Music and Photography

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Do you ever use a clock radio to wake up in the morning? Music comes on--good or
bad--& you have that tune in your head for the rest of the day? Despite the abrupt awakenings I have rediscovered several songs years after their initial popularity that way. Just as often a ridiculous jiggle jangles every raw nerve.

Music has permeated my life forever. I cannot remember a moment without it. My mother woke me humming every morning. Church choirs introduced me to my own voice. I watched Elvis Presley wriggle on the Ed Sullivan Show & the Beatles perform on that same stage years later. In an act of love my father bought me tickets to see Van Cliburn right after he won the Moscow Tchaikovsky Piano Competition.

I played jugband music, rock/roll in college &, after school, we formed a blues band. Like so many of us very significant milestone in my life has been accompanied by an appropriate song.

When I first started in this business I wanted nothing more than my lifestyle to closely resemble that of a musician.

My colleagues & I dreamed of chasing after bands & performers to document their escapades. But soon enough I
discovered so did everybody else. There was lots of competition & I was last in line.

So instead of continuing to follow all my friends I followed my passion. Jazz was my real muse. I chased every well known jazz artist for years. Still do. Dizzy, Bags, Miles, the Baron…. I befriended club workers so they would put my name on the guest lists. I snuck in stagedoors. I called radio stations just to get access.

In the early days musicians said, “take all the pictures you want.” But I was not interested in the low key, high contrast, black/white silhouettes of shiny horns sticking out of the faces of African American performers. I stalked each one & convinced them to let me make portraits backstage, in their hotel rooms, on the street & even in my studio. I made a fool of myself more than once.

Even as the collection grew & I showed the work to dozens of clients & editors, nobody cared. At first I could not give the pictures away. After years the gallery world discovered the ample body of work & I have been exhibiting it ever since.

Recently this quest took me to the Top of the Hub, a club/restaurant which hosts jazz concerts. Friends told me a quartet would be playing there. Between sets I asked the leader if I could take some pictures while he was in town. The next day my assistants set up lights in different parts of my studio. The photographs came out so well Brian McCree, an amazing bassist, used them on his new CD changes in the wind.

My career in music was short lived. But I have surrounded myself with all forms of it by using my art to channel the sounds. Consequently I have had tunes remain in my brain for years like those early morning top ten memories. A few years ago because they haunted me for so long I started to crudely peck them out on my studio piano. Brian wanted to use the images & being a true artist he paid cash for the privilege. But eventually the exchange between us became a trade. He agreed to record my music with his band & I gave him extended rights. So like Walter Mitty I have come full circle & authored my first original opus. I named the first one after my mother who recently died. Mommy Suite. A singer with Gil Scott Heron once told me music is the closest thing to heaven.


rsteele,  August 14, 2009 at 9:18 PM  

music--wakes us up and it also lulls us to sleep, stops us dead in our tracks and propels us to shake our groove thing, soothes our souls and agitates our minds, elicits a memory and inspires a vision. bravo for taking the road less travelled and fusing two of your passions--jazz music and photography--having vision, capturing musical moods and moments, and creating extraordinary and unique works of art.

Valentina August 15, 2009 at 1:55 AM  

yes, it's true, a picture has its own rhythm, its sound, its melody, because music is not only for the ears. As usual, your pictures are strong and impressive.

snagelsen August 15, 2009 at 8:09 AM  

Hey,thanks for the heads up on the blog. It looks great. It will be nice to stay in touch. Let me know when you are going to be back in town so I can plan a trip to the studio.

Paula PPP,  August 15, 2009 at 8:58 PM  

Lou, love the blog. Gorgeous photos and wonderful stories. Keep on keepin on!

Denise,  August 16, 2009 at 6:52 AM  

yes. love the connection both passions instill.
love the black and white portrait too.

Michael Krupa,  August 17, 2009 at 8:52 AM  

Lou: So good that you have launched a blog. I so value your take on the world as you travel and send back words and photos of your experience of the grand and the everyday. Thanks too for telling us more about your own history and connection to music, to jazz, and to the musicians who create it. Your subjects trust you and your vision and they must feel your appreciation for their art. I think, too, that you must have trusted your own capacity to make a life within the arts--no small thing. More later...

Boulder Mike,  August 18, 2009 at 8:09 AM  

And sometimes there is music in silence, which I heard yesterday on top of a 14,000 foot mountain in Colorado. Gotta get Lou up here to do the pictures.

Katrina RW August 18, 2009 at 10:11 PM  

No matter how you define it--taking pictures of a person and/or an action is documentation. It's capturing, something personal made a bit more public (though already seen in public most times)...meaning? If you take a picture of someone most people expect a reaction (even if they ask first: they try to pose or feel silly, or are surprised). Is it an aggressive action? Could be, it is intrusive (even under the best circumstances) and that, by nature, is aggressive. So where do I really land, what side of the fence? I think we should encourage more photography (random photography), friendly, encouraging, "hey, we're gonna take your picture so that the world can see you, and in turn you can see the world because we're gonna take their picture too", or "hey, this is important, we need to shine a light on this"...but then every once in awhile you want to sneak up on what's happening to keep it honest (even if you may not have the right?).

Diane Wilson,  August 19, 2009 at 7:54 PM  

Hi Lou, Thanks again for another great post and wonderful pictures - a complete story. I agree with Micheal Krupa's elequent post - well said :)
- Diane W.

Ronnie James,  August 20, 2009 at 6:46 PM  

I just wish there was more money to be made in jazz photography! LOL
Nice post, Lou.

Anonymous,  August 31, 2009 at 8:12 PM  

Full Circle Indeed. Mild synesthesia is in more individuals than is often acknowledged. Not screaming extreme just the subtle interplay of all the senses. I sometimes "see" things when I play. On a great day, "hear" things when I shoot.

Emma September 10, 2009 at 4:05 PM  

lou jones
enjoying your blog...wonderful images alongside thoughtful insights. always a treat.
emma s

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blog (blŏg, bläg) n. 1. short for Weblog 2. online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer 3. diary that is posted on the Internet 4. an experiment to verbalize my observations about the status of photography. It will be eclectic & deal with philosophy & practice of this universal art form. It will strive for periodic commentary about issues many photographers face, like ownership and the economy. It will also talk about pictures and what makes good ones and how to get them. No hardware. No software. No recycled clichés. No whining.