There’s something pure about mainstream jazz in combination with street photography. Back before I began going on shoots with my wife, I used to wait until I was in a
dark shitty mood, load up with a couple of Nikons, plug jazz into my ears, and go on a shooting spree. My favorite shooting opus was John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things,” all 17 minutes of it, the violet tones of it dancing smoke into my brain. I’d pull up to you, jam my D300 in your face, and POP. I wouldn’t much care if you liked it, because I wasn’t with you, not really. I was on the Trane, and they don’t sell no tickets to squares on the Trane. Hell, I’m not even looking at the subjects anymore by the time I press the shutter. I’m already off to the next stop.
Oddly, I never had a single person object to my shooting them, not that I’d have given half a shit if they did. It was work, and I never apologize for doing my goddamned work. When the Trane was on my nerves, as it often was, I’d load up on some other groove, and the work would seem to flow. Often, the more intense the jazz, the more likely that I’d shoot without anyone in the frame–just me and the city, dancing.
I’ve since seen a few exhibitions of shooters’ work compiled to jazz, like the video below that captures Lee Friedlander’s grit with Miles Davis’s smooth flow. The horn is bitter to the taste, purposely sharp where you want it soft, and serves up a taste like the city–acidic, sweet, and bitter all at once. Sit back and dig it, but try not to let Miles overpower the scene or you’ll miss Lee’s little bits of visual percussion.
It’s jazz baby. It’s always jazz.