Bill Steber is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with degrees in English and Photography. He has worked at the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville as a staff photographer since 1989, where he has won over thirty regional and national photojournalism awards. His documentary work has been exhibited widely throughout the South. In 1997, Steber was awarded an Alicia Patterson Foundation grant to continue a project documenting Blues Culture in Mississippi that he started in 1993. The grant was for one year and during that time Steber was on sabbatical from the Tennessean. The project combines portraits of blues musicians playing at home and in clubs with images that describe what remains of the rural African-American culture that gave rise to the blues. Examples include, juke joints, cotton farming, sacred music, rural church services, river baptisms, folk religion and superstition, life on Parchman penitentiary, hill country African fife and drum music, and diverse regional blues styles. In addition, Steber is combining these images with field interviews that put the photographs in an historical perspective.

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1- How did you start your career as a photographer?

I got my first camera about age nine or ten from my father who was a serious amateur photographer. Although I shot photos for my high school newspaper and yearbook, I never considered photography as a career. Then in a class in college, I discovered the great street photographers like Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Henri Cartier-Bresson and so many others. From that moment the direction of my life changed and I knew I had to do documentary photography. With no real photojournalism experience, I started freelancing for the Tennessean, the morning daily newspaper in Nashville where my grandfather and great-grandfather had worked for much of the 20th century. I eventually worked my way into a full time job and stayed there fifteen years until going out on my own in 2004.
2- Few people have taken such a deep dive into the cultural roots of a music style the way you have. Photographing the blues culture in Mississippi was a risky bet for a photojournalist. What was the motivation to make this move?

Ha! You make it sound so serious! Actually the motivation had more to do with music than photography. Music is my passion – it’s how I engage with and understand the world. I live my life to a constant soundtrack and every creative act I ever do is with music in mind.
The blues project started quite accidentally. I was on assignment in Mississippi and hijacked the writer to drive through the Delta on our way home. Although I had a passion for blues, I had never visited the there. We stopped in Leland, MS because I wanted to meet Son Thomas.
When I walked into his shotgun house, there was a full-sized sculpture of a dead woman in a wooden casket in his front room and a clay skull with human teeth on a shelf (Son was not only a great bluesman, but an important folk artist). He was sitting on his bed, hunched over and holding aloft a lit cigarette that he hadn’t smoked and the ash was bending in a 2-inch arch. I was mesmerized by the entire scene.

He played some wonderful songs for me and I played some harmonica with him and took some pictures of him with the casket. I couldn’t wait to come back.

When I returned 6 months later, Son was already in the hospital dying of a brain tumor. That first realization that this wonderful music culture was rapidly changing lit a fire in me and I started making regular trips to Mississippi, building and expanding the project. I thought I would finish in about a year. That was 1992. Here I am 18 yrs. later with no end in sight.
3- How did you get in touch with the people you portrayed?

Networking. Word of mouth. Being curious. Jim O’Neal (founder of Living Blues magazine and Rooster Records) was extremely helpful in helping me get started. He was living in Clarksdale at the time and got me in contact with some of my first artists. From there I learned more and more, meeting new artists and actually discovering a few for the first time. I would sometimes hear rumors of musicians that lived in certain towns and I would just drive there and start asking around – sometimes without even knowing their name. For instance, someone told me they heard of a musician in Coffeeville, MS that would play on his porch every Sunday, so I went there and started asking around.

Local folks led me to Charles «Cadillac» Caldwell and he was great! I made some portraits of him, interviewed him, played music with him, hung out, had dinner with his family. One of the portraits I made got published in Oxford American magazine’s annual music issue, where it was seen by the owners of Fat Possum records in nearby Oxford, MS, who hadn’t heard of Charles despite the fact that were in the neighboring town. Charles Caldwell recorded an album of great blues for Fat Possum, but unfortunately he died from cancer before the album was released.

One of the things I try to do is to stay in touch with as many artists as I can and visit them whenever I’m in Mississippi. Sometimes I get the best photo of them at the first meeting, sometimes it takes years of repeat visits to get a photo that I think is deserving of them. The first time I always visit as a professional and a stranger. All subsequent visits are as a friend.

4- Your photographs span a good number of years. How did you manage to come and go there for so long? What was your day-to-day like while on one of those trips?

My first trip was in 1992, but by 1994 I realized that this was going to take a long time to accomplish what I wanted to capture, so I began using all my vacation time, long weekends and even unpaid leave from the newspaper to travel to Mississippi. When my wife and I first got together in 1990, we went to Europe on vacation. In 1991 we went to China, followed by Spain in 1992. She likes to say that she didn’t get to travel out of the country anymore for the next 13 years because I had discovered Mississippi, and she’s right! Since that first trip in 1992, I’ve travelled to the Magnolia State 120 times, with no sign of stopping. But with more flexible time since leaving the newspaper in 2004, we’ve been to Europe twice, Japan and Costa Rica, so all is forgiven.

As far as what my day to day life in Mississippi was like in the beginning, I always went with a long list of specific goals on each trip, which would often be thrown out as soon as I got to the Delta. You see, I discovered something called «Mississippi Time,» which is like the theory of relativity, except that it is ALWAYS slower and more unpredictable than time anywhere else. Just because an event is SUPPOSED to happen, doesn’t mean it will. But very often, something else completely unexpected would happen instead that was better than the original plan, so you have to be able to go with the flow and enjoy the surprise. Through travel to Mississippi I learned to have faith in serendipity. My best pictures always came as a gift and a surprise to me from unplanned moments that I was lucky enough to witness and capture. But that only happens by spending a lot of time somewhere and being willing to change your pre-conceived expectations, which is sometimes hard to do.

5- You wrote ten years ago that the juke joints were dying. Has that death finally been certified or have they managed to get back to life?

They say that the death of the blues is declared in every generation, and now I can understand why. When I began my quest for the genuine Mississippi blues almost 20 yrs. ago I got a lot of discouragement from people that had been doing documentary work before me. «It’s all gone-all the best people are dead, the music is not as good, the places aren’t as good» they said. Well, maybe, but there was enough people and music left for me to be excited. I wanted to dive in head first, and thankfully, I ignored them and went on with my project.

But over the years, many of my good friends in the blues world have died, my favorite juke joints have closed or burned down, the older traditions are changing or dying out. So here I am all these years later trying not to say the same things as I see the children of the older musicians carrying on the music of their fathers, but further removed from the rural, acoustic roots of the music. I photographed the last living survivors of the earliest generation to record, the last practitioners of traditional cotton farming practices, the last living folks with memories of the birth of Delta blues culture, but that doesn’t mean the culture is dead. It’s just in constant change, and those of us who chase the ghosts of the past are threatened and depressed by too much change. But the culture lives on. As long as there are musicians playing this music, there will be somewhere for them to play. So the Juke Joints will live on in some capacity.

6- We’ve perceived Mississippi as a depressed, impoverished area. Small towns look semi-abandoned and even bigger ones like Clarksdale leave a general impression of better times long gone. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? What would it take to reactivate the area?

To tell you the truth, the prospects are pretty bleak for the economic survival of many small towns in near future, but that problem is not unique to Mississippi, (although the state has been particularly hard hit.) Ironically, it was the loosening of the oppressive Jim Crow laws and the expansion of opportunity that started the downfall of many towns in Mississippi. Before WWII, the Mississippi Delta had one of the highest concentrations of African-Americans in the country because of the need for Black agricultural labor in producing and harvesting cotton by hand. Despite the oppressive nature of share-cropping, it was still better than most other economic opportunities to blacks in the South. With the invention of the mechanized cotton-picker and the opening of job opportunities in Northern cities following WWII, African-Americans through-out the South, and in Mississippi in particular, began leaving in droves for jobs in the North and West. When Jim Crow laws were lifted starting in the 1960’s, blacks suddenly had the opportunity to shop in stores and restaurants outside the black-owned business districts, so much of the black-owned businesses failed or were sold. There are towns in the Mississippi Delta that once had residents in the tens of thousands that now have populations in the hundreds. Many small towns have only a handful of stores, or none at all, where once were thriving business districts.

Clarksdale has been particularly aggressive about luring new residents and new businesses, with some degree of success, but this struggle is being felt all across America’s heartland and the current economic hard times and high unemployment are making recovery even more difficult. If there is an upside, the creation of new culture, musical forms and great vernacular art almost always come from areas of great poverty where people can’t afford to pay for their own amusement and must therefore rely on their own creativity for their entertainment. The human spirit is resilient and the blues is one of the most beautiful manifestations of that resilience.

7- They say anyone can take a picture now thanks to all the technological advances, but both amateurs and pros know that there’s more to a photograph than just shooting and downloading to a computer. What would you say defines a good photographer?

The thing that defines any good artist is a voracious curiosity and passion for discovery and play and a tenacity to keep working despite failure. Even the great hitters in baseball fail 70% of the time. All art is problem-solving. Writers, painters, photographers, dancers, musicians, anyone doing anything creative starts with the challenge of how to communicate an idea, a feeling, an emotion using tools, objects, voices, bodies, minds, that are often stubbornly uncooperative in the effort.

So new paths of discovery must be forged through sheer force of will, surrendering to passions both positive and negative, years of grueling practice, blind luck, lots of failure, and most importantly, an endless need to keep creating, discovering, and engaging with the world around you and the creative process.

The reason I chose photography for my form of expression is because, in many ways, it has the most limitations. Writers, painters, musical composers all have to face the dreaded blank page. In photography, it all boils down to 2 decisions: what do you put in the frame and when do you capture the moment? Everything else flows from those 2 basic decisions. To me, having limitations was liberating since I have a difficult time making decisions when confronted with too many options. Also, documentary photography allowed me to explore my creativity in a way that forced me to actively engage with the outside world in ways that writing and drawing didn’t. Every photograph is a collaborative exercise with the world outside of yourself. And like water, you find that you have an easier path if you can avoid too much resistance. What’s the difference between a writer and a typist? One of them has something to say and the other just copies. Someone once told me I took really good pictures and they wanted to get a camera like mine. At the risk of sounding arrogant, that’s like buying a Stratocaster and expecting to immediately play like Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix. The camera is just like any other tool. It’s not going to do the work by itself.

8- What photographers have influenced or inspired you?

There are too many to mention, but I’ll list a few that I’ve learned from, stolen from, bargained with and ultimately made my peace with. The greatest music photographer of all time is Herman Leonard, whom I value as a friend and mentor. (I’m glad he hasn’t sued me for stealing all his lighting ideas!). Some photographers who changed my life early on and made me want to become a photographer include Garry Winogrand, Emmett Gowin, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Richards, Walker Evans, Josef Koudelka, Diane Arbus, Sebastiao Salgado, Edward Weston, Arthur Tress, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, all the photographers of the FSA, Elliott Erwitt, Gilles Peress, Bruce Davidson, W. Eugene Smith, Arnold Newman, and so many others. I love the photographs of the South by William Christenberry, Sally Mann and Birney Imes. I’d also like to give a special mention to Life Magazine photographer Ed Clark, who was a close friend to my family and was a special friend and mentor to me in his last years of life.

9- What’s the first thing you look at in a photograph took by someone else?

The great songwriter Townes Van Zandt one said «There’s two kinds of music, the Blues and Zip a De Doo Dah.» What he meant by that was not literally «the blues,» but rather, music of substance and meaning – something real, vital – versus, cotton candy fluff, pure spun sugar. I think you can extend that comparison to just about any creative effort and photography is no different. I have a lot of respect for any photograph, even if I don’t personally like it, if it has soul, integrity. If it is about something-anything, rather than about the process itself. What I mean by that is that in the past 30 years or so, so much of the photography celebrated in the art world is not really about photography – that is to say, the camera is almost incidental to creation of the artwork. That’s not to say that «process art» – or «conceptual art» that lacks content, is not legitimate art. But photographs don’t move me personally unless they have humanity. That humanity can be expressed in the pose of a model photographed by Irving Penn, shape of a pepper still life photographed by Edward Weston, or the grief-stricken eyes of a war victim photographed by James Nachtwey – just so long as there is a human connection and some sort of content that speaks to our collective humanity.

10- Does a good photo come out just by chance at any session or is it something you look for deliberately and meticulously?

All great photographs are the result of luck. But the harder you work, the luckier you get.

11- Do you have one special/favourite photo in your collection? Which one would it be, and why?

If you ask any creative person to pick their favorite work, they’ll tell you it’s like picking their favorite child – it’s impossible. That said, there are a few I am particularly and consistently fond of. One of my favorites is entitled «Bird, Stoval, MS» and it depicts a dead, partially plucked bird, being held out in the hands of a young woman standing at the edge of a cotton field. Her dark fingers are covered in a thin layer of rich Delta topsoil and all you can see of her face is a ripe, full mouth and smooth cheeks. The rough, dead skin of the bird is contrasted with the beautiful skin of the young girl – a study in life and death, beauty and ugliness, the sublime and the grotesque. It sums up how I feel about the blues – something of joy and beauty born of out misery and pain-an unflinching and raw art form that finds pathos and affirmation in the expression of it’s own suffering.

12- Could you tell us any story or anecdote you specially remember from your experience in Mississippi?

Well, most of my good stories all involve the great Mississippi Hill Country singer and guitarist Jessie Mae Hemphill. Should I tell the one about the time I took her to Columbus, MS looking for a Hoodoo Doctor to cure her? Or watching TV in her house trailer when the OJ Simpson verdict came down? Or the time a loaded gun nearly fell out of her purse at the check-out counter at Walmart? Or the time she fired that gun over my head when I was in her yard investigating a strange noise?

Jessie Mae and handguns go way back. She once told me about when she was 9 yrs. old and a teenage boy at her school used to flirt with her – play with her hair – and she thought he was her boyfriend. That is, until one day he came walking on the road in front of her house with another girl. Jessie Mae went and got her mother’s gun from beneath the pillow and went on the porch and started shooting at them. But she didn’t hit either one because she didn’t know how to lead the gun as they ran. She laughed as she told me, “By the time the bullet got there, they had already run to the next place. But he lost his hat. And that girl lost her shoe! I tell you I was a gangster when I was a little girl!” Jessie Mae replaced the bullets in the gun and cleaned it with ashes from the fireplace and placed it back under her mother’s pillow. The next day she knew that the girl’s mother would be out in the field picking cotton with her mother, so she was worried about getting caught when the woman confronted her mother. Jessie Mae went out picking cotton with her mother the next morning, putting the cotton in a pillowcase she carried, listening to the women talk. The woman told Jessie Mae’s mother that Jessie Mae had tried to shoot her daughter the day before, “But God must have blowed something in my Momma’s ears that day,” said Jessie Mae, “Cause my mother didn’t hear anything that woman said. She didn’t understand that she was telling the truth. Momma told her, ‘Yeah, children will do that.’ If my Momma would have understood what that woman was trying to tell her, she would have killed me!”

13- Digital retouch: for or against?

For artistic or commercial purposes, anything goes. But if the image is for documentary purposes, the rule of thumb for me is that you shouldn’t do anything on the computer that you can’t do while printing in the darkroom. Now, of course, we have a whole generation of photographers that have never even seen a darkroom, so all bets are off for them I guess. But you know, I don’t worry about digital retouching. You can’t create content on the computer. Not the real thing anyway. In the end, a real photograph will always beat a digitally-enhanced imposter just like a real singer with some human imperfection will always be recognized as better than a bad singer made perfect electronically. You may not always see the difference at first, but you can feel it in your gut. It’s the same with music. That’s the reason that music from before the digital era will always endure and much of what’s being created now will be completely forgotten in a short time.

14- We know you have other skills, namely musical. What’s your current situation there?

When I left the newspaper in 2004, I decided to start pursuing some of the things I always wanted to do once I had the time. I started playing old blues and hillbilly tunes with my old friend and former philosophy professor from college. Three of his current students joined in and soon we had a jug band called the Jake Leg Stompers that played every Friday night at a local coffee shop. From there we went on to bigger clubs, and music festivals and some TV appearances. Now 5 yrs. on, we are releasing our 3rd album called “Hill Country Hoodoo,” which was produced by Jimbo Mathus, founder of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. We were also fortunate enough to have my friend Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi AllStars play and sing on a couple of tracks, as well as the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band (Otha Turner’s grandkids), Rev. John Wilkins (son of bluesman Robert Wilkins). Jimbo Mathus sings lead on a couple of tunes. The album is a jug band all-star tribute to the music of the Mississippi Hill Country, with a 24 page color booklet that has some of my unpublished photos and artifacts I’ve collected in Mississippi over the years.

I’m also playing in a group called the Jericho Road Show with Steve Gardner, a former Mississippian and great blues photographer who lives in Tokyo, and Washboard Chaz of New Orleans. (Chaz was recently featured in the great “Playing for Change” project that has musicians from all over the world playing together on classic pop, soul and reggae tunes). In 2009, we had the opportunity to open the Vienna Blues Festival in Austria, and in Feb. of 2009 I went on a tour in Japan with Steve Gardner. After years of mostly listening and observing this music as it lives in the places it was formed, I now have the opportunity to share my version of some of it with others at home and abroad, which is very exciting for me.

15- Do you always carry around your camera and your musical instruments?

Believe it or not, since I left the newspaper I’m more likely to take an everyday photo with my iphone rather than lugging a film camera around! But I always have a guitar, ukulele and some harmonicas in the car in case there’s an opportunity to jam!

16- You know we amateur photographers tend to be a little geekheads, so we’d like to know: what’s your usual rig when you’re out on a field trip?

For most paying jobs these days I use a Canon 5D digital 35mm camera. But when I’m doing field work for myself, I use a Hasselblad C/M with a 50mm lens and Tri-X black and white film. I have 3 other lenses for the Blad, but mostly I stick with the 50. For lighting I mostly use 200W Lumedyne battery-powered heads that I trigger with Quantum radio slaves, but I also have a host of White Lightning strobe units for when I have access to electricity.

When I’m working in a juke joint, most of the time I’ll point a strobe head with reflector on a stand directly at the performers at a 45 degree angle to the right or left from my shooting position and use a second Lumedyne strobe mounted to a camera bracket which I point directly overhead or slightly behind me that I bounce off the ceiling for fill light. For me, the goal is not to make a big deal about the lighting, but rather, to try and boost the kind of the light that’s already there. I can hand-hold a 35mm with virtually no light in the room, but the Hasselblad is not as forgiving, so I just think to myself “What would Herman Leonard do?” and go from there.

17- You’ve been defined as a photographer who’s able to capture the essence of the blues in your photos, and now we wonder, what kind of blues captures your soul?

Like Walt Whitman said, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” I have a voracious appetite for not only blues, but all kinds of great music, just so long that it has soul and humanity. I could never imagine a world without music. At least, not a world that I would want to live in. I listen to music from Cuba and Africa (like Buena Vista Social Club, Tinariwen, Orchestra Baobab), Songwriters like Tom Waits, Neil Young, Randy Newman, Dylan, Daniel Johnston, Steve Earle. Retro-roots bands like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders, Leon Redbone, Asylum Street Spankers. Jazz and Country music up to about 1965 or so. Old Hillbilly, Pop and Ragtime, Gypsy Jazz and Hawaiian music from the 1910’s, 20’s and 30’s. Even contemporary stuff like the Flaming Lips, the Eels, White Stripes. If I start listing everything, it would take up too much space. I have about 60,000 songs on my home computer, not counting all the vinyl and 78’s I play on turntables. I can say that the only music I DON’T ever listen to is pop music from the 80’s, which I had to endure in my high school and college years. That’s the reason I found the blues to begin with.

18- Favorite blues artists?

In general I prefer the earliest blues recordings before the mid-30’s for sheer vitality and creative energy. Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold was the Ground” is the best 3 minutes of recorded music, ever. Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Robert Wilkins, Memphis Jug Band, Skip James, Blind Blake, Memphis Minnie, Mississippi Sheiks and Mississippi John Hurt are just a few artists that, for me, define the high water mark of early blues period. By 1935 or so, the bigger labels like Bluebird and Vocalion started cranking out the copycat sound that became the blues stereotype that endures today.

There are exceptions, of course, Robert Johnson, Dan Pickett and Tommy McClennon being just a few examples of great pre-war blues after 1935. In the post-war era, I love Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk, Howling Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson II, John Lee Hooker and all the Chess-era artists.

19-Do you think the blues lives a healthy life right now?

It comes and goes. All traditional musics go through identity crises from time to time and blues is no different. Sure, much of what passes for “blues” is little more that what I call “Sports Bar Blues”-or lame, blues-inspired rock and roll designed to push beer sales. The big danger for any art form is that it becomes stagnant and predictable and ends it’s life as music you hear on the phone while waiting on hold. Many people think that’s already happened to blues long ago, and to a certain extent, they may be right. The blues that many of us love was largely abandoned by the communities that created it by the mid-60’s, but I think there are great artists keeping the older black music forms alive – like Alvin Youngblood Hart, Corey Harris, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. I thought last fall’s album by Geoff Muldaur’s Texas Sheiks was as good a blues revival album as any I’ve ever heard. And all across America, young African-American musicians are re-discovering the older music more and more. In March there’s going to be a second Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, NC, which is a movement to encourage black artists to re-capture a musical form that they invented and then abandoned in the early 20th century in favor of newer forms.

20- Was your deep-dive into the blues roots such an intense experience as to say that it changed your life?

Absolutely. A profoundly positive and enriching, life-changing experience. I am an extremely lucky man. I’ve met several artists in the traditional blues community that I would consider not only friends but mentors, and I am forever changed because of their generosity in sharing their insights and music with me.

21- What would you advise the readers who are now thinking about getting into concert and music photography?

Any kind of media photography right now is extremely difficult. There have never been more outlets for photography than there are right now and there are few times when it’s been harder to make a living as a photographer. The main problem with trying to follow the economic models of the past is that newspapers and magazines are under strain from competition from the internet and no longer have the budgets or staffs they once did. The other major income source for music photography has been the record labels, and they are under even more strain as the industry is in the process of contracting. The main problem is supply and demand. Concert photography has never been very lucrative for most photographers simply because there are always more people interested in shooting than there are paying jobs available, so that suppresses wages. It may have been different in the 60’s and 70’s, but now everyone has a camera and access is very limited, so it’s hard to compete. To be honest, documentary music photography is something I do for love rather than money. Despite selling exhibition prints of my work to collectors and being published in magazines, over the years I’ve probably spent more on my project than I’ve earned. And that’s OK with me. I never did it for the money anyway. That said, I still make a living by shooting mostly music-related work, all of which I really enjoy.

22- When will we see you around Spain? There’s a number of good blues fests and a lot of passion for the genre here.

I look forward to both photographing and playing music in Spain.

When I visited Spain in 1992, I found it to be one of the friendliest country I’ve ever been too. The people were so beautiful and generous, I’ve rarely felt more at home in a foreign land. As a photographer, I love to photograph people wherever in the world I go, and so far, Spain is the only place I’ve ever been where I was never once refused to make a photo when I asked permission. Not once.

Once I was photographing an overlook in Montoro and a lady invited me into her home to get a better view from her balcony. As I was leaving she insisted on giving me home-canned food and fresh eggs and a beautiful string of peppers and I had to leave before she gave me everything in her kitchen! She then told me if I ever needed a place to stay, I could come and live with her and her son. This is what I remember about Spain. A beautiful and generous land.

This past March when I was playing in Berlin, I got to know a couple of great Spanish musicians: brothers Marcos Coll and Adrian Costa who record under the name Los Reyes Del K.O. I was impressed by how much they had absorbed and understood American blues traditions and their incredible musical skills and sensitivity. I saw them perform at a club and played with them at the home of the great German blues piano player Chris Rannenberg. Like their Spanish brethren, I found them to be very warm and engaging performers and we became friends. I would very much love to return to Spain for more blues (and paella!).

23- What are you up to now? Any projects in mind or in process?

I still make several trips a year to Mississippi to add to the project, but the main thrust of that work is winding down. For the past couple of years I’ve been transitioning the focus of my personal work to 19th century collodion wet plate photography. I shoot mostly 8×10 tintypes, but also some ambrotypes and glass negatives that I hope to start printing soon, as I’m re-furbishing an old 8×10 enlarger from the 1930’s. I’ve got a couple of view cameras and brass lenses from around the turn of the 20th Century that produce really beautiful images. I’ve done some musician portraits in Mississippi and North Carolina, but I’m experimenting with several subjects simultaneously to see which direction I might want to go for an extended project. I’ve been invited by my friend Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops to bring the wet plate gear to North Carolina for the Black Banjo Gathering in late March, so I’m hoping to get some nice images there. I still feel like I’m in the learning stages with this process – it’s very difficult and labor-intensive, but I love it and am excited about spending the next part of my life exploring new areas of creativity where I’m not in complete control. I find that is when one makes the really exciting discoveries.

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Interview: La Taberna del Blues.

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