My Love Affair with Personalities

BB King, 2013

BB King, 2013

My favorite page on my website is my Personalities page. The page encompasses a variety of performers and celebrities and artists. When I look through my catalog of photos on that page, I am astounded at who I’ve been blessed to shoot so far in my relatively young photography career. BB King, Willie Mays, my teen idol Marty Stuart…

Artists of all genres fascinate me. They thrive at sharing their passion, regardless of the medium in which they work. Their body language is alive, sometimes fraught with positive tension, and their facial expressions often show how lost in the moment they are. Most often, they seem completely unaware there is a camera lens focused on them. In these moments, the viewer is allowed to feel like they have been allowed to partake in a private moment.

My first concert shoot was Dave Koz and Friends at the Mesa Art Center, for his annual Christmas tour. I was on assignment for Go Gilbert! magazine, and rather intimidated at the prospect. Signing the release dealing with legalities many non-photographers would not think are a part of this genre, I was worried about getting a good set of images in a small time slot, and worried about the images after the shoot.

It was also the concert that got me hooked on photographing personalities. The concert was terrific, and my iconic shot of Dave Koz leaning backward with his saxophone made me break out in goose bumps when I saw it on my iMac that night. The meet and greet was fun. Dave Koz and his accompanying musicians (Candy Dulfer, Rick Braun, and Jonathan Butler) were incredibly personable and warm.

My next concert was Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis, at the Chandler Center for the Arts. I didn’t’ shoot the meet and greet, but it was another great concert for someone new to shooting music performers. And it was enough for me to keep seeking out small venue concerts to shoot.

It’s not all glitz and glamour, and there are always limitations. I shot the meet and greet for Joan Rivers, but wasn’t allowed to shoot the performance. She was a tiny little dynamo, and she had to be, given the demands on her schedule and her immense popularity. I’ve seen personalities who are tired and as overwhelmed with personal stresses as anyone else. I’ve seen performers who were overjoyed that people wanted to see them perform 30 years after the pinnacle of their careers. I’ve seen personalities display the most incredible amount of patience during meet and greets. I’ve seen gracious star-struck attendees at meet and greets, and I’ve seen people who could use a good education in manners and decorum. As a photographer shooting these events and performers, I’ve learned to read body language and facial expressions of everyone associated with a performance.

I love what I do. However, I think if I could express one sadness, that would be at how times have changed for photographers in this genre. Paparazzi, technology, the Internet, and social media have made it harder for photographers to have access and rights to images. Where once upon a time, personalities understood they needed photographers to keep them relevant, now the pendulum has swung the opposite way. Many of us in this genre have frustration at often being kept back by the sound board and limited to two or three songs, while those up front with the expensive tickets can use their cellphones to capture images we’ll never get. And don’t scoff…today’s cellphones are very powerful.

My bucket list has changed slightly over time. BB King was number 1 on my list, and what a gift of an opportunity that was. Now if anyone has connections to Condoleezza Rice, I’d be much obliged. Or Mickey Rourke or Tim Tebow. :-)