It's Friday night, and we're out on St.Claude in the Marigny, right across the neutral ground from the Hi Ho Lounge. The kid stops us as we're putting up posters on a plywood construction wall. I'm taking photos of the posters already there, a series protesting violence to women, and the kid asks if those are ours.
He's tall and skinny, with dreadlocks arraying around his head like a black sun. He's wearing a blue shirt with a bright green marijuana leaf blazened over his heart.
"No," we say, "we're just putting these up," and my friend Louie begins to tell him about his music.
"I thought maybe you were photographers," says the kid. "I'm a photographer."
We get to talking and someone says, "There's a lot to shoot here in this town," and the kid says dismissively, "Naw, it's getting boring here. I'm going other places. I'm going out to LA," he says. "I want to find other things to take."
Naomi steps forward. "You ought to go to Birmingham, Alabama. I know it sounds weird, but there's this historic furnace there." I'm looking at her from outside myself and think this young black kid is going to turn away from this older white lady, grey hair on top of her head and glasses with beaded strings swagged from the temples to around her neck, but no. This is New Orleans, and you can be anybody. The kid gives her his rapt attention as she tells him about the shapes and colors and textures of the Sloss Furnace and how she took photos there until her memory card filled up.
And then he tells us about what he's doing, a project of 56 days' worth of photos, shot everyday in Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, other places. "And then I'm picking the best and putting them up, 56 Dayz, it's called, dayz with a z."
And I know, watching them, that if it had been just me there, we would have said our polite and good-natured hellos and moved on. But it was Naomi, and she can reach out and totally engage another artist, leading him to open up and share his art, enthusiasm, and hopes with strangers.
Before we part and go on to the club, we've typed our email addresses into his phone.
TJ, or Ti Young 'un, he's called, and he's a young photographer. In 56 days he'll have something for the world to see.
|My friend Naomi made these reproduction street tiles here on St. Claude Avenue.|