In the Path

Mattress

My main way of getting to work over the past decade has been on a bicycle; much of my ride has been on the Jeff Davis bike path. It’s so much less stressful to me than driving a car, and I am so glad I don’t have to start my day in an automobile. Nevertheless, I do encounter obstacles and hazards from time to time. I try not to get annoyed. But as I’ve noted previously, it’s “interesting how much annoyance seems to cluster around transportation. Getting from Point A to Point B is fraught with stress-inducing potential.”

As I often ride with a camera, it’s become an almost involuntary reflex to document problems on the bike path as I run into them. And so, just as I recently realized that I now have a little archive of back to school photos, I also realized I have an archive of bike-path problems. In fact, the fifth photo I posted to Flickr was of a mattress on the path, way back in 2004.

So I’d like to present this set of… Continue reading In the Path

10K Classroom

This photo just turned over 10,000 views on Flickr.

New Classroom

This is the fourth such photo of mine to achieve such popularity — and thus far all of them feature Xy. Only two are sort of vaguely cheesecakey. One you can’t even tell if it’s a man or a woman or what. And in none of them can you see her face. So I tell her not to get a swelled head.

This particular photo, “New Classroom,” I took in December of 2005. I was helping Xy set up her new classroom at Eisenhower Elementary. She felt fortunate to have landed that job so shortly after all public school teachers here were fired. I didn’t have anything better to do than help her get set up, since the University where I work was still closed for repairs. Actually this photo was taken on a Saturday afternoon, but the point’s still relevant. I’d spent several days pilfering her old school for supplies to bring to the new school.

At the time, I was more excited about getting our generator hooked up, and so I never posted this photo here. But it’s been posted plenty of other places.

See for example:

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As of this moment, it’s my 25th most “interesting” photo, my 4th most viewed and 3rd most favorited. As one might discern from that final link, the photo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license, allowing people to use it for whatever they like at no cost.

Sometimes Creative Commons is not enough. Flickr partnered with Getty Images some time ago, and I’ve had at least one request to license this image commercially. However, I found the paperwork to be onerous. A “model release” is easy enough; Xy will sign anything I stick under her nose. But a “location release”? Are you kidding me? Let’s see, this is a public school run by the Algiers Charter Schools Association. Xy no longer works there and the principal has moved on as well. Who would I even ask? Why would I even bother?

As for explaining the popularity of this image, I think it has to do with the motion blur. Not only does it lend a sense of energy to the photo, it anonymizes and generalizes. Xy becomes every teacher in this picture.

I wish I could say I planned it that way, but in reality I just hate taking flash photos. I knew if I turned off the flash and braced the camera on a solid surface I’d get a decent shot. It kind of bugs me that the desk legs are out of frame at the very bottom. But, all in all, I’m happy with this photo, and I’m curious to see if its popularity will continue.

Deaf Government Area

Deaf Government Area

This photo recently became my most “favorited” on Flickr. With 26 favorites it has surpassed Big Cloud, which is gratifying because I think this is a much more interesting shot.

I took this one on October 13, 2006 in Gentilly, on Mirabeau Avenue near the London Avenue Canal breach. In the background you can see vacant flooded homes becoming overgrown with vegetation. You can even see some waterlines on the sign itself.

Need I say more? I think the power of this photo is that it tells a story all on its own. You don’t really need any of my explanations.
Continue reading Deaf Government Area

Two Dozen

Here’s two sets of a dozen pictures each. For maximum enjoyment, view each slideshow in fullscreen mode. (A button will appear in the lower right corner after you click play.) The first batch is over 40 years old, the second batch was collected (from our refrigerator) over the last three months, but both were scanned yesterday.

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video. Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

I’m especially grateful to Mom for bringing me that first set of photos on her recent Thanksgiving visit.

Blasts from the Past

I remember when I first encountered the web in 1995. My immediate response was, “I wanna upload my life.” That fundamental motivation continues to drive this blog along. But I still have a lot of catching up to do. To that end, I’ve recently uploaded 70 or so photos and photocopies from 1990. That was twenty years ago, so I figured I should get it done before the end of this year. I scanned this material long ago. It just takes a while to finally get things out there.

Of particular interest, though perhaps only to me, is issue #1 of “The Bart Report,” a two-sided newsletter I sent out in the summer of ’90.

Bart Report 1

You may find these more legible if you “click thru” to Flickr.

Bart Report 2

I still like the graphical aesthetic of this piece. I forget if there was ever a second issue.

You can see the rest of the items from 1990. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Crux Big

Pipe

See also the sets Crux and Frozen Plant.

Update: How could I forget my favoritest photo of all time, also taken in 1990? Well, it’s because I posted this one last summer. Nevertheless here it is.

Frozen Wheel

Using Flickr for Neighborhood Activism

Some of my neighbors have been bickering, er, I mean debating about Comiskey Park here in Mid-City. The basketball goals that used to be there were taken down when an television production company made plans to rebuild the park for a reality show. That didn’t pan out in the long run, and the park was left in a worse state than ever because of it.

But back to those basketball goals. Some neighbors don’t want them back up, and some do. Both factions have conducted informal polls and claimed results that support their positions. As the rhetoric ratcheted up, the legitimacy of these polls was called into question.

I don’t want to get caught up in the debate though. Rather I wanted to cite how one neighbor, Joseph Brock, has responded. He’s created a Flickr account specifically for this issue. He printed out signs stating the pro-basketball position. Then he went around and used his cameraphone to take pictures of various neighbors holding the signs, and posted those pictures directly to Flickr. Check out the photostream. It’s simple, powerful, effective and cheap.

I’m quite impressed.

ושיננתם-לבניך

Does this image of the Ten Commandments ring any bells?

ושיננתם-לבניך

Well, if you know me, it should look vaguely familiar. Those are my teeth. It’s a remix by a Flickr user “zeevveez” in Jerusalem which uses a photo I took of my own teeth just over four years ago:

My Teeth

That’s what I love about Creative Commons, the license under which I published that toothy photo. It allows such collaborations, some of which are quite surprising. I never dreamed my teeth would be so honored.

Update: My far-flung collaborator has posted a blog entry about the image. Unfortunately for me it’s in Hebrew. I ran it through Google Translator but I still can’t make heads or tails of it.

Double-Edged Razor Wire

Once upon a time, there was a used car lot next to the University. Now it’s a parking lot for the University faculty and staff. There’s a fence on the perimeter. The fence still had some ugly razor wire along the top, but since the fence no longer goes all the way around, the razor wire no longer served a security function. In other words, the razor wire was purely decorative, or anti-decorative if you will.

I despise razor wire.

In the spring of 2003, I made a personal crusade out of getting this removed. I volunteered to remove it myself. When my offer wasn’t accepted, I printed out a full color picture of the razor wire with snagged plastic bags and the University’s name prominently visible in the background. I sent a copy of the photo to the president.

The razor wire was removed in short order.

That’s a testimony to the power of the photographic image. The photo was alarming. To anyone who cares about the University, this picture was actually slightly sickening.

In fact, such was the visceral power of this image that I thought twice about posting it on Flickr. Maybe I should have thought three times. But when I was sorting through old photos last summer, up it went. And there it remained in relative obscurity — until now.

A couple days ago, the photo was used on the Poverty in America blog to illustrate a point about how hard economic times affect college students.

Because the posting contained the name of the University, it got the attention of the folks over in the Media Relations office. It became a source of some small embarrassment. The blogger removed the photo from her post, and I replaced the original with a highly abstracted version.

Razorwire with Plastic

It’s interesting to note that if the blogger hadn’t done her homework and gone the extra mile to note the name and location of this institution — fodder for a Google Alert — this would never have come to light. I have made it my personal policy to avoid referring to the University by name to avoid just such issues.

I’m happy to report that everyone involved conducted themselves with civility and respect — even myself, or so I hope. No angry accusations or recriminations. I didn’t tell demand the blogger remove the post, nor was I ordered to take the photo offline — I replaced it of my own initiative as a show of good faith.

Brick Trick

Here’s my new desktop wallpaper, courtesy of Brother O’Mara:

Brick trick

This photo was taken on Iberville in Mid-City, up near N. Telemachus. I’ve passed by this drainpipe many a time and thought it would make a great picture. I finally snapped a crappy shot with my phone, which led to Brother O’Mara to visit the location and take a much more compelling photograph.

Poster

Three years ago, I became aware of a collaborative poster project which made use of a couple of photographs I’d published under a Creative Commons license.

Peach Poster, 72 dpi

According to the krazy genius who put it all together:

This mosaic was made from 2500 individual photographs of circles, photographed by 542 talented individuals.

The mosaic was constructed algorithmically by Jim Bumgardner using images from the Squared Circle photo pool at Flickr, the photo-blogging website.

Jim was selling these posters at cost. I ordered one and was really knocked out by the quality. So I took it to a shop to get it framed.

Then Katrina hit, and the floodwalls failed, and New Orleans flooded, including the frame shop. To the best of my knowledge that shop never reopened.

Recently I was reminded of the poster, so I took another look at it online, and was touched to discover that back in 2005 Jim was selling autographed copies to raise money for Katrina relief.

I looked in to ordering another copy of the poster, but they had sold out long ago. I didn’t really mind. The Federal Flood taught me not to place too much emphasis on material possessions.

I left a note for Jim, recounting my story, and thanking him for helping the cause. Lo and behold, he had a couple extras sitting in the garage, and he mailed ‘em to me, no charge. Thanks, man.

So now I’ve got a beautiful work of art in my office, with a great story behind it.

But I’m not getting it framed during hurricane season.

Bridging the Gap

I started taking digital pictures with increasing frequency after moving to New Orleans in 1999. But I didn’t start using Flickr in earnest until sometime in 2004.

So now I am bridging that gap. Over the last month or so, in what is laughingly referred to as my “free time,” I’ve managed to excavate 260 photos from the depths of my hard drive, covering the time from July 15, 1999 to December 31, 2001. I’ve uploaded them to Flickr as part of a set I call Less Old Stuff (in contrast to Really Old Stuff).

This grouping encompasses a number of other photo clusters, such as the aforementioned Day 991016, Thanx00, Xmas00, Carnival01, and Day 011027. There’s also the painfully artsy Dead Gas Station, the experimental Lunar Variations, the amusing-only-to-me Sliptych and a set documenting the local Greens moving in to an office in Gert Town. And who could forget 2001 The Space Odyssey?

Here are a few of my personal favorites to whet your appetite:
Continue reading Bridging the Gap

Time Travel Through Photography

I was sorting through some old photos the other day, and I came across a set taken on October 16, 1999. As I looked at them I was overwhelmed by a sense of bittersweet melancholy. (Is there any other kind of melancholy?)

This was the first coherent group of digital pictures I ever took. I published the set on the web, the first of several such sets, generally presenting a “day in the life” or similar. Dammit, it was so complicated back then. I was pretty proud of myself for cooking up the automated Photoshop scripts to generate the thumbnails and so forth, and of course I hand-coded all the HTML.

991016 Index

Looks kind of like a Flickr set, huh? But with Flickr and other such tools, it’s all so much easier. I do like the sparse simplicity of my original interface better, but of course there’s no facility for comments or any of the other features that make a system like Flickr so compelling.

But moreover, looking at these old pix, there are the memories of that day nine years ago. Nothing special about the day itself. Just a random Saturday. Just some fragments, a few scraps snatched from the clutches of time. We had just moved to New Orleans a few months earlier. We didn’t know how this city would get in our blood, how this city would break our hearts.

Lazy Cat

We’d adopted a couple cats, Lucy and Bilal. In the captions I note that “we don’t know too many people here, and we’re not planning to have kids, so the cats keep us company.” Sadly enough Bilal died in a tragic fall three years later. Lucy stayed with us through our Katrina evacuation and our return to the city, but she disappeared mysteriously two summers ago and we never saw her again.

As for the neighbors shown in the set, the renovation of their Uptown home came out beautifully, but they sold it just before Katrina and bought a house in Lakeview. They lost everything. But they’re still here. We run into them around town from time to time. Those little girls are in college now.

3 Girls

But mostly I’m so glad I took these pictures, otherwise I would have just my vague recollections. That impetus to document and preserve quotidian details is the same one that has driven me to keep journals off and on since I was ten years old, the same one that drives me to keep this blog. I’m glad I this “day in the life” photo set, and it reminds me I need to do another one soon.

I highly recommend it.

I’ve posted the whole set to Flickr. Check it out or see the original incarnation.

Geeky Post About Flickr

Yesterday I learned from Karen G that Flickr is now hosting video. Of course they’ve provided a nice “embed” feature just like you’d expect, so you can grab an HTML snippet to paste the video into your blog or webpage. That’s dandy. But what really chaps my ass is: Why can’t they provide the same HTML snippet embedding convenience for images, which are Flickr’s bread and butter? I mean, I publish my pix under a Creative Commons license because I want people to use them. (And, strangely enough, they do.) Why not make it as easy to embed images as it is to embed video?

Pictures from Her First Days of Life

I’m not the kind of guy who carries around pictures of his newborn child.

But I will post ‘em on the net.

Three Days Old

I can understand that our geographically dispersed family members would want to see more pictures of our little girl, but I was surprised that friends and co-workers have requested more as well. I mean, generally speaking, I don’t want to look at other people’s baby pictures. Xy and I both share the conviction that all newborn babies look alike — which is to say rather ugly. Curiously enough we have both found our daughter to be an amazing exception to this rule. I guess it’s her goddess-like qualities that make other people want to adore her as well. Even Xy’s 6th grade classroom has been clamoring for a closer look.

So without further ado, check out this Flickr photoset: Birth & First Days of Life.

Postscript: If you’re really interested in keeping up with the pictures from our lives, you should sign up for a free Flickr account and add me as a contact.