Loyalty

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I have been reflecting on the word loyalty since yesterday. Yesterday, Cleveland, OH welcomed 1.3 million people downtown to witness the 2016 NBA Championship Cavaliers team in a confetti strewn parade beginning at the Q Stadium, traveling down E. 9th street and ending at a rally at the mall.

 

To photograph even a part of this event is to document history. And I, along with every person with a smart phone, attempted to do just that. You need to bury that claustrophobic fear of large crowds and just give in to the chaos in order to have any fun in this kind of situation.

 

For my group, it all came together, in a way that things rarely do, but you recognize and cherish a day like this when it works out in your favor.

 

First, you make the decision that yes you want to do this. If for no other reason than to show respect for a young man, Lebron James, who has shown such a great loyalty to his hometown. Second, you put on your professional hat and start to work some logistics. My studio and therefore my parking space is on the parade route. Also, A.J. Rocco’s is on the first floor so our need for coffee or something stronger would also be taken care of with ease. We decide to leave at 7AM, based upon one person’s prior experience with Brown’s tailgate partying. With Starbucks coffee in hand, the traffic is already at a crawl on 77 N, so we decide to take the back roads as far as possible. This traffic is moving along so we are feeling some good karma for handling our first little problem. A phone call to a good friend to see how far we can stay on this road determines, in the nick of time, when we better hop back onto 77N. Next call is to my friend and the operations manager at my studio building to see if Ninth Street is still open. “Yes, but not for long from the looks of it,” is the answer, we are moving but only at about 10mph. We are just feet away from our exit on Ninth when he calls back that they just closed access on 9th and we see the officer blocking the exit and rerouting us to 22nd. This won’t be so bad as I’m thinking that we can cut over to Carnegie and go right on 9th but no, now 9th is completely shut down so we just lost our parking place and the coffee is working so we are all in need of a restroom.

OK, next plan and friend is needed. I decide that we are going to cut to 30th since 22nd is so backed up and go to the camera store where I have been doing business for over 20 years (once again Loyalty) Dodd’s Camera on 30th and Carnegie.[ http://doddcamera.com/] We walk in, use the facilities, and when we come out there is Charlie, who has been working at the store since I opened my studio. I explain my dilemma on street closures and lost parking spaces and without hesitation he grabs a set of keys and says “follow me”.

He opens the gate to the overflow parking lot and lets me pull in my jeep. No questions asked. The day would have been over without beginning if he didn’t do this for us. It was more than kind.

 

We now join the masses of people of all sizes, shapes and colors heading down Carnegie to the parade route. The two unifying characteristics are that almost everyone is wearing either a Cav’s tee shirt or hat and everyone is wearing a smile. (Again, Loyalty to this team.)

 

We walk into the Caxton building where my studio is located and the first person we see is Ray … who says “you made it, want to go on the roof?”

Without question that is right where I want to shoot from and only as we are walking up the narrow steps to come out onto the roof do I remember to ask my friends if they have any fear of heights. Thankfully, they do not and the brick walls are quite high so we feel pretty secure on this spectacularly beautiful day. Ray knows me well enough to know that this would be a prime location and he just made it happen. (Again, friendship and Loyalty.)

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The parade started late and about 4 hours later we were sunburned and hungry, but had all gotten great shots and had a very successful day. Ray showed up on the roof with a pizza that he somehow got from a very busy A.J. Rocco’s kitchen. [http://www.ajroccos.com/] So we had a day celebrating loyalty to a town and documented because of the loyalty of a few good friends. A very good day!

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NOLA’s BACKYARD – Dooky Chase’s

Eighth Post

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Chef Leah Chase

Our final day finishes with a trip to the Dooky Chase Restaurant where Chef Leah Chase will share her famous Gumbo des Herbes that she customarily makes on Holy Thursday. Among those who have dined with Chef Leah Chase are President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, Hank Aaron, Earnest Gaines and Quincy Jones. Dooky’s is the premier restaurant for authentic Creole cuisine and remains a gathering place for Politicians, musicians, visual artists and literary giants.

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Gumbo des Herbes

I have had the privilege of documenting several living legends but spending time with Chef Leah Chase will go down as one of the highlights of my career. There are times when covering someone with such a rich history, that you almost forget to shoot, or maybe you forget that you are shooting because you are so enthralled in the moment. For me, listening to Leah Chase’s stories and also watching the reverence that this celebrated group bestowed on Chef Chase, was one of those times.

Conversation with “little John Kennedy” about segregation and integration of schools …

“God gave you this earth.

He put you here.

Do what you want to do.

But he wants you to make it move.”

Chef Leah Chase

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Chef Chase telling the “little John John” story to Lisa Abraham from Bigelow Tea and this Photograher.

In 2005 Dooky’s didn’t stand a chance against Katrina. 5 ½ feet of water flooded the restaurant and everything was lost. Family, friends and several of the chefs that Leah had mentored helped and Dooky’s was reopened in 2007.

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… just have faith and do what you have to do…just put your heart into it.”

Chef Leah Chase

October 15, 2015

 

 

NOLA’s BACKYARD – Chretian Point

Seventh Post

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Mint Julep at Chretien Point, Sunset Louisiana

Chretien Point

Now as a complete departure, we enter into what can only be described as a “Gone with the Wind” moment. Mint juleps on a silver tray, a refined gentleman to escort us for a tour of the mansion and grounds, and we are educated on the history of this cotton plantation in Sunset, Louisiana. Civil wars were fought on this site and the front door still bears a battle scar. Again, a photographer’s dream as the light is getting a little lower in the sky. Time, I just wish that I had more time but these are the parameters of the project. So, no mint julep for me … it’s shooting time.

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This has been a long day and the drive takes us a little longer than planned so the light is getting low when we arrive at White Oak Plantation in Baton Rouge, LA. Chef John Folse has planned a  Fête de Boucherie.

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Chef John Folse
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NOLA’S BACKYARD GROUP

Before we lose the light I capture some shots of the group and the grounds and food presentation. This is frustrating as I’m left just craving one more hour of light to document this beautiful display. While the lighting is far from ideal, I’m able to capture the essence of the evening and Chef extends an invitation to come back in the future. I may have to take him up on this.

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…out of light and almost out of cupcakes.

 

NOLA’s BACKYARD – Poche’s Market

Sixth Post

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Now we are in the coach … amazing what you can shoot out of a moving window!

 

Now it is time to experience Cajun culture at the family owned meat packing plant called Poche’s Market and Restaurant in Breaux Bridge, LA.

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Cracklins are fried pieces of pork fat with a small amount of attached skin …

_N2B4612FThere is a brief moment when the intensity in a person’s eyes makes a significant portrait. One of the workers at the Poche’s Market allowed me to take this quick photo during a brief break from the steaming hot work environment.

Above (L to R):  Boudin (a combination of cooked rice, pork, onions, green peppers and seasonings); Mr. Floyd Poche'(the owner of the market);Prep for Boudin; Alligator;

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It’s Gator Season in Louisiana and we are heading to Riceland Crawfish  (above) to see how the gators are cleaned, skinned and processed.

And this is why I love what I do … every day is different. One day I’m photographing the leader of the free world and the next …. Well you get the picture.

Above shows the crawfish cages and the “beer bottle” method to make the indentation in the cage.

 

NOLA’s BACKYARD – Rural Life Museum

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Today is the morning of the planter’s breakfast at Rural Life Museum –  7:45 AM is board time for the coach so this is when traveling with a running partner makes all the difference in the world … I am so much better shooting if I can log a few miles first,  we start the day with a very early morning run ( 3 miles = 1 biscuit). There will be a lot of food at this planter’s breakfast – so Lisa and I are out early.  Look who is watching us …

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You cannot help but feel transported to another time when walking the grounds of the Rural Life Museum. Chef John Folse has arranged a planter’s breakfast and how he managed to organize the weather to so stunningly cooperate I haven’t quite figured out.

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Rural Life Museum Planter’s Breakfast

Knowing that the light just grazing the tops of the buildings soon would be too harsh, I felt the pressure of slowing myself down long enough to really see and compose … I knew that I couldn’t capture everything but I wanted you to feel the warmth of the sun on your shoulders when you looked at my opening shot. I wanted you to crave those biscuits and well, then there is the bacon ….

NOLA’s BACKYARD – Houmas House

Fourth Post

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Houmas House Plantation
The cottages of the sugar barons at Houmas House Plantation served as our home for the next two evenings. The Plantation is located alongside the big bend in the Mississippi River on 38 acres of gardens, ponds and majestic live oaks.

The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board sponsored a Plantation Seafood dinner.  The issue here is trying to shoot the food before it is consumed.  For this group food is their passion, so I quickly make a circle documenting the different dishes and then work back through the group a second and third time.

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We ended our evening trying not to watch the political debates going on in the Turtle Bar … no one wanted to spoil the warm feelings that the shared experiences with both food and friendship had created.

 

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Turtle Bar at Houmas House Plantation

NOLA’s BACKYARD – Tony’s Seafood

Third Post

After we pick up our guests at the airport, we start our journey with a shoebox lunch while

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our host Chef John Folse,

_NPB9999BWcrop  an expert on Louisiana history, leads our trip to the first stop at Tony’s Seafood. He explains that before the civil rights movement, dining while traveling by train was a challenge for black people. Although white train passengers were served in dining cars, Jim Crow laws barred black passengers. Thus, the shoe box lunch, a meal in a box packed before boarding, became common for traveling black families.

So a side note on the “skinning of the fish” shot, I didn’t just take this once, No — I had the stomach clenching opportunity to document this activity twice – so close you could smell it and step in the slick surface from the operation. And, that is because I smiled … yes there are times when a smile is not the answer and this was one of those times. It was very noisy at Tony’s Seafood,  with orders being placed, and people everywhere and the motors in the refrigerators humming loudly. When this very proud fishmonger asked me something, as my stomach was turning over from the first episode of “how to clean a fish” … I just smiled because I couldn’t hear him and I was trying desperately not to throw up … and then voila’ before I knew what was happening … another fish, another hook, the knife and well you get the idea … No More Smiling!!!