Self-portraits as bluesmen

Graphic designer by training, photographer first out of curiosity and then by profession, musician by passion, I have been exploring for more than half a century the relationship between music and image, between colors of both visual forms and sounds, between emotions induced by looking and emotions generated by listening.
I worked first as a concert photographer, then as a creator of images for record companies. But I have long stopped to do commissioned work to devote my time solely on my personal research, research that consists mostly of studio photography, followed by diverse computer assisted processing.

I currently work on three book projects.

My new series, "Blues, From My Head Down To My Shoes, self-portraits as bluesmen," is a visual homage to major personalities of my favorite music, the blues.

For half a century I have been listening to American blues musicians. I collect their recordings, their photographs, the books and films about their lives. I go to their concerts, I visit places where they were born and where they lived. I play their music on instruments similar to those they laid their hands upon.
So I naturally whished to pay tribute to the greatest names of “the most influential music of the XXth century.” And since I had attempted for a long time to duplicate the way they sounded, why not also take their appearance for the duration of a photo session.

For my precedent series, FEELIN' BLUE, told in a graphic novel manner, I had collected all the necessary visual information to stage well known personalities of the history of the blues : physical appearance, attitudes, choice of clothing, type and model of instruments.
From the daily “company” of all these characters arose the desire, in addition to the stories that I was recreating, to produce a gallery of portraits with no storytelling purpose.

In order to more accurately appreciate the personality of each of my subjects, of course I listen to their music again with renewed pleasure, looked at a large number of their historic photographs and every time it was possible studied existing cinematographic documents. More than for the stories I had tolled in sequences of several images, I had to acquire a thorough sense of each personality so that I could synthetize it in a single image. To me this is the essence of the subtle discipline of the photographic portrait.

Once I had absorbed the characteristics of my subjects, I embodied them myself in front of the camera, taking poses that could have been their own. I then digitally modified my features to bring them closer to those of each bluesman and reinforce the resemblance.

The last step of the process was a graphic treatment of the images : a four level equidensity with manual coloring of the two median levels.


* from Buddy Guy's composition « Damn Right, I've Got the Blues. »

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