willard and sandy
Yesterday I spent the day into the night putting 999 photographs from the computer to a dvd. Have about half that many to go. Putting together all the photographs taken at the Front Porch of the Fiddle and Plow series that Scott Freeman and Willard Gayheart put on weekly. 999 times hitting the same three keys on the keyboard. Takes awhile. I'm not somebody who could do something like that every day as my work. It's why I'm not an accountant. I'd rather be mowing hay. I want all the pictures I've taken at the show over the last couple years on dvd, which I'll pass to Scott for his archives to pick pictures he'll want to use for one reason or another, if he wants. I don't want copyright and all that. For me, it was my fun at the time. I enjoyed it so much, this is my form of gratitude. About 135 pictures of Willard, then about the same number of Scott, then about half that many of them making music together. Then pictures of all the guests from beginning to present.
By the end of the experience, I came away with the picture above as one that catches perfectly what I'm looking for in a photograph. I don't want magazine "quality" pictures. They're dead to my eye with their perfectly sharp edges and everything perfect. I don't live in that world. It's not a world anybody lives in. It's a 2D image on a piece of paper. I don't mean to make little of people like Elliot Porter, Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon et al, not at all. I'm only looking at what I want of my own photographs, subjectively. This one above was taken with a very slow shutter speed, which usually makes them somewhat fuzzy and does a kind of vaseline lens thing with the light, very subtle, thankfully. Saying slow shutter speed, I don't mean to imply I know camera lingo or want to appear to. I want my photos to have a living sensation about them, which is I want for my paintings too. I like the blur of the right hand striking the guitar strings. I like the slight blur around Willard indicating motion contrasted with the still guitar that has no blur of motion about it, the still point the music flows through. I don't mean to get symbolic about it either. Just following associations.
I like the ceiling light reflected in the glass above Sandy's head. Can't make out the light source. It's like a glow in the nest of her wavy hair, like an aura. The blur around Willard gives me a sense of aura. I like how the light reflects on the rims of his glasses. I like the reflection of the ceiling lights on Sandy's glasses. I especially love how the image of them singing together feels like you can almost hear them, at least hear the emotion in that moment of the song. The very slight blur doesn't alter the lines of their faces, but gives a living sense, almost like the light is coming from them. Brings to mind Robert Bly's book of poems, The Light Around The Body. I picked it up earlier today after not looking at it for almost 40 years. So much has changed since then. I read two of the poems, chosen randomly. Knocked my sox off. I remembered right away how much I loved his writing in my college and post-college years. loved it a very great deal. Then I went to the mountains and my urban interests fell away after the first few years. Back to Willard, that line of white light that outlines him is something like the black line in Japanese painting.
And most important, the photograph caught both their faces such that they look like the people I know, who the image represents. This is how Willard looks while he is singing. This is how Sandy looks when she is singing. I love that the harmony they are singing is visible in the photograph. The credit I have to give largely to chance, my friend chance. The camera has a delay in the push-button of a portion of a second, but long enough that somebody singing into the mic when I push the button will have the head turned to the side, mic ruining a good profile, when it clicks. This means I never get the picture I push the button for. It doesn't work to anticipate the next second's motion, because it never happens as I anticipate. I've learned to get 4 or 5 pictures of the next second after I click the button, because eventually one works. I just keep on clicking, one after the other. The others make good pics, too, with a spontaneous feel about them. I like that feel of spontaneity captured in a still image. It's one of my guiding lights to catch the feel of the spontaneous. This picture above does that for me.
I see them both in motion, not still. I've found, making the videos, that I like to hold the camera allowing for jiggles, the occasional cough, keeping it in motion. The ones made early on that were held as still as I could manage, attempting to be a tripod replacement, bored me immeasurably. They were so still, they were dead. I like to zoom in on one or two musicians and move the camera around the band, showing 1 or 2 at a time, back and forth, following the action. Focusing on the singer, then moving to the instrument taking a break, like when Scott takes off with his mandolin or fiddle. That's another one. I've been looking for the one photo of Scott that captures him like this one above gets Sandy and Willard. My favorite of Scott is one that the camera took the picture just as somebody else's flash went off, brightening him with halogen light, the shadow of his arm and hand on the front of his shirt as he lifted his hand from the strings on the last note. I don't use a flash, but I love this flash, because it was from somewhere else, making a nice shadow contrasting the brilliant light he's bathed in. I think it's my favorite of the Scott pictures. It feels like the electricity of his picking. I don't mean he's plugged-in, but his picking itself is electrical.
These are not pictures I'd put in a competition, because taking a "good" picture is not what I want to do. Per show, I pick one place to station myself, usually in the back so I won't be standing up in front of anybody. I also like to get tops of heads of the audience in the pictures when it's natural. I don't like moving around getting interesting angles, close-ups, arty type things, and I don't like being in the way of people around me. So I stay in back and use the zoom. I don't like using a flash; the light is unnatural. The zoom with slow shutter speed makes its own kind of blur with the light. That's the source of the vaseline lens look. Vaseline lens is too extreme an example, because it is way subtler than that. It's a sense of softness in the light. When I say I like it, love it, it's not because I think it has anything about it seen objectively that is extraordinary. What I like and love is that it has in it what I want one of my photographs to be. Not thinking competitions and prizes and money and fame. I just want to make photographs that accord with my own particular aesthetic sense, which I can't put a name to or a finger on. It just is what it is. I'm not cutting edge. That's for them that want it. I want to live my life as I live here at home and evolve my own aesthetic according to my experience. Found a nice one, too, of Jeanette Williams.
Nearly all the other pictures of her are facing the bass full-front, and her beside it, an incredible study in curves. They're too much magazine type pictures for my satisfaction. In this one, I see Jeanette and the bass as one. It's not a matter of curves; they're all implied, like the "you" left out of "get me a beer." It's Jeanette bass player one with her bass, it standing there like a big ONE. Her beautiful face glowing light. I like too, how the glow from the slow shutter speed and the minuscule blur of the zoom have put a soft glow of light on her face. She and the bass really are one. She sings while she plays it, uses it to enhance her singing and for expression of emotion. The pictures of her curves standing beside the bass's curves, makes a better picture. I like this one for the symbolism in it, mainly. When she plays the bass and sings, her flow is one with the bass. In this picture it looks like the bass has arms and a head. This is how Johnny, her husband would see her from standing beside her playing his guitar. I snapped this picture when she'd turned it sideways for a moment, turning its vibration toward Scott who was tearing up the song with his mandolin. Jeanette, Johnny and Scott recently recorded a new project to be released this month. I feel so privileged.