In 2014, songwriter, musician and one-man-band Phillip Roebuck released his latest solo effort, “The Alpine Butterfly.” Jay Westcott, a long-time acquaintance of Roebuck’s, wanted to document what came next.
He joined Roebuck throughout the year to document the performances, big and small, as well as backstage, in the studio and everything in between. The photographs in the exhibit show what it’s like to be a self-sustaining, self-reliant musician in the 21st century; the crowds, the empty seats and the 2:00 am gas station burritos.
In the photographer’s own words:
When you photograph music, it’s two opposing forces. The musician(s) performing on stage and the crowd watching and reacting. It’s often hard to bridge that dichotomy. I wanted to bring the audience as close as they could be and also give them access they don’t get. I have a great relationship with Phillip, and he has a level of trust in me that I don’t take for granted. I had unfettered access: backstage, in the green rooms, on stage, in the hotels, you name it.
I have a ton of pics of Phillip performing and being “lost in the moment” with his banjo and rig, but the pics tend to run together and look the same after a while. I always look for something different. Sometimes it’s nuanced, sometimes it’s in your face. I tend to prefer “quiet” pictures that capture a moment and make the viewer think. The pictures in this series tell a story of a working musician, in all it’s unglamorous glory, and what life is like on and off stage.
For example, here’s some background on the above picture. The crowd was fully engaged with him and when he gets into a groove, he kind of gets his whole body going. It’s intense. I wanted to encapsulate that in a single photograph. I worked the edges of the stage, and at one point a couple women were dancing up front by him. I made frames focusing on them, then focusing on him, but it wasn’t quite “it.” The confines of the club and stage were such that I knew if I shot from behind him, with my 20mm lens, I could get the perspective I wanted. I hate the term “Hail Mary,” because that infers that I don’t know what I’m going to get; that there’s some praying left to do. The fact is, I know exactly what a 20mm lens looks like, and I knew that I wanted an angle from above looking slightly down. I waited for a moment where he got lost in the music, and tripped the shutter.
The opening reception is Saturday, June 6th, 2015, 5 pm to 9 pm. at O’Connor Brewing Co., 211 W. 24th St., Norfolk, VA 23517. With live performances by Phillip Roebuck, Morgan O’Kane and special guests.