Downtown Asheville, North Carolina.
September 22, 2016
January 26, 2016
Patton Avenue, downtown Asheville, North Carolina.
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.
July 13, 2014
Urban Photography From The Streets Of A Bohemian Mountain Town – Photography Exhibition and Book Release.
I will hold an exhibition and book release announcement this August at Grateful Steps Publishing House, Bookshop and Gallery for my upcoming street photography book entitled “Urban Photography From the Streets Of A Bohemian Mountain Town,The Art Of Performance. A Journal of Asheville Street Photography.”
The work incorporates a mix of photojournalism with a traditional approach to street photography. The book documents in both words and images the dichotomies and juxtapositions of an urban bohemian environment intertwined with a southern Appalachian culture. The collection focuses on the performance of living, creating, and being an “Ashevillian” in downtown Asheville. The exhibition will showcase photographic excerpts from the book, including street performers and daily life in the city.
The work will be available in both print and ebook. For information on the book, visit http://joelongobardiphotography.com/books.html
Grateful Steps is located at 159 South Lexington Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801. The exhibit will run from August 1 to August 30, 2014. Opening reception is on a Friday, August 8 at 6pm. All works on display are for sale.
For further information, visit GratefulSteps.org for updates of upcoming events, or contact Micki Cabaniss Eutsler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All images © Joe Longobardi. All Rights Reserved. joelongobardiphotography.com/