09 Sep Getting Back In The Music Game
Well, kinda. See, John Salicco never really “left” music. A gifted musician with two real loves – performing music and building instruments which make the music. A well-seasoned man who has traveled a lot of miles and has strummed musical instruments his entire life. A methodical sense in the way he speaks, you can tell he loves to tell stories, bathing them in long pauses to ensure you’re constantly, anxiously awaiting the next batch of words to leave his mouth. Think Morgan Freeman minus the silky voice we’ve all grown to recognize and love, but same delivery style. He has played a lot of shows and entertained many, that much is clear, it is what he truly enjoys. An in-depth knowledge of the stringed instruments he loves so much, proven by his 25-year old side business making banjos, which are custom ordered and delivered to customers around the world.
John paid me a visit at the studio one day, “Matt, I need a new set of photographs to relaunch my music.” He went on to explain that at one point he was a full-time traveling musician, heavy in jazz and blues, but it had been quite some time since those days (30 years ago, if you want to put a number on it). Of course he’d never walked away from music, he simply pursued other interests/jobs during that window of time and his music was more of an intense hobby. He played the occasional show, dabbled in a little travel, but nothing like the “glory” days of past. But now, now he was ready to jump back into it and see if the world will accept him once again as a serious musician.
I’ve photographed my share of musicians, but never a blues player. This was going to be fun, and blues being a moodier style of music, it played right into my natural photographic style. Naturally, John shows up to the shoot with a handful of guitars, and all too anxious to give me background stories on each one, and each story would be long enough to consume a 3-day weekend. This man loves to tell stories. One of the most important part of my jobs as a photographer is to capture the subject’s character to the best of my abilities, to reveal in a photograph what one of John’s lengthy stories on CD would. Inherently, this means I ask a lot of questions to gain this intimate working knowledge to properly represent them. In this case, I didn’t want to know which guitar was “prettiest,” but rather which one he played the most, the one with the most miles on it. That was our instrument, our secret weapon, for when John sunk into his playing position his body would instinctively gel around that guitar like it has countless times before, and that was our photograph.
When I pull the camera up to my face, looking through that viewfinder, and I am witnessing someone in their element… I get goosebumps. Conceptualizing a shot, setting up the stylized lighting, and then setting a talented subject loose inside of that is so much fun to capture. To see this man who has been doing this very thing for 50+ years, still in-love with it, playing me a private concert for the photo making… well, oddly enough, it will be something that I will remember for a very long time.
It was a pleasure photographing John for his new musical launch! Lots more coming soon, keep your eyes on the blog!