The world through a photographers lens can be many things to many people; some see negative space, some see organized chaos, still some see a potential birthplace for energy – remaining constant through it all are the people. The people I’ve met along my journey have always shown me a path I have yet to travel, aside from the image taking process – photography for me has become a growth process to learn about those people I call my friends and part of my extended family.
Photography has taken me to many different venues and having done so, I have crossed paths with many individuals who I would not have the good fortune of meeting. Music has the healing power to unite all its listeners under a similar banner of peace and happiness and forge new friendships and strengthen existing ones, music is in it’s purest form – blind to generational differences and deaf to race, color and ethnicity.
What continues to draw me back to venues year after year is the people. I have memories of sitting beneath the shade of a willow tree in central Montana with Sean Wheeler, the daytime heat and sun too much for us both to deal with. Sean and I exchanged road stories and projects we were involved in at that time, I quietly watched his steely discerning glare and strong weathered features like a statue gazing out against the mountain background as he listened. The image forever of this moment is forever etched in my mind and memory; that is the essence of Sean, a man built on experiences and looking forward – never looking back.
This past year I had the opportunity to sit with his musical brother Zander Schloss and enjoy a late night breakfast at the local Waffle House in Cookeville, TN. As we retired from the Muddy Roots Music Festival 2013 and were traveling into the night each day the Waffle House stop soon became a ritualistic pilgrimage. That particular evening Zander and I made our way to the holy land after dropping Sean at the hotel. Zander clad in his evening performance best, a navy blue wide lapel leisure consignment suit ensemble with well worn brown leather cowboy boots, trademark signature gold and brown patterned tie loosely hanging about an unbuttoned collared shirt . We sat together across a table and ordered our meal. The conversation was an open buffet of the inner workings of man who has given passion for music the right of way in his life. His inspirational life choices were stern like a warning of an impending storm front – “Do what makes you happy Dave, its about you. . .if you’re not happy what’s the point?”. Anything less of that goal you’re cheating yourself and settling on a mountain of unrealized potential.
Zander asked me if I played an instrument and when I told him I have a guitar but I don’t play because I think my fingers are too big and it is very awkward. He quickly corrected me as he pushed his hand against mine comparing size – and said it’s not that your fingers are too big to play; truth is you are not comfortable exploring that unfamiliar negative space where the true sound of your soul and the guitar will meet and create music. Let the fear of the moment wash over you Dave, sit back and feel insecure in the moment; only then will you finally be at peace and find the security you desire.
The people you encounter each day are where you will find love, in 2013 I fell in love. . .the love I found was not the love of a woman – it was rather the love a family that found me and welcomed me. While shooting an emotionally charged Farmageddon Records Music Festival in Montana – the show was a celebratory tribute to a music brother and friend Richard Laferte II. The festival opened the first day with Richard’s good friend Joey Henry playing a solemn and unexpected tribute to Richard entitled; I Dream of Horses, the song was also known as “Richards Song”. Joey prefaced his playing that evening by saying the song was inspired by a radio broadcast about artist Joe Andoe, an iconic American aritst, painter and author. The song chronicles a chance love affair between a man a woman revisited and the repressed memories which surface long after the female lover was killed tragically in house fire. As the song played and those in attendance shivered in the night air – the memory of Richard was tangible.
Watching friends embracing one another, men women crying together and fixating their attention skyward was to see them connecting with a friend who had gone ahead. As the festival progressed the memory was fresh and in my mind always. On the last day the song was sung one final time but only before a fitting tribute to Richard. Many of Richard’s closest friends quietly gathered on stage long immediately following the scheduled show, an impromptu memorial committal service began with Richard’s ashes present. The audience gazed on witnessing each other exposed in raw emotion, tears flowing readily – Joey Henry picked up his banjo acoustically as if offering it to the night air, the void space and the memory of his fallen friend. We all knew Richard was there with us and it was confirmed when a star streaked across the sky overhead.When it became time to say goodnight and goodbye and wish everyone well along road until our next meeting I was overcome as all the Farmageddon Family (led by Joey Henry) made a point of embracing me in hugs and expressing the words “I love you Brother”. I was moved to tears and realized that as a friend you have an obligatory action to say this to all you are friends with – our lives are uncertain and never must we take for granted that we may not make the coming show. We are all Brothers and Sisters united under a common love of music – I love you all.