Shooting Jazzfest every year as a news photographer, I usually have a press pass and access “inside the ropes.” But this year I went for fun one day, shooting just for myself and having a great, relaxed time. Having special access can be nice at times, but it’s so important to recognize that great photographs are everywhere.
Here is simply a set of photographs that I made that day at Jazzfest 2009 in New Orleans, with captions on each image.
Mardi Gras Indians have a long and colorful history in New Orleans. For over a century these groups from New Orleans’ inner city African American communities have masked and paraded on Mardi Gras day, accompanied by song and drumming. They’ve become such a popular draw and their muscial traditions recognized as a distinct form that they now get invited each year to Jazz Fest.
Another New Orleans cultural tradition that’s literally on parade during Jazzfest are the neighborhood “Second
Line” groups know as “Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs.” The “Second Line” refers to mourners that follow a casket during a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral, swaying prayerfully as the band plays sorrowful music on its way to the cemetery. Once the deceased is put in the ground, the band breaks out in joyful, exuberant music to signify the release of the soul to a better place, and the “second liners” break out in wild, fantastic dance. Originally formed in the 1800s as benevolent societies, these groups now typically parade at funerals but also other street celebrations, including Jazzfest.
Authentic, old-time jazz bands playing traditional New Orleans jazz can be heard each year at Jazzfest in the Economy Hall jazz tent. The Young Tuxedo Brass Band is one of the best, led by Gregg Stafford:
Finally, a couple of photos from the Cajun music jam session put on by the Savoy Music Center of Eunice bunch on the Fais Do Do stage. The Savoy family of Eunice is legendary, both for their custom Cajun accordians and their Saturday jam sessions that anyone can walk in and attend.
So the key to photographing a festival like Jazzfest, whether it’s a music festival or this year’s Tomato fest, is to take your time, use your eyes and look for the images in front of you.
Remember: Great photographs are everywhere!
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