Biltmore Avenue, downtown Asheville, North Carolina.
June 19, 2016
April 16, 2016
April 14, 2016, Downtown Asheville, North Carolina.
Always looking for ways to stretch out and utilize the techniques I have developed as a street photographer, I participated in the latest organized fashion gathering (or FASHMOB) at Roger McGuire Green located in Asheville’s Pack Square Park. As there were several such events that proceeded this, the gathering was appropriately named FASHMOB VII: Media Magnet. This event is for photographers, videographers, models, makekup artists, hair stylists, and designers of all experience levels. The purpose is for people to connect, have fun, and create images to share with one another.
I generally rely on wide lenses such as 24mm and 28mm for street photography. For these photos, I decided to employ the 24mm. Needless to say, it presented some challenges. Getting close was one of them. One modle at my request climbed up a wall for a few shots. Finding the lens to short to get any reasonable closeups, with a giant flash mounted on the camera in one hand, I scaled the wall to grab some more intimate portraits.
The complex distortion of the 24mm lens was another factor to contend with. Distorted features created by a wide angle lens are less than flattering should you get to close. Carefully working the lens from just the right vantage point, the lens distortion can be advantageous, offering a wonderfully edgy, yet flattering image.
In short, it was a fun and worthwhile experience. And for a photographer who is more accustomed to capturing fleeting moments on the bustling city streets, having people willing to take the time to allow for several photos was more than a welcome change of pace.
December 31, 2015
Outside the Kress Building on Patton Avenue in downtown Asheville, NC.
December 17, 2015
December 5, 2015
Downtown Asheville, North Carolina.
To say that music is a ubiquitous and integral part of Asheville’s heritage is a little like pointing out that the ocean is wet. From bluegrass and folk, to rock, jazz and the blues, it was only a matter of time before all this vibrating energy would overflow from the mountains and local venues, and trickle into the eclectic streets of Asheville, fusing together a blend of rural and urban influences. And Western North Carolina itself is unique in its quilted history of Celtic ballads and African-American slave songs culminating in a crescendo of contemporary American music.
As with many street performers (or buskers, noun busk·er \ˈbəs-kər\: performers who entertain in a public place for donations), these musicians supplement their income by performing for tips offered by tourists and locals. Some use the opportunity to perform in the streets as a means to promote upcoming shows in local clubs or sell CD’s of their music. Others are merely passing thorough hoping to make a few dollars before moving on to their next destination. A rare few actually subsist on the income generated by these live performances.
Having been a performing musician myself, I’m always drawn to the talents I come across when downtown. I strive to take photos that I feel capture a timelessness, even some mythology, of the artist. I think back on iconic photographs of famous performers from the first half of the Twentieth-century that been branded into our cultural lexicon. At some conscious level, I am inspired to mimic these mental images while capturing these modern performers.
The music that emanates from the streets in random cycles is what makes up the character and is at the heart of busking in downtown Asheville. When the sidewalks are absent of music, the silence is both deafening and disconcerting.
Recently, there has been some debate by the Asheville City Council regarding the implementation of limits on the amount of sidewalk space buskers can have at their disposal. As a result of a number of transient activity in the last year, a number of regular street performers have been targeted by local authorities in a general sweep to curb sidewalk congestion, even ticketing artists that try to sell their CD’s (which though is not legal to do so, it was generally overlooked by the city of Asheville). The response by the busking community was the creation of the Asheville Buskers Collective that serves as a self governing agency, offering guidance in creating a professional atmosphere for all artists. As a result of the Collective’s efforts (attending city council meetings to voice concerns and suggestions), many of the restrictions that were to be implemented by the city have been taken off the table.
These images featured in this blog, my book, and those I have yet to publish have been collected over a period of nine years. On both film and digital cameras! Alongside capturing the musicians, I photographed many Living Statues that have come and gone over the years. Many of these performers will never be seen again. I feel fortunate to have been able to capture so many of the artists that have performed on the streets of downtown Asheville. How many performers have I photographed? Likely enough to post a photo of a unique busker everyday for the next several years.
A number of these photos are on display at Lenoir-University just off of Merrimon Avenue in Asheville, and can be found in my book Urban Photography From the Streets Of A Bohemian Mountain Town.
Since the days of antiquity, street performers have been the soundtrack to life in any city.
Without it, one’s step by misses a beat.