Experiencing The Adam Ezra Group

Adam Ezra Group @ Woodlands Tavern

Yesterday marked the second time Anne and I have been able to see the Adam Ezra Group. Much like the first time, we were both struck by the passion that Adam (and the percussionist) Turtle poured into the performance (A few more pics on Facebook). Adam wears his emotions on his sleeve during his performance to such an extent that I felt like giving him a hug after “She’s just a girl”, a song about an ex-girlfriend. Exactly like last time, the group had CDs for sale for name-your-own-price. I really like Adam’s spiel in trying to get people to take CDs, which went something like this: “If you’ve got ten bucks, please throw it in the ‘I Love You’ box and help yourself to a CD. If you’ve got five bucks, I’d rather that you had a CD, so five is cool too. If you’re broke and you’re down to your last dollar, you keep that dollar, and take a CD.”

Adam, pouring his heart out to the crowd in a wonderfully rambling story/spoken word/poem/song about their tour.

During a couple of the set breaks, Anne and I introduced ourselves to Adam and chatted a bit, explaining that we’d seem them on a prior trip through town, and that we were really happy we’d had a chance to stop in for a Monday show. During the third set, I was again really appreciating the small-venue music experience–Anne and I were right up front with my cousin and her husband, feeling the music, physically and emotionally. And then the biggest treat of the night happened.

Adam Ezra Group, unplugged

The band unplugged, came out into the bar and played John Denver’s Country Road. We all sang along. Yes, even I sang along (and I wasn’t even drunk!). It’s hard for me to describe now just what a great 3 minutes those were, singing with the crowd with the band. With the band. We, the spectators had become part of the performance. We were part of the art, not just mute observers, nodding appreciatively.

After they finished, Adam made a few more CD sales, then came over to sit with me. I described, as best I could, what I’d gotten from that sing-along. I stumbled with words like art, and participation, and inclusion, and “we’re all artists, man”. OK, no, I wasn’t that bad. But it really was a revelation for me, that by bringing the playing of the music off the stage, and into the crowd, they had crossed the ‘fourth wall’ and explicitly said to those hardy enough to have made it to the end “you’re good enough to perform with us.” And that completely changed the experience of the performance for me. It helped to drive home with me that art is not a one-way street, from artist to consumer. Art is about experience–what we feel and think and do when the art enters our senses. And in a performance space like that, with musicians like the Adam Ezra group, what we (the audience) feel and think and do can feed back to the performers. We influence the art, change the art, guide the making of the art. That’s the experience of art, feeding back, changing the experience of everyone involved.

We finished the night with pictures of Adam with us. Normally I wouldn’t do something like this for myself. Under most other circumstances, it just feels trite. But I knew I wanted something more than my usual ‘band photos’ to commemorate the evening. So we went with the trite, thanked Adam, and went on our way.

My biggest regret of the evening is that I didn’t make more of an effort to say hello to the other members of the band. Josh, the keyboard player, talked with us during a set break, and it was great to learn about his experiences on the road, away from his wife and three children. Otherwise, I feel like I owed more to the other band members.

Thanks to Turtle, Josh, Adam, and the bass player and the drummer for a great performance. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.

#worldwidecritique smackdown

As promised, Roger Overall spent an hour on Google+ hangout with me and a handful of others, discussing my first ever wedding. The decision to do the hangout was a collaborative effort between me and Roger, and I really appreciate the time and thoughtfulness he put into the event. I believe he’ll be posting a video shortly, but until then I want to write down my thoughts fresh from my head.

  • Roger pointed out that my ‘horizon’ line in several images was not level, and that this bugged him. He’s a bit of a level-horizon junkie, and he pointed out this problem with just about every shot. I too think of myself as a level-horizon junkie, so my only excuse in that regard is that I let my impatience get the better of me, and published the photos without giving them the careful edits they deserve.
  • He pointed out that I had taken an incredibly well exposed, perfectly composed, powerful shot of … an ear. Yeah, he’s right. Ouch.
  • He didn’t “get” the shot of the priest coaxing the groom to the chancel so as to start the wedding. And as stand-alone image, I’ll agree that it has some technical flaws. One of the other participants in the hangout suggested that the image needed the quote from the priest as the caption: “It’s time to get hitched.”
  • He used this image as a example to (rightly) admonish me for distracting the congregation. I really liked his suggestion: only move positions when other people move during the ceremony. And don’t get too close, because instead of paying attention to the service and the couple, they’ll pay attention to you with your shiny awesome camera. And they’ll remember as much about the photographer as the wedding, and that’s not good.
  • Several images could have been just a little wider, to show just a bit more context. That also was a fair critique. I had captured a great expression on the bride’s or groom’s face, but didn’t capture at whom they were grinning.

All of these points are absolutely valid, and incredibly powerful when delivered against my own images. Roger liked a number of my images, and thought that I had done a good job in my first endeavor–he said that were I a student in his seminar, he would think I showed promise as a documentary photographer. At this point, I think that’s the highest praise I could hope for.

Roger was very forthright about speaking his mind, but was not in any way harsh or mean. I hope that his time with me is not wasted and that I’m a better photographer for it. Thanks Roger!

Darren Olson @ Columbus Arts Festival

Being a bit of a photography snob, and somewhat knowledgeable in the art and craft of photography, I find that I’ve frequently been disappointed by photographers who attempt to sell their wares at festivals. Their photos are typically well executed, but seem to lack imagination. Or the subjects just don’t speak to me. Or something. And that’s generally OK–I don’t typically comment on them and just move on. It’s artwork and doesn’t have to speak to my sensibilities.

In contrast, I really liked Darren Olson’s photography. His photographs were jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and were literally stopping festival goers in their tracks. Every single photograph was stunning. Every single photograph was well executed, and perfectly mounted. They are rich and detailed and vibrant. At first I thought they were the stereo-typical “lovely countryside” like you see at the top of the picture above. But there was a good bit more depth and feel to each one. Several of them had human elements that really helped to make for more interesting than just “pretty buildings on a pretty hill”. I particularly like this one.

At one point when I passed by Darren’s display, I decided to pop in and have a closer look. I would love to purchase a couple of his canvas prints, but they were just a bit out of my price range. I met Darren, and we chatted a bit about photography and about the idea that moving beyond ‘basic photography’ means composing shots that have details or elements that aren’t immediately obvious. I’ve worked on that a bit, but definitely haven’t mastered the concept yet. Darren has one picture of a beautiful plaza in the evening. I noticed a man, small in the corner, and my first reaction was “Oh, that’s too bad he didn’t photoshop that out”. Then I noticed another person in a shop window. And then an artist working on a painting in another shop. These were all details that were not immediately obvious, and definitely didn’t distract from the over all image. We talked about technology and technique, but I really tried to keep that to a minimum–there’s nothing I hate more than a comment like “That’s a great picture. You must have a really nice camera.”

I really enjoyed meeting Darren, and looking at his photography. Unfortunately, I was so enamored with the large canvases, and completely unable to afford them, that I forgot to see if I could perhaps pick up a matted print.

And by the way, there was not a single sign stating “No photos please“.

“Take a picture of anything you want”

Update: the artist pictured here is Steve Meadows, of S.D. Meadows Folk Art Gallery.

Shortly after my first artist “encounter” I came upon another one who had some visually very interesting artwork. With the whole “No Photos Please” still fresh in my head, I was struck by seeing two or three taking pictures of his art, and the artist just chilling in his chair. I glanced at the artwork, and decided that I must have a picture of this guy’s mustache. I struck up a conversation with him, complimenting him on his art, noting that some of his art seemed to take inspiration from his mustache. “Yup, several are self portraits.”

With my camera in hand, I started to ask “Do you mind if I take a picture…” and before he let me finish, he said “Take a picture of anything you want.” Clearly he thought I wanted to take a picture of his art.  I explained to him that I really wanted a picture of him, with his mustache instead, and he consented. I then saw one of his self portraits and decided to take a picture of it as well to make a diptych. Unfortunately, I didn’t get his name, so I can’t link to him. Phail photog.