Behind the Lens With Skip Bolen
Favorite venue to shoot:
For many years, Ruth Price's The Jazz Bakery in Culver City in Los Angeles; and the original Catalina Jazz Club in Los Angelesboth places were always fun to shoot in and the talent was always spectacularthese were my favorite venues to shoot while I was living in Los Angeles. A couple times I shot at Smalls in NYC and really liked the lighting and atmosphereI really enjoyed shooting there. I'm hoping to move back to NYC someday and really looking forward to finding new "favorite" venues to shoot in.
Favorite festival to shoot:
I have to say shooting in the jazz tent at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is always my favorite festival to shoot jazz. But I would someday like to shoot at the Newport Jazz Festival and at the jazz festivals in Montreal, Quebec and across Canada.
Where was your first assignment location?
I was living in Los Angeles at the time and it was one of my earliest major assignmentsshooting the Clayton Brothers for the cover of a special section for JazzTimes, and I was transitioning from using my Leica R8 with film to my first digital camera, a Canon EOS 10D. I wanted to rely entirely on digital with this shoot without using any film as a safeguard or backup and I knew absolutely N-O-T-H-I-N-G about shooting RAWand I thought the shoot was going great until I got home to look at everything on my computer, it was absolutely awful! I had just finished shooting John Clayton teaching some students using natural light in a relatively low light room and had the ISO cranked up as far as I couldand then prepared for the cover shoot by setting up several of my Mole Richardson lights with some seamless for a backdrop along one wall and forgot to adjust the ISO while shooting the cover of John and Jeff Clayton together. The final images were so grainy and completely blown out in partsI was so embarrassed to send them in and desperately tried to figure out how I could do a reshoot, but there really was no time and in the end, the Art Director managed to save an image and was able to use it for the cover. It looked ok, but it really made me realize how much more I had to learn about digital photography!
Your favorite musician(s) to photograph:
Jazz is my absolute favorite music to shoot, but to make a living, I've had to expand and so my assignments today require me to shoot every type of music from hip-hop and rap to heavy metal and rock n' roll, to classical, county and pop. One of my favorite musicians to photograph has been Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews because I had the opportunity to shoot one of his first public performances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2001 and he got a standing ovationand I've photographed him every year since then. So I've enjoyed photographing him from his first performance and then throughout the years while maturing as a musician to the great musician he is today!
Another favorite musician has been the jazz vocalist Jimmy ScottI had a chance to photograph him in New Orleans in 2001 and later while living in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to spend almost a week with Jimmy at The Jazz Bakery photographing him backstage in his dressing room and while he was performingI captured some amazing images during that time. Being backstage creates an opportunity to capture images that the audience doesn't always get to seea sort of behind-the-scenes which is something I enjoy capturing. These answers might change if you ask me this same question tomorrow, because really, I enjoy photographing all jazz musicians!
Did you know...
I have a pet raccoon named Roscoehe's got his own Facebook page!
Your favorite jazz story:
There are so manybut one in particular was when I was living in Los Angeles, and on Friday, March 21, 2003 at World Stage in Los Angeles' Leimert Park VillageI had heard an interesting and unusual story about a bassist that was presumed dead while in reality, he was still very much alive but had abandoned jazz for many, many years and was living in Southern Californiaand this night, he had picked up the bass again and performedit was the story of jazz bassist Henry Grimes. World Stage was a small intimate club and another one of my favorite places to shoot photosI was sitting along the side of the stage and shot a couple rolls of film and felt like I was capturing jazz history that night. After the performance, I went backstage and met Mr. Grimes and shot a few more photos. The next day, he was rehearsing at The Jazz Bakery in Culver City and I shot a few more rolls of film.
Afterwards, we became friends and I photographed him a few more times at Line Space Line in Silverlake in Los Angeles, and at Roccos at the Lillian Theatreall were just absolutely amazing performances.