“‘Til I saw the light”*

A busy and stressful week for me and some of those I care about has been accompanied by overcast skies and copious precipitation APW_6692so it was so much nicer to wake to blue skies and dry streets.  Cold and windy but very pleasant all the same.APW_6701

With a pretty busy weekend ahead there wasn’t much time for photography, and to be honest I didn’t even have a plan in mind for either words or images which is unusual after a week with so much driving that the radio which normally provides inspiration hadn’t done the trick.  I needed some ingredients for the meal I’m making for my daughter so a stroll into Durham seemed the answer.

Perhaps the usual suspects would provide me with opportunities?

I wasn’t too hopeful, but actually as I shot the equestrian statue that dominates the Market Place I was taken by the way in which the sculpture was being given further definition by the conditions.  Not enough to really work on though.

Next idea was to shoot some candids of the varied hats and other accoutrements being worn against the cold wind, however I was pretty sure I’d done this before.  (In hindsight it seems I haven’t, so be warned millinery fans!).

It was as I was doing so that my eye was captured by someone who had no need of a hat, and as I followed this Seb Rochford lookalike up Saddler Street I realised where I would find something to work with.

The same light that had so defined the contours of the Marquess‘s steed was providing a combination of back and rim lighting that suddenly transformed that hair to halo.  What’s more every mote of dust in the air was similarly lit, as were steaming coffees, and warm exhalations.  Still wasn’t sure what I wanted to get exactly, but I continued to shoot candids in monochrome, my preferred method for street photography.

It took something as innocuous as a luminous carrier bag to make me reconsider the possibilities of colour, for against the cool winter light, the creamy facade of Bell’s fish and chip restaurant brought some warmth that together with the backlighting gave a more continental feel.  (Ironic given the nature of the establishment!).APW_6836With a change of angle, and an anonymous model whose legs made the most of the sculpting rim light I got closer to producing something more pleasing though she was a little to shaded by the exposure resulting from that change of angle.APW_6736  Back to where I began and suddenly a result that has a nice fashion photography feel.  Shame about the person in the background, but that’s street photography for you.APW_6769-Edit* Title from I Saw The Light – Todd Rundgren
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The Gateshead International Jazz Festival is one of the important annual events on the calendar at The Sage, and has played host to a diverse range of artists who fly the flag for jazz over the years.  My personal highlight was seeing Bill Bruford play one of his last gigs before retirement, improvising duets with Michiel Borstlap.  I still live in hope that he will reconsider his decision not to play again.

Andy Sheppard, Treibhaus Innsbruck 2009, conce...
Andy Sheppard, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to British Jazz, there are two names who have been standard bearers for the last quarter century; Andy Sheppard and Courtney Pine, and last night they shared the same stage, though not simultaneously.  Though each is a virtuoso on both soprano and tenor sax that is pretty much where the similarities end.  Pine is a giant of West Indian origin, with a greying goatee and immaculately conditioned dreads, he could easily pass for the audition for the next Predator movie.

Courtney Pine - Fri 22 July 2011 -0232
Courtney Pine - Fri 22 July 2011 -0232 (Photo credit: The Queen's Hall)

He is gregarious and fun loving with a flamboyant playing style that reflects his personality.  Recent gigs have seen him turn to the bass clarinet over his trademark saxes.

Sheppard is physically smaller, but no less a talent.  He favours anonymous grey suits and shirts which blend with his trademark crew-cut, although these days this is predominantly silver.  His playing style can be just as frenetic, but more often that note embodies a breathy, smoky, mellowness that matches his understated stage presence.

Each was on great form last night, but it was the remarkable musicians with them that drew my attention.

Sebastian Rochford (jazz drummer)
Sebastian Rochford (jazz drummer) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve seen Seb Rochford playing with Sheppard before and he is a huge talent (and as a drummer perhaps an heir to Bruford’s crown), though he is visually as fascinating.  He sports an incredible head of hair, like some oversized, lop sided afro, which barely moves in performance, such is the apparent effortlessness with which he produces his rhythmic interventions.  He plays a minimal drum kit, yet with sticks, mallets, brushes and bare hands delivers more than many would believe possible.

If Seb’s hair is notable, then so is that of Zoe Rahman, pianist in Pine’s current line up as

Jazz pianist Zoe Rahman
Jazz pianist Zoe Rahman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

well as leader of her own trio.  Born of Bengali parents, she is an Oxford graduate who has only recently begun to explore her ethnic roots though her music.  Seated at the piano this frail looking girl with finely sculpted features seems unremarkable until you notice her hair, a black cascade which falls beyond the piano stool supporting her.  When she plays any thoughts of frailty are lost; she is a powerhouse of technique and seems completely at home in an otherwise Afro-Caribbean band.

When looking for someone to photograph today then I knew I must find someone with great hair to continue the theme.  You have no idea how difficult that is on a Sunday in Sunderland.  The early morning beachcombers generally care less for their appearance than for exercising their dogs, and as for the town centre shoppers… the less said the better I think.  Even a stakeout at Marks and Spencer proved fruitless.

I gave up on the town and was returning to my car when I spotted Pam on the Wear Bridge and my prayers were answered.  She is the third Nigerian to have featured in my portrait a day project and is a student in computer engineering at Sunderland University.  Great hair, great smile, great personality – more Pine than Sheppard!