Freelance photographer Brian Homer and jazz scholar Dr Pedro Cravinho got together to investigate the “other lives” that jazz musicians have. The result is an exhibition called Jazz Journeys: Everyday Life, a pilot project that they hope to take further. Brian spoke to Peter Bacon:
Jazz Journeys: Everyday Life is an exhibition of photographs and musicians’ quotes from a collaborative pilot research project called Everyday Jazz Life. It takes as its subject the lives of contemporary jazz musicians in Birmingham.
The press release explains:
“The project, at Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, brought together jazz scholar, Dr Pedro Cravinho and freelance jazz photographer Brian Homer. The exhibition launches in mid-January 2020 and is also linked to the Documenting Jazz 2020 international jazz conference to be held at Birmingham City University (BCU) between 16-18 January.
“By using photography, as one of the outputs of their project, the Jazz Journeys exhibition aims to reveal some of the issues and constraints that jazz musicians face through their musical careers. Homer’s photography of the six musicians involved in the project shows them cooking, teaching Taekwondo, reflecting on care work, looking after their kids, repairing instruments and writing plays as well as the more well-known music teaching sessions. The participants were pianist David Austin Grey, sax players Alicia Gardener-Trejo, Chris Young and Joey Walter, violinist and vocalist Ruth Angell, and 2018 Young Jazz Musician of the Year Xhosa Cole. In addition there will be a multi-media projection of Homer’s pictures contrasting fast paced performance shots with a slower paced images from the project – curated by artist Tony McClure who has also acted as a consultant to the exhibition.”
I asked Brian Homer what had led him to this project:
“Being involved with Birmingham Jazz and the jazz scene meant I got to speak to a lot of jazz musicians and I started to hear about the things that they do as well as play gigs. There were the more obvious things like teaching and function gigging but others stood out like professional yoga, IT work and even announcing on the London Underground and these piqued my interest. To do this initial project we had to keep it local and I soon found equally interesting stories in the Birmingham scene.
“There were also wider influences in the jazz photography world. Once I realised that most jazz photography, particularly now and including my own, featured pictures taken in performance I started to look more carefully for those photographers who looked outside that convention. I was pointed in the direction of Roy DeCavara by the photographer Andrew Jackson and I found Denis Stock’s Jazz Street fascinating. Others included Jazz Life by William Caxton and Joachim E. Berendt and work by Val Wilmer, Lee Friedlander and Milt Hinton – one of a handful of jazz players who also took photographs. While these were all influences I hope the pictures show that I have tried to develop an approach and style of my own.”
Jazz Journeys: Everyday Life is at Centrala, Unit 4 Minerva Works, 158 Fazeley St, Birmingham B5 5RT, 15 January to 1 February 2020, open Wednesdays to Saturdays 12 – 8 pm. (There will also be a smaller exhibition of photographs of the musicians featured in the Everyday Jazz Lives project taken in performance by Brian Homer, at the Documenting Jazz Conference at Birmingham City University during January.)