By Steve Begnoche
Managing editor, Ludington Daily News
Music, in its purest sense, is an aural experience. Add some emotion and one shouldn’t have to see a thing to enjoy it. Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles prove that.
But photographer Stephen Azzato explores what others have discovered: Music, in the form of musicians, make a strong subject for visual arts, too.
Azzato, a network television videographer residing in Chicago, takes an interesting and insightful approach to musicians in “Their Love of Music,” a 252-page coffee table book of portraits of musicians.
These photographs were made often before concerts with a brown cloth background that forces all attention on the musician and the instrument they sometimes brought with them.
The format is simple: one page is the photograph and on the facing page is a a quote from the musician revolving around why the musician does what he or she does and how did they get to where they are in their career?
Simple questions, a simple format, a simple background and a simply stunning book.
Musicians of all pedigree, some famous like blues great Buddy Guy and rockers Steve Miller and George Thorogood, some relatively unknown or a backup player in a “name” musician’s band are featured.
Among those profiled are some top-notch singer-songwriters who might not be household names, Jennifer Peterson, Kristina Milk and, for West Shore Community College Performing Arts Series patrons, 2009-2010 performer Alice Peacock.
Some of the musicians look intense, even in this setting. Eddie “The Chief” Clearwater has the looks of a former NFL linebacker. But his comment shows a look doesn’t say everything. “When I play the blues it’s a good feeling. You could describe it as a spiritual being takes over, way out of the ordinary and puts you in a whole new dimension from yourself.”
Country musician Clint Black has a very happy expression on his face. “The history of country music is on the lyric … you don’t have to be a professor of sociology to get the point,” he observes.
Rosanne Cash, who in late summer performed at Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, has a bit of a questioning look, as if she’s trying to see through the camera to the photographer.
Steve Miller looks like a businessman, in his sports coat, open-collared white shirt, and dark glasses. “I don’t think of myself as a rock star,” he said.
And so it goes. The photos and the quotes play off one another, sometimes one informs the sense of the other. Sometimes they sit side-by-side seeming a bit incongruous.
I had one quibble, and one complaint.
The quibble has to do with making the reader go to the artist notes in the back of the book to find out who some musicians are and what they’re known for. The explanation is put in tiny type next to a 35mm contact print size thumbnail photo. I don’t think it would have harmed the elegance of this book — and it is elegant — to have included the artist information on the same page as the artist quote. That would have been helpful to the reader and might have even made one slow down to consider even more deeply the photographic image of the featured musician.
Too many typos. Such a fine product deserved more scrutiny of the written word. The little errors take away from an otherwise splendid book.
And it is a splendid book.
Date published: 12-30-2010