A meditation on his father’s work by Erik D. Waters
Photographs are simply film or digitally captured moments. A great photograph however, is where inspiration meets technique. The ability to recognize that sliver of time that would make a great photograph is what makes the photographer. There is something in the moment that catches the great photographer’s eye that can evoke a universal emotional response. New Orleans’ culture has a lot of those moments. I grew up in them, frame by frame, experiencing the city through a great photographer, Eric A. Waters.
The skill of the photographer is the ability to freeze a moment in time, be it joyous or poignant that may touch another in a similar way or convey a message. This culture is all about emotion and expression. A jazz funeral and the ensuing second line take you from the pain of life to the joy of passage. The dirge; slow, mournful hymns played as the funeral procession moves toward the cemetery. The second-line; fast, brassy tunes blare as the body is released. The emotional lows and highs of the jazz funeral and second line are so New Orleans. Contrasts celebrated in life and death. Symmetry, achieved as the lady dances on.
The prettiest days of the year are when the Indians come out. Most noted is St. Joseph’s Day, at Bayou St. John and Orleans(streets). Sequins blend with beads and rhinestones in a flurry of feathers as Uptown and Downtown masking Indians meet. When the Indians mask on Mardi Gras Day and Super Sunday, the region’s history; from African slave and Creole to Cajun as the history of the bayous, the slaves and the Native Americans is retold in hand-crafted aprons, headpieces and song. The intimacy of the photos of the Mardi Gras Indians you see in Eric Waters’ collection conveys a relationship between the photographer and the culture not seen often. The ability to capture this intimacy is inspirational and a credit to the character of the photographer.
Music and photography hold hands like old friends. I grew up with my father being “the photographer” at Jazz Fest (also concerts, jazz funerals, second-lines and pretty much EVERYWHERE). I was often nervous at how he would go right up to the stage, and often right on, to photograph a musician in the middle of a performance. I still am. Jazz was like going to church throughout my developmental years, the musicians were griots, the songs were prayers, and always served up by my father on Sunday mornings. This was a lasting impression. It was a powerful thing to see the people I heard on the radio and saw at concerts smiling, laughing and calling him by name. His easy going manner, “your Dad is so cool!”, and patience with his craft and willingness to share won him the favor and respect of many. It is reflected again through the eye of the camera, in the moment.
Welcome to the experience!