28 August, 2014
Date and place of birth:
June 25th, 1956, Charlotte, North Carolina
Place of residence:
Hell's Kitchen, New York City
How did you end up in jazz photography, starting from jazz or from photography itself?
I grew up infused with the sounds of great black music. My parents record collection included some of the greats of the time. In the south, on the radio, it was mostly so called "soul" music but it opened me up to the essence of "soul-full" music which is the embodiment of all things jazz. In college, in Rhode Island, I was exposed even further to America's greatest art form. I took a jazz appreciation course and simultaneously was exposed to photography as an art form as my cousin Robert Farber, was ascending the greatest heights of art photography which set off the sparks of passion for all things visual for me. The marriage of jazz and photography fused a couple of years later when I was living in Atlanta and was gifted my first pro camera (a Canon AE1*). Shortly thereafter, I moved to Sarasota, Florida and met Bob Seymour, a celebrated jazz radio personality and his roommate Andy Croatman, a photographer who guided me in his home darkroom and allowed me to learn that craft in the middle of the night while they slept!
*Footnote: (my Canon was stolen a couple of years later and I ended up with a Nikon FM and have been shooting Nikon's ever since).
Is jazz your main activity as a photographer?
It was for many years along with shooting an abundance of reggae and world music. Not so much these days as some health crises intercepted my rhythm. I have not found my way back to the beat quite yet but am looking forward to rejuvenating my career if there are any respectably paid gigs left!
Do you have any other activities related to jazz?
I have been active with the Jazz Foundation of America. Not much else really.
Do you stay in touch with the musicians that you photograph?
I've never been one to meld my professional and personal lives. I never dated a musician and I married someone completely out of that milieu. I am very fond of many of the musicians I have photographed, many are Facebook "friends" and we share mutual respect and admiration here but I don't socialize or hang out with many. Perhaps, that is because when I started photographing, women who hung out with musicians were reduced to groupies and I was sensitive to that perception. Not that I didn't have crushes on some of those that I met or photographed, but I was determined not to fall into that category and honestly, I would have had my heart broken too many times if I had gone that route!
How important are social networks in your work?
Somewhat important. I suppose I keep my name alive and well as I post photos that would never be seen otherwise as print is dead. But I am not a social media "whore" and find the over-saturation abhorrent! But I admittedly enjoy the sense of community and connection and sometimes a referral or request results from the reminder that I am still an active photographer who can run with the bulls!
In jazz words, how would you label your most recent work: mainstream, fusion, free, avant-garde…?
FREE! No one wants to pay anymore!!! Fusion for my style.
Can you tell me 3 features of jazz photography that make it so interesting to your eyes?
The visual poetry, the intensity, the expressionism.
Do you think that there’s a relationship between the quality of the music in a concert and the quality of the photographs you take there?
Absolutely. The excitement and passion of the music and musicians is what travels through my lens and reaches my heart and connects to my finger which releases the trigger to freeze the moment in time.
What side of jazz photography is more attractive to you, the creative side or being a jazz reporter?
Both are of equal value. The urge to photograph is because my creative juices need somewhere to land and yet I am very much focused on capturing history. My photos have very little commercial value as I never consider them as commodities just for renumeration (perhaps that's why I don't have a pot to pee in!), but in fact, I want them to stand the test of time.
Some so called ‘jazz festivals’ diversify their offer in favor of other styles of music. Do you think that this trend is a trend for the consistency of jazz photography?
I have no real opinion on this as I have had limited access to jazz festivals worldwide. I had been photographing The Visions Festival in New York for many years until I had shoulder injuries from years of carrying heavy bags up and down subway steps in New York City (most of us don't own cars here). That festival is very purely avant garde and can most likely be counted on to stay that way. However, the other ones such as the JVC festival and I suppose many other regional ones, must offer mainstream and popular acts to recover the money they likely lose from the pure jazz music and certainly from the experimental or lesser known performers. It's business as usual for those producers, i.e., not all festivals are dedicated to art before commerce.
Can you recommend a contemporary jazz photographer?
Ziga Koritnik is my personal hero! His work is masterful and his career is the one I most want to emulate!