Wednesday, 25 January 2023

The visual side of jazz

First things first: I'm not into jazz, know virtually nothing of American jazz, yet I do know that jazz pianist and band leader Darius Brubeck, who contributed the foreword to this tome, is the son of legendary jazz icon Dave Brubeck. My interest is in photography, my musical preference has long been rock and pop, and I imagine that to photograph a rock band or a jazz combo isn't that different. Moreover, I'm fully aware that I cannot do justice to this work which is why I will concentrate on a few rather randomly chosen aspects that caught my attention. That being said, it is good to realise that a good jazz photo is not a happenstance.

"Taking pictures isn't as easy as it looks. In my experience it is rare indeed that all four members of my quartet are identifiable in a concert shot. From stage left, my back is to the camera; from our front, the cymbal is in front of the drummer's face; from stage right, the bass player is blocking me or I'm just too far away — and so on," Darius Brubeck describes good-humouredly his photo-frustrations.

Of course, Brubeck is joking. There is clearly more to the apparent chaos of the typical jazz photograph that is trying to catch, even to create, the atmosphere of a jazz performance or the aura of a jazz musician. Moreover, it goes without saying that different photographers will go differently about their challenges. Pointing his readers to two very different photos from the same period, the book's author Alan John Ainsworth comments: "What are we to make of the contrasts between these two almost contemporaneous photographs? In terms of generation, race, location, presentation, style, and repertoire, the players seem as far removed from each other as it is possible to be. It is hardly surprising that there is little agreement among jazz scholars about the definition of the jazz tradition; some even question whether there is such a tradition." Hardly surprising indeed. As in every other field of study, one feels like adding.

Photographers are as different as jazz musicians or politicians. So, what do photographers who take pictures of jazz musicians have in common? A common affinity with jazz, writes Ainsworth, an independent scholar based in Edinburgh, whose own affinity can be felt on every page. And, he adds, the same goes for the jazz audience for whom this book seems to be written: "Jazz photographs have always been important to fans, enthusiasts, and collectors." Sight Readings, in short, is a book for aficionados.

For the full review, go here

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

How Ricardo framed me

2008, in Santa Cruz do Sul

2009, in Santa Cruz do Sul

2017, in Santa Cruz do Sul

There are pictures of me that for quite some years I did not know they existed. 

The first of these three shots must have been taken in 2008. Elsa, the daughter of the late Ricardo Schütz, who had taken these photographs of me, sent it to me in January 2023. The other two I had also only seen years after Ricardo took them.

Automatically, my thoughts wander to Ricardo, a highly knowledgeable linguist and avid photographer with a particularly dry sense of humour. "When you go to Torres, you will see lots of beautiful young women in bikinis who however won't look at men our age. The only ones that will eventually look at you are women who look like your grandmother but are probably younger than you are."

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

"My" Peru in January 2012

Pictures taken along the Panamericana in January 2012.

Wednesday, 4 January 2023

Learning to choose

In the early1980s, at Matala Beach on the island of Crete, Ilse from Unterföhring told me that when she's taking pictures she always concentrates on something specific like chairs, doors or windows. I thought this an excellent approach and so I copied it for a while. And, I felt enchanted by the results. I'm still at a loss to explain why I eventually stopped pursuing it.

Twenty years later, I began to develop a rather intellectual interest in photography. My focus was on what pictures can tell. Not as much as we would like to think, I eventually concluded, for we mostly see in a picture what we bring to it: If I judge a person as a moron, I will very likely see a moron in a photograph of him (or her, of course).

When, about three years ago, I started to use my cell phone to take photographs, I had no plan what to photograph. I simply took pictures of objects and scenes that my eyes felt pleased by. My taking photographs, it seemed to me, was mainly defined by the possibilities that my cell phone camera did offer – mostly, I felt attracted by its ability to zoom in on flowers by the side of the road that so far I had not even noticed were there.

Another aspect of my taking photographs is my fascination for framing that I consider the essence of photography. Contrary to painting, where you create everything from scratch, what you photograph is already there: You only decide what to put inside the frame and what to leave out of it. 

For the full text, go here.