North Carolina Music & Culture
This spring Tara Guertin, AFAR Magazine’s Director of Photography, assigned me a photo anthology on North Carolina bluegrass music and culture. The project functioned very similar to a commission in that Tara accommodated my regular process by providing substantial assignment duration and film budget. Many thanks to Dirk and Light Waves Imaging who played a critical role in our collaboration. To her credit Tara is a complete professional in matching assignments with photographers that will connect with the project personally. London Observer’s Emma John wrote an amazing story, and while Tara requested photographs of specific locations and people from this story, I was allowed to use this memior esque piece as inspiration for mood and approach. You can read Emma’s beautiful story of personal growth and down-home music on AFAR’s site, and see our spread on APhotoEditor.com.
Emma’s dichotomous and quirky experience and potential bluegrass subject matter found through North Carolina inspired the subjects these pictures. I recognized redheaded, freckled teen-agers brothers at a laundromat, getting caught in an afternoon thunderstorm, two paunch monks, an Easter cross with mandolin and sweet, county dogs as the choruses they could inspire.
Cattle grazed the fields, an old rocking chair waited on the porch, a dogwood bloomed along the river and dirt roads lead to a reclusive musician whose fiddles sell internationally.
A rose bush planted by grandmothers, pie pans scaring deer off gardens, sheets rustling in the wind, pick ups in the side yard, tire swings and muddy river bottoms
Traveling musicians chasing bluegrass history, late night jams, back room sessions, playing the streets for cash and teenagers learning life lessons in the parking lot
Photographing the Country Jam in Blacksburg, SC, I was called on stage to explain who I was and what I was doing to a packed Friday night roadhouse. Given the opportunity and with the volume of my voice rising through the microphone system with every word, I declared my pride to a cheering audience that a national magazine focused on culture and international travel wanted to feature our music and southern culture.
We also made a short video piece: