New Orleans: A City of Contrasts and Contradictions

David Spielman: Guest blogger. Assignment: 4–New Year Challenge. Location: New Orleans. Equipment: D-Lux 5

Here we are moving at break-neck speed into 2011, my head still spins on how fast we motored through 2010. So how do we slow down Father Time?  Sorry to report we can’t. So how do we get more and better photography out of this new year?

As most of you know, or at least I hope you know, I’m a freelance photographer with over thirty years of experience shooting and traveling around the world. So each new year I go through a gut wrenching, soul-searching process of grading and reevaluating last year’s work and try to plan for the coming year. Each year the pressure seems to grow as I keep getting older and I want to make sure I’m spending my time wisely.

I live in New Orleans and we have passed the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I stayed through the storm and produced a book of my experiences. Katrinaville Chronicles and did many interviews. As time keeps moving, we are all judging how the city is doing. Certainly there have been big improvements, but there are lots of constant reminders that we haven’t come all that far. So this piece will address some of the signs of the times. New Orleans is a very old and rich city with a long history of different approaches to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The images I’ve chosen represent a colorful, happy and sad look at our successes and failures.

During my year-end evaluation and my new year planning, I look hard at myself and my work. I also look hard at my city, which is a constant source of images. Abandoned houses that conjure up images of Walker Evans and Robert Frank’s WPA work. The awful realization of crime hits hard as we look at the list of all those murdered during the year: the exposure of our deepest problem, the constant reminder that our work isn’t done. Then as you turn a corner you find a colorful and creative solution to a problem. Not the knock it down and start over attitude but the idea of taking what is there, honoring the past and building for the future. All within a neighborhood, all standing or falling, a weird juxtaposition of images, offering us hope or the continued reminder of all that we lost.

Most of us probably marked the passing of the last lab processing Kodachrome with a great deal of sadness. The benchmark of color, the hallmark of quality is no longer. The icon of photography, the life-blood of all the greatest color shooters who came before, is no more. I’m sure there is an empty spot in many a photographer’s heart. I know mine aches deeply!

Having said that, please look and note the rich, I mean very rich colors of my Leica D-Lux 5. During my wanderings, pining about the loss of Kodachrome I would see these Kodachrome type images. I would frame up, shoot and head back to my gallery to bring them up on my computer. Wow, I was thrilled with what I was getting. The color and its saturation were dripping off my screen. Direct sunlight after a rain, low light angles, deep and dark shadows are all important components.

So, my challenge to myself and to anyone else who is interested: assign yourself several assignments, don’t leave them open-ended, set completions dates, review points and shooting schedules. Don’t wait on the weather, shoot the conditions you are given. Don’t take the easiest or simplest assignment. Stretch yourself; make yourself create a new approach. If you like shooting landscapes, shoot portraits. If you love color, give yourself a B&W assignment. So next year at this time we will all be able to look back at our year’s work with a great deal of pride, knowing that we grew our talents in 2011.

-David G. Spielman

This is a guest blog post from David G. Spielman an independent photographer who has traveled the world on assignments and personal work that have taken him to six of the seven continents. His work is varied. His corporate clients include many Fortune 500 companies and many smaller, local and international concerns. Projects in Ireland, Moscow, Central America and Asia have given Spielman the opportunities to travel the world and shoot images of globe leaders and many exciting and wonderful places. Two books have been published of his work. To see more of Spielman’s work you can visit his website http://davidspielman.com/.