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neumu
Wednesday, October 18, 2017 
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Neumu = Art + Music + Words
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Depth of Field
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Narrative
narrative. Rock and Roll. It saved my life. It also fucked me up, changed me, starved me, fed me, made me weak, strong, lazy, and passionate. It was somethin' to do, and nobody could tell me otherwise.

Life can be pretty damn dull here in the Pacific Northwest. Passionate expression is something we're taught growing up to keep down inside. Not happy, son? Well, keep it to yourself. So then I discovered punk rock and going to shows. And also The Stooges. And the Birthday Party. And Black Flag. And then I met a group of people who were doing it themselves. The rest, as they say, is "grunge" history.

Going to see a show was the apotheosis of the rock and roll experience. It could very well be divine, whether it was your favorite band from across the seas or your next-door neighbor. The club was freedom to lose yourself to music in close association with your peers (and not just air-guitaring around your bedroom in your boxers). And I sought to capture this chaotic liberation in all its glory of hair, sweat and guitars. Yeah, I was captivated by the musicians themselves, but was equally, if not more, drawn to the flailing audiences beside me and their cathartic interaction with the band.

I started photographing shows in 1983, but only tentatively until I met a man with a vision who spurred my own, Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt. He wanted to feature exciting photos on the covers of his fledgling label's records. And, I think, we did just that. By creating not only a sound, but also a look, it used the power of photography to tell a story about the music. People like stories; it helps them identify and feel a part of something. I felt that, in my bedroom at 16 looking at pictures of the Sex Pistols. It was a long way from Bothell, Wash., to London, England but the photographs brought that distance, metaphorically, a little closer.

Blah, blah, blah ... in 1995 I published "Screaming Life," which is now out of print, and in 1998 "Pearl Jam: Place/Date" (with Lance Mercer). The photos in the portfolio you see here are from a book I'm currently designing. Its title will be "Rock and Roll"; it will feature mostly unseen work from about 1983 to 1999. I think it will be unique among rock books (actually, I think of it first and foremost as a photo book) in that its focus is not on the celebrity but on the experience — what it's like to rock even if you've never set foot inside a club before. Look for it sometime between the fall of 2002 and the fall of 2003. Nowadays, I've been to Vietnam about as many times as I've been to a rock show. I plan on pursuing travel photography as an art form, primarily focusing on Asia. Maybe look for some of that here.

I'm constantly asked for words of advice by young photographers. The photographer Larry Frank once said that a teacher of his told him to "shoot into the light" — in other words, do what is considered wrong. Turn conventions inside out. Think outside of the box. But when you do that, always make sure to do it well.

(June 2001)

Editor's Note: Charles Peterson's book was published in November 2003 by powerHouse Books under the title Touch Me I'm Sick and is available to purchase online from Amazon.
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