Zulu Tramp experiment.

I wanted to play.

So. I did.

I wanted to see just how some of my new approaches to layering would work on a human being. The only place I’ve used them is on nature pictures.

After poking around on my admittedly limited smart phone archive I found a portrait of a Zulu Tramp. I thought that would be a good picture on which to experiment. Zulus are normally very colorful without my help.

A word about Zulus, and Tramps.

To me, and many others, Zulus are the heart and soul of New Orleans culture. The actual krewe is much like their brothers who walk for the Young Men Olympians. They are focused on community service. The often offer scholarships to deserving young people who couldn’t attend college otherwise. They are made up of people from all walks of life. Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, very successful businessmen. And, so on. And, so on.

The Tramps. They are the men who lead the first parade of the day on Mardi Gras day. They start around 8am. If you want to hangout and photograph them, you’d better get there around 6am. You could get there later. But, the later you arrive the further away from the start you’ll have to park.

How important is their parade?


Two examples.

The mayor, no matter who he or she happens to be, leads the parade on horseback.  Not to worry. The Zulus meet and greet the Krewe of Rex as the day rolls on. Ultimately, the mayor leads both parades.

When Hurricane Katrina blew the city apart, most of the Zulus were scattered far and wide. They couldn’t come home for the first Mardi Gras after the storm because many of them had no homes to come back to. After all, Katrina arrived on the last day of August 2005. Mardi Gras was scheduled for February 2006. Five months. Not much time to rebuild anything.


In their place came the real Zulus. Shaka Zulus. From South Africa. They rolled in a very limited parade. But, they would not be denied. There are moments about that first Mardi Gras after the storm, the will live in me forever. Seeing the African Zulus on the streets of New Orleans was one of them.

Then, there was the next year.

I was photographing from Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue, By this time, there was some recovery. Nothing was complete in any way. There were a couple of Canadian women standing next to us. They came down to support the city. I was telling them that if they got to see the St. Augustine Marching 100 that they were in for a treat. Just then, they came thundering through the cement canyon formed by the buildings along the route. I stood there, not making pictures. There was too much water in my eyes. I never thought I’d see them again.

That’s what I remember.

The picture. Seems a little bit of a let down. But, here goes. There are multiple layers embedded in the final image. I started out trying to enhance a nature picture when I got the idea to add a human being to my pile of layers. That’s when the work got good. If I did it again, I’d have a better game plan. I’d start with the face. I’d add two flower pictures and one sand picture to it and be done with it. But, no. I had to take the long and winding narrow way.

If you really want to know the steps, I’ll create a formula. It’ll be complicated. It will assume that you have the proper components in your archives.

Published by Ray Laskowitz

I am a visual storyteller. I've been making pictures for some 40 years. I travel the world in search of the right image. in the right light at the right time. You can reach me by phone at 505.280.4686, or by email at Ray@Laskowitzpicturess.com or Pictures34@me.com. For a quick look at my work please go to www.laskowitzpictures.com.

13 thoughts on “Experiment

    1. And also, it is so interesting to hear the details of the parade and the krewes and the Zulus and the Tramps. It helps me understand the culture and traditions a little better. They are so rich, so much more complex and existing on so many layers, just like your marvelous picture.


      1. Thank you. Next time you are in NOLA, not for Jazzfest or Mardi Gras stay for Sunday, which is when the second lines roll, or come for Mardi Gras Day and go out early. Mardi Gras hotel prices are high. Just stay with us and I’ll take you to see Zulus. Let me think about simplifying my formula into something you can use now and grow with. What editing software do you use?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We’ve never been to NOLA during Mardi Gras…seems a little overwhelming. I’d love to go see Zulus with you! It may sound weird, but just being a “fly on the wall” and walking along with the parade, watching how you interact and take the pics, would be fascinating to me. On the editing software, I’m embarrassed to tell you, except that you already know what a rookie I am. I use the built-in editor on my MacBook in Photos, and sometimes, Fotor. That’s it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s really not. You just have to compartmentalize it a bit. For instance, we never go to Bourbon Street for Mardi Gras. We generally stay around home, go to a few masked balls, and see the parades from Uptown. Zulus start in Central City which is a little bit away from us… I think I’d be gaming the day if you just wanted to be a fly on the wall. After being around for so long, we all sort of know each other.

        Actually, the editor in IPhotos has gotten pretty good especially after Apple dumped Aperture, which was great. If you want to spend a little bit of money for a Photoshop clone that has won software design awards repeatedly, look into Affinity. It’s like $49 and upgrades are free. If you are taking pictures with your phone use Snapseed which I use a lot. It’s free. Just download it.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I enjoy learning more about the people you photograph. This was tremendously interesting to me, learning more about the Zulus. The layering effect is also a standout in this photo. I really respond to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you about the picture. We are full of all sorts of traditions and ceremony. I fear as new people move here that they will drive away the reason they were so enchanted with the city in the first place. I’ve written a couple of times about how the culture bearers are already leaving because they can’t afford the place they call home.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not exactly the same situation, but I think you’d find you wouldn’t even recognize San Francisco anymore. All the little bodegas and “grimy” but fun diners and spots that once made going into the city a cultural field trip are all but gone! It’s all tech companies and financial institutions. It’s just not the same city at all. I have a hard time with so much change to the character of iconic cities, but even more when people who have called that city “home” for generations can no longer afford to live there. I like your term “culture bearers.” It really does make me a little sad.


      2. It looks like the Mission hasn’t been gentrified yet. My cousins live there and sent me a couple of pictures and it looks about the same, as does Chinatown where an old friend owns a restaurant. Even so, I also know the City is unaffordable for anybody who hasn’t lived there forever.


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