Photography and music have leapfrogged each other for almost all of my life. Photography kicked in during my early teens with adventures in the school darkroom. Music arrived not long after that in the form of the tenor saxophone and the battle to be my number one was on. Sometimes the photographer would be ahead, sometimes it was the musician in me.
Where the two overlapped was my love of music photography. Quite often that could be rock and roll photography in Rolling Stone Magazine form, but my true love of music photographs was jazz, especially work by the great Herman Leonard. But strange as it may seem I didn’t think about mixing my two loves until April 2013.
I’m a member of The Kage Collective (pronounced Ka-gay) and I was looking for a quick project to use as content for our monthly output. I decided to contact Tommy Smith about going along to a Scottish National Jazz Orchestra concert (Tommy is the director of the orchestra) and documenting both behind the scenes and the actual performance. That one night developed into a long-term project that I am still working on to this day as their official photographer. I’ve also shot a handful of jazz CD covers and even had the cover of Jazzwise magazine too.
It’s hard to explain what I’m trying to capture in my music photography, but every now and then, when I squeeze the shutter button, I feel I’ve captured a true moment, something timeless that would sit perfectly in any of the jazz photography books on my bookshelf. These moments only exist for 1/125th of a second and they’re gone. There is nothing before and nothing after…it’s a heartbeat. I see a lot of these moments in my viewfinder, but by the time I see them, they’re already gone. That’s why they come once in a blue moon. Sure, there are hundreds of keepers during a gig, but these special moments are much more elusive.
So I’ll keep trying to find these pure moments as I’m lurking in shadows and hoping my trigger finger is one step ahead of my eye. In this age of the smartphone and the constant snapping of hundreds of thousands of pictures each day, I think we all question the relevance of our pictures. But with an archive of over 47,000 jazz photographs, I have to believe there is historical value in what I’m doing. Time will tell.