a journal of observations, obsessions and inspirations

Inside the Music – a portfolio of jazz photography

book cover, Inside the Music - jazz photographyhands playing piano in black and white jazz photographyman playing guitar in black and white jazz photographyChris Botti playing trumpet in black and white jazz photographyman with percussion chimes in black and white jazz photographyyoung woman playing tambourine and singing in black and white jazz photographyThis is about the people who make music. And depending on how you look, this portfolio of jazz photography can be a portrait of the music itself.

I was never interested in being part of the press pool at the big concerts—stand here, don’t move, you get two songs—so I worked small clubs and street fairs and weekend festivals where I could find my own style. Got to know some of the guys who were shooting (it was a male-dominated industry, both the musicians and the photographers) and thoroughly enjoyed the music. I still do. But I wasn’t fan-girl-with-a-camera. I focused on visualizing the experience and the sound.

For a couple of years I also worked tours, in the real work of music making. My background was in theatre, but this was different. In 1995, home from a crazy 3-nights/3-cities gig with Rick Braun, Peter White, Paul Taylor and others, I posted this report to my photography group on AmericaOnline:

…more details of life on the road (“Okay everyone, let’s vote on where we stop for breakfast — Burger King or Dairy Queen!”) ;D … and how to check into your room, shower, change, grab film and lenses and camera bodies in 20 minutes flat to make sound check and, most importantly, dinner! (because nothing’s open after the show) which you’re lucky to be able to finish half of while balancing it on your lap and checking batteries, eyeing shooting locations, and loading film.

The hardest part is being able to clear your mind from the traveling and the schedule stuff and the organizing stuff (when you’re helping with questions and tickets and will-call and selling product after the shows)… clearing your mind to be able to *see* to shoot creatively instead of routinely — I have the greatest respect for performers who rise above all that and put on a show, sometimes two a night, that is fresh for each audience. And get up too early the next morning and do it again. Oh, not the big stars who travel with an entourage of manager and trainer and this and that … but the guys who play one gig after another in cities and towns in no particular order, who call home once a day to hear their kids’ voices, who sleep in the back of the van and carry their own gear, just to make enough of a living because they love to make music. It’s damn hard work and not at all glamorous.

It’s the work, the play, the creating, that keeps it real, as fascinating a challenge in jazz photography as in performing the music. That, and putting your work, your life, your heart in front of an audience.


Carl Evans Jr at the keyboard

Tommy Emmanuel, guitarist

Chris Botti in concert

Mambo Hernandez, percussionist

vocalist from Zap Mama