I have been taking photographs about as long as I have been playing music, which is a long time… about back to age 8 or 9. My father and grandfather were amateur photographers with a darkroom in the basement for black and white processing and printing. For my grandfather it goes back to the early days of photography, and the economic realities of the day. The day was, more specifically, the Great Depression. Photography was not inexpensive, but if you developed your own film and printed your own photos, you could do it on a budget. Later on, in the days after WWII, my father had more of a tolerance for the cost of commercial processing, but was still a rabid economizer. I learned film processing, use of a changing bag for loading tanks without a darkroom, and basic processing. That is not unrelated to my interest in both chemistry and cooking! It is all a matter of recipes and knowing what is actually going on in the process.
Music was a little different, but my dad had a few el-cheapo stringed instruments like a ukelele and a tenor guitar (Zim-Gar!!!). The tenor was my favorite. I was not tuning it in fifths (it was meant to be tuned like a tenor-banjo), but EADG, like a bass. When I got my first guitar, a nylon string folk guitar, I played that the same way… picking out bass lines on the low strings, chunking through some basic open chords, and baffled by the asymmetrical B string! One day a friend of my dad’s saw me playing and basically told him: “Paul, I hate to tell you this, but your son is a bass player.” That was that. By the time I was 13 I had a really awful Fender P copy (a Memphis… ugh), with a bad neck and worse electronics. I ripped the frets out of within a year and that was all she wrote. I have been playing bass since… over 34 years now, which is mind boggling.
Which is a long way of saying that music and photography are two constants in the way I approach the world.
As a result I always bring a camera to gigs, and if I am lucky I find a balance in time to perform music and time to capture images. At an event like the NHIC Verge-Fest back in April of 2011 I was in charge of running sound, and had plenty of time to concentrate on photography. At an event like Rochefort en Accords I had no balance. It was 95% music music music… and then the time for an occasional snapshot opportunity. The goal was purely that of capturing a few snaps as “souvenir”, in the true French meaning of “memory” or “memento”. I am glad I did, because I would not have the great image of Charly Doll stoking the charcoal grill with a hairdryer! …or the murky images from Charly’s bonfire, or the beer-tent party after the Friday rain-out at Rochefort, or the iPhone panorama of the school kids, or Nini Dogskin practicing the Saxhorn… and so many more. See the Flickr set HERE.
A Rochefort I was surrounded by a bevy of fantastic musicians, and it was all I could do to keep up. World class singers, songwriters, instrumentalists, and solo performers, all opening themselves up to what other musicians had to share. I also met a few people who were putting all their energies into making images. Christian Duchesnay and Olivier Longuet were the two I saw the most often. Chris was the official photographer of the festival, and Olivier was working for himself. Photography is different from music in many ways, but one difference that is central to this observation is that you have no idea what the photographer’s images will look like until you see them. I can tell a few things about musicians by their gear, their mode of dress, and maybe their “entourage”, before hearing them play. With a photographer you only see the person with a camera and think “nice camera” or “nice lenses” or something like that.
After I returned from Rochefort I saw some of the work of these photographers. I believe that I have yet to see ChrisD’s complete work from the festival, but I have seen a good selection of what Olivier was up to. Wow… the guy is very very good. He has a few images featuring yours-truly, but to be honest they are not the best of his images. I am flattered and also honored to be in the frame. The extra added bonus from Rochefort, as if I needed one, is that in addition to the influence of the great musicians I worked with, I have this influence on the photographic side. I will keep adding links as I find more stuff on the interwebs. Right now there are a lot of small collections on Facebook, but I am not linking to those here.
Chris-D outtakes at Poudriere Blog
The Poudriere is a facility across the road from the Clos in Rochefort, and is the site of a really great selection of music events.