.

This is the end of that place, I thought. I will never see that beautiful, romantic city again.

Thank god I am wrong all the time.

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(The project, in case anyone is interested, was this campaign, which involved interviewing real people about emotional experiences, and to this day is I think the finest commercial campaign I have been involved with, because it came out so beautifully, and not as horribly cheesy as I’d feared. New Orleans was chosen as a site for obvious reasons.

Also, if anyone is interested, there is a documentary called The Man Who Ate New Orleans – which was, full disclosure, produced and directed by a cousin of a close friend – and it follows a pastor who moves to New Orleans after Katrina and his experiences there. You can get it on Amazon, and possibly also on Netflix. I liked it a lot.)

Wild-out Wednesdays: Windows and Doors

I have an odd affinity for pictures of windows and doorways.

doorway with bougainvillia, Tangier, Morocco
doorway with bougainvillia, Tangier, Morocco

I have huge collection of them – in fact I once did an entire photo project on doorways, and how they symbolize that spot where you shift from your “home” self, to your more reserved, protected “public” self. It’s sort an odd reversal of what with think doors are for – to keep the outside world out – and what they actually do, which is allow us back in.

I think I have doorways on my mind because I’ve been chained to my desk doing paperwork for a week, after a week of being outside and at the beach in Puerto Rico, and I am really chafing at the bit. Sometimes you can get a little too locked in your own head and forget what the real goals are – in my case, photography and storytelling – and you need to nudge yourself back onto the proper path. Is that too woo-woo mystical? Maybe. Maybe I just need a kick in the pants to get me out the door and outside.

These two windows are from a trip to Spain a couple of years ago, where I spent a day wandering the famous Alhambra palace, which is seriously eye-popping as a whole, but also filled with small vingnettes of such intricate detail that I could have – and did – spend hours falling into elaborate patterns of carved plaster and interlocking tile. The gardens around the palace were lush and green, and the reflected light filled the rooms with a soft, verdant illumination, like aquarium light, or the light you see when you look up towards the sky when you are below the surface whlle swimming. Odd to be in such a desert-like place, and yet be so enveloped by the coolness of water.

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In a further attempt to get out of my own head, I think I’m going to start to post once a week or so about stuff that’s come across my radar that I happen to like – other photographers, music, books, whatever. Prepare for randomness.

Music I’m listening to: This Song by Gotan Project has been one of my faves for, like, ever. I even had it on one of my phones as the ringtone, so I could feel sultry and tango-ish whenever the phone rang. Listen to it while chilling, or while strutting about with a rose in your teeth. Queremos Paz by Gotan Project

On the other hand, I just heard this song at a trivia game last night (we lost. AGAIN) and it cracked me up. Apparently it’s what all the kids are listening to, now that the Ne Ne has had it’s moment. I could swear this is a Sly and the Family Stone hook that they’re sampling, but I can’t quite place it… I love Myself by Kendrick Lamar

Instagram awesomeness: I am probably biased because of my recent trip, but check out @backpackpr on instagram for amazing pictures of an island I’ve come to love. Especially if all you know of Puerto Rico is San Juan, and maybe Rincon if you’re a surfer, this stream will show you a whole other side of the island – literally, in some cases, as it tends to focus on the Island’s wilder south coast and mountainous interior. https://instagram.com/backpackingpr/

Fave filmmaker: Everyone loves Andy Brandy Casagrande, but for my money Kina Scollay is the wild man to watch on Shark week, if only for his calm, wise face and crazy head o’ dreads. Follow his Instagram, or check out Big Blue Backyard, which was a New Zealand nature program that he provided a lot of the imagery for (only avail on Youtube, if you’re not in NZ, for some reason), or just go by his heart-stoppingly awesome website. Please, god, let me be as cool as Kina when I grow up…

Current reading: I realize I am totally late to the party with this, but I came into Born to Run, the great epic of UltraRunning by Christopher McDougall, thru the back door; I read his newest book, Natural Born Heroes, first, and then went looking for everything else I could find by him. Both are in heavy rotation on the nightstand as my “a-few-pages-before-bed-to-get-inspired” reading. I read these and came away convinced anyone could become a superhero.

Ummm…think that’s it for now, everyone have a good Wednesday….

New Images in “Abandoned”

These are some new images in my “Abandoned” Series, shot recently near Decatur, Ga.

This is the fireplace inside a small collapsed residential home in Decatur. The roof has fallen in and the kitchen floor, once covered in cheerful red linoleum, has collapsed into the basement. Someone loved this house once - there are raised garden beds in the back and a bed of irises in the front yard. I often wonder what happened to them.
This is the fireplace inside a small collapsed residential home in Decatur. The roof has fallen in and the kitchen floor, once covered in cheerful red linoleum, has collapsed into the basement. Someone loved this house once – there are raised garden beds in the back and a bed of irises in the front yard. I often wonder what happened to them.
Gullatt's Grocery was once a small shop attached to the owner's home, that served the local residents of this neighborhood - workers in a nearby steel mill. I first found this building about a year ago and then couldn't relocate it - at one point I honestly thought I'd hallucinated it. Then just a week ago I stumbled over it again while out with a friend. I guess the ghosts of Gullatt's decided they were finally ready to be photographed.
Gullatt’s Grocery was once a small shop attached to the owner’s home, that served the local residents of this neighborhood – workers in a nearby steel mill. I first found this building about a year ago and then couldn’t relocate it – at one point I honestly thought I’d hallucinated it. Then just a week ago I stumbled over it again while out with a friend. I guess the ghosts of Gullatt’s decided they were finally ready to be photographed.

Photo of the Week: Les Invalides

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I had such, such high hopes about writing a comprehensive update on my film, At the Edge of the Sea, this week. Alas, I got pulled into a work trip that will cover 3200 miles in 11 days and currently has me in Lansing, Michigan for the next 12 hours before driving to Toronto, and then Toronto to Virginia on Monday. I forsee a trip to the chiropractor after this week from all the time locked in the driver’s seat.

I’ve been to Chicago, Madison, and now Lansing in the last three days, and as a (nearly) lifelong Southerner, I have to say: you people who live through the winter here, you are a strong, strong breed. My hat is off to you. But then back on again very quickly because it is so damned cold.

Don’t get me wrong, it gets down into the 20’s in Atlanta, but it does it for like 4 hours in the middle of the night. And when it snows it snows an inch and it lasts just long enough for everyone to go, “OOOOOH SNOW” and cancel school, and then poof! gone. How do y’all resist the urge to just eat macaroni and cheese for two weeks and then hibernate til spring? Because that is what I want to do and I’ve only been here since Tuesday.

Anyway, while I am lame and shivery, I will work on my movie update, and in the meantime enjoy this photo of sunset over Les Invalides in Paris. Ironically taken on a snowy day, but you can’t see that, so you’ll just have to imagine me shivering and complaining there.