1. NCAA women’s final 4
2. Little League state champions
I started covering sports for the Matthews Record in January of 1995. They paid $30 a week for one article. I saw it as gas money, and off I went. I started taking photographs at games because the newspaper didn’t have a staff photographer. I enjoyed taking the photos, but my focus was still on writing, and taking photography more seriously was still some months away. That experience did allow to photograph rising stars such as Antawn Jamison, and the NCAA Women’s Final Four. I still enjoy photographing sports, although my schedule doesn’t often allow me to do so. One exception was going to the Little League state finals in Charlotte in 2013, which was won by Myers Park Trinity. As the team received their championship banner, the players came running towards me as they began their celebratory lap around the field. I later sent the photo to the Observer sports department, and said, “Don’t worry about paying me, just run the photo.” And they did. Those kids deserved that.
3. Steve Earle
In September of 1995, Tangents Magazine began to hit the local newsstands. Tangents was a independent magazine that I was a part of from the first meeting, although my involvement grew as time went on. I saw my role on the staff as a utility player, much like someone in baseball that could play numerous positions. Writing features? Poetry? Organzing ideas for future issues? I did all of that, and wanted more.
In the fall of 1996, a series of events brought my next role to the forefront. Within the span of a week, I had the chance to interview the legendary writer Douglas Adams, and cover the annual Farm Aid Music Festival, which was being held that year in South Carolina. The magazine’s photographer at the time was busy, and chose not to cover either event. In a moment of bull-headedness and desperation, I decided to photograph both events. Farm Aid was especially fun, and was my first opportunity to photograph a number of the artists that you see in this show. By the end of the day, I knew that I wanted to spend more time on photography.
Tremont Music Hall
5. Jerry Lee Lewis
This show was part of a festival in downtown Charlotte. You could walk up and literally sit in front of Jerry Lee, right in the middle of Tryon Street. This show was fantastic. Another local photographer leaned into Jerry Lee at one point to take a photo, and Jerry Lee slowly turned to him and told him in no uncertain terms to move back. I stayed on the ground, and used my zoom lens to get the up-close photos I wanted.
7. Arthur Smith
8. Loonis McGlohon
9. Maurice Williams and Jackson Browne
When I began to take more of an interest in muisc and photography, there was a number of local legends that I aware of. The Briarhoppers, Arthur Smith, Loonis McGlohon, Nappy Brown. They all had been a key part of building Charlotte’ music scene to global recognition. In time, I met and photographed a number of these artists, and got to see people like Maurice Wiliams, who had a number one hit in 1960 with “Stay”, play with legends like Jackson Browne, who also had a hit with Maurice’s song in 1976.
10. Babatunde Olatunji
This legendary leader of African drumming came to Charlotte and performed a free show at the African-American Cultural Center. The performance was spellbinding, and made me aware for the first time of music as a powerful force, making it feel like it was picking you up off the ground.
I drove all night to Philadelphia to take these photos for a magazine in California. The band was known for being difficult to photographers. On the way to Philadelphia, I had bought a vintage set of Christmas lights, still in the box, for a dollar. Before the photo shoot, a mutual friend of myself and the band saw the box of lights, and said, “Do you think that the band will want to play with these?” and proceeded to set up the lights. As the band arrived for the photos, their leader, Jeff Tweedy, picked up the lights and said, “Are we supposed to play with these?” “Yes!” I replied, and began taking photos. The resulting photos were later used by the band, and this photo was recently featured in their best-of collection. Their publicist later to me, “They’re smiling in your photos. They never smile in photos! How did you do that?"
12. Al Green
somewhere in Iceland
12. garden of Windsor Castle
I came to Iceland in 2005, to take photos of a Charlotte-area band that was recording in that country. The band was fairly young, and were nervous. To take their mind off having their photos taken, I would often photograph them as they started the session, and then leave them alone. That also meant I was free to take day trips throughout the country, which I did several times.
I went to England in March of 2008 to photograph the reunion of the British band, the Zombies, who were performing their 1968 album Odessey & Oracle for the first time ever. The shows were good, but it was the rest of the country that fascinated me. So much history, and so much to see. I visited Windsor Castle, home of the Royal Family. As I toured the grounds, I looked over a hill to find a small garden, filled with purple flowers. The gardener’s trowel and gloves sat nearby. In retrospect, I see the photo as a reflection of my life. Constantly in search of moments I have yet to find, and much like the gardener, hoping to have some quiet impact on the garden around me.
13. Maya Angelou
14. Sugar Ray and Roberto Duran
15. Tom Wolfe
16. Boy with hat
In 2000, I began to work with Olivia Fortson on the Charlotte Observer’s Scene & Heard section. I soon came to view photographing social events in much the same way that I looked at photographing concerts. With both, you are not sure of the end result, but you set goals for yourself. Get good photos of the lead singer, or the event organizer. Make everyone look good, and have fun doing it. Fifteen years on, that is still what drives me.
There have been so many wonderful moments with the Observer, and the people I’ve covered. Getting to know Maya Angelou at her annual Women Who Lead galas, and taking photos of Tom Wolfe, and other luminaries. Getting Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran to pose for me. Meeting the many generations of Charlotte’s movers and shakers. A lot of good parties. Or sometimes, it’s meeting a baby with the same look in his eyes that I once had at that age, and watching him wear my hat in much the way I used to. Doing all of these events week after week also made me become more of a public person, and better at presenting myself, and my work.
17. Avett Brothers
Mignonette recording session
18. Avett Brothers
backyard of Seth Avett’s house
19. Avett Brothers
20. Avett Brothers
with Jimmie Johnson
I met the Avetts through their bass player, Bob Crawford. He and I had been friends through another band that he had played with, and one night he told me that I should come see these two brothers that he had just started playing with. I ended up being the first “professional” photographer that the band worked with, and worked with the band on three albums and one EP, and did photos for a fourth album, but those photos were not used. Losing the Avetts to another photographer just as they started to get national attention was hard for me. Once again, like the Down From The Mountain tour, I thought that I had come so close to reaching a larger recognition. In the long run, it may just as well. Life can often take you to places that are better suited for you, even when you don’t think that you want to go there. My work with the band may never be “finished” to my satisfaction, but I was there at the beginning, and it’s amazing to see where it has all gone.
21. Robert Pollard, Guided by Voices
22. Al Stewart
23. James Taylor
24. PBS hosts
26. Interior of arena
27. Barack Obama
As I mentioned before, I spent several years as a videographer, working for various people when I wasn’t taking photos. Occasionally, these lives did intersect. Out of the blue, I received a call from PBS, asking me to run a studio camera during their Democratic National Convention (DNC) coverage. Then they found out that I was also a still photographer, and asked me to photograph guests that came into the studio.
That week was a thrilling, exhausting blur. Days on set last more than 12 hours. On the last of the convention, I drove to town to photograph a Chuck Close portrait of President Obama, dealing always with the multitudes of security. Take the photo, run home to edit and send off the photo for that night’s broadcast, and then back into to work until 3am. The contract for my North Carolina Musicians also came in the first day of the convention, and I was doing final edits on the book in my few hours in-between work.
28. Neil Young
29. Lyle Lovett
30. Emmylou Harris
31. Roky Erickson
32. Alex Chilton, Big Star
33. My Morning Jacket
South By Southwest (SXSW) is an annual festival in Austin, Texas that I traveled to for a number of years. Each of those years provided a unique experience. Having the chance to photograph legends such as Emmylou Harris, and Neil Young. Seeing bands such as My Morning Jacket on the cusp of becoming a phenomenon, or meeting heroes such as Roky Erickson and Alex Chilton on the same day. It is a very different festival now, but I still believe that something like SXSW can exist, and provide something that leave a mark on the next music fan, or photographer.
34. Down From The Mountain cast
35. Ralph Stanley and grandson Nathan Stanley
In 2002, I had the opportunity to be involved with the Down From The Mountain tour, which had resulted from the Grammy-winning O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. It was excirting, and I really thought that it would be my break into working with major labels. Ultimately, I found the experience disappointing, although I got to know musicians such as Ralph Stanley, who later toured with his grandson, Nathan. At the end of the tour, I was faced with a choice. Keep chasing bigger projects in the hope that I might someday make money from that, or continue to seek out music that genuinely intersted me. I chose the latter, and among the first places that it led me to was the Carter Family Fold, and eventually, Johnny Cash.
36. Johnny Cash
June 21, 2003
37. Johnny Cash
June 21, 2003
38. Johnny Cash
July 5, 2003
39. front of Johnny Cash’s home
In June of 2003, I had the honor of being asked by the Carter Family to photograph what became Johnny Cash’s final public appearances, and the only ones he made after the death of wife June Carter Cash. For nearly three decades, Johnny and June had gone to the Carter Family Fold, hidden in the Virginia mountains, to perform a birthday show for June. The annual event was a homecoming for June, who had grown up in that area. When June passed away in May of 2003, it seemed that Johnny Cash, who had been ill for several years, would also not return to the Fold. Undaunted, he returned to the Fold the following month as a tribute to June, for what would have been her birthday show. With this as the backdrop, I photographed Cash’s two performances at the Fold that summer.
Despite his broken heart and ill health, the tribute show was emotional, and something that is still hard for me to put into words. So many people showed up for the show that the venue folded up their back wall, and people sat all the way up along the hillside. His second show was also good, and he promised the Carter family that he would return in the fall. It took me days after Cash’s passing in September, two months later, for me to realize the enormity of what I’d photographed. My photos have been used all over the place, including Time Magazine’s last interview with Cash. In recent years, both the Cash and Carter families have used my photos for a number of projects, including two books. Johnny Cash’s son John Carter has told myself, and others that his most of favorite photos of his dad from that last year are mine. I don’t like stating whether or not I am a good photographer- I’d rather let the work do that- but I will say this. For those shows, possibly two of the biggest events of my career, I believe I did a good job. And for someone that first read about Johnny Cash in a comic book when I was nine years old, I take great pride in that.
40. Joe Thompson
Main Library of Charlotte
46. Carolina Chocolate Drops
When I first met Joe Thompson in 2005, he was the among the few African-American string band musicians that had played throughout the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, and was still playing. Later that year, Joe met a young group of musicians that wanted to learn his songs. This group became the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and would come to Joe’s house in Mebane, NC to play, listen and learn. It was been a wonderful thing to see the Drops take this music all over the world, again.
47. Doc Watson & Earl Scruggs
North Wilkesboro, NC
48. Flaming Lips
49. Beach Boys
The Beach Boys were the first concert I ever saw. My parents took me to see them at the New York State Fair in September of 1983. From then on, I’ve been a lifelong fan. In the intervening years, I’ve met and photographed all of them at one show, or another. Meeting Carl Wilson and the Beach Boys at Farm Aid in 1996 was one of many highlights of that day. In 2012, all of the surviving members of the band toured together for their 50th anniversary. The venue was being difficult on photographers, and I had to put my gear back in my car.
The magazine I was photographing that show for had been given sixth row seats. As the show’s second set started, I realized that if I didn’t try to take photos of the rest of the evening, it would always bother me. I told the attendants at the front gate that I had an emergency, and that I’d be right back. I I proceeded to sneak my camera and one of lenses in my socks, and walked back into the venue, making contact with the ushers the whole time, so that they would not look towards my shoes. I ended up getting the best photos of the show, including photos of their final bows. Twenty-nine years later, I finally got the Beach Boys photos that I wanted.
50. Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin performed this show three days after her god-daughter, Whitney Houston passed away. During the show’s second set, Franklin performed a spontaneous gospel tribute to her, playing piano like she was never going to play again. It was a very real moment to witness.
51. Kings Of Leon
Kings Of Leon were being Rock stars that night, and weren’t allowing photos of this show. Undaunted, I stood in the crowd, and figured out where the best places were to take pictures without being seen. I sent this photo to the band the next day, and they immediately posted it on their website, where it stayed for a number of months. And I laughed, and laughed.
52. Drive By Truckers
Patterson Hood’s backyard
I met the band at an early show in Charlotte. A few months later, I went to Raieigh to see the band play. I took two rolls of photos that night. One in color, one in black & white. I then sent the photos to their leader, Patterson Hood, who immediately put the photos into the band’s second album. Looking back, I was lucky to work with a number of artists- Drive By Truckers, Avett Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Tift Merritt, Andrew Bird, and others- before they made it big. Somebosy once asked me what my secret was to such things. I don’t know, I answered. I like the music, and I like the people. After that, the photos were easy.
54. Les Paul
Two weeks after photographing Johnny Cash’s last show, I traveled to Nashville and spent two days photographing the legendary Les Paul. The first night featured a show at the Ryman Auditorium. As the lights dimmed for the show, the Ryman showed a video of the first ever televised performance of the Grand Ole Opry. The guest that night? Les Paul, with his then-wfie Mary Ford. Les then walked out on stage, to a standing ovation. I also heard Les tell a number of jokes that weekend. Many of which I can’t repeat, but they were all very funny.
55. Paul McCartney
56. Sean Lennon
57. Rolling Stones
I heard the Beatles when I was four years old, and my mind was forever changed. The music, the look (be they in 1964, or 1969), all of it. I’ve photographed Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on different occasions, and have also met and photographed a number of their offspring, such as Sean Lennon. Other groups, such as the Rolling Stones, I heard later on, but also had an affect on me. It’s a right of passage as a music fan, and photographer. Listen to the records, go see their show, and take their photo.
58. Andy Griffith, with Mike Easley
Mt. Airy, NC
This was taken at the dedication of part of the highway around Mt. Airy to be renamed for Andy Griffith, who had grown up in Mt. Airy. At one point, during the program, one local politician gave a speech that went on forever. And forever. During his speech, a number of photographers and I snuck off of the media platform, and into the crowd to be closer to Griffith. At the end of the politician’s speech, the man said, “I’d now like to introduce Governor Jim Hunt.” Governor Hunt had been the previous governor. Andy, the state’s then-current Governor, Mike Easley, and Easley’s wife all proceeded to crack up in laughter, and we all got great photos of Griffith’s beaming smile.
60. Ryan Adams
61. Jimbo Mathus
Squirrel Nut Zippers
62. Kenny Roby
63. Chatham County Line
64. Roman Candle (live jumping pic, 2005)
Chapel Hill, NC
Soon affer I began taking photos, I started traveling to other cities in North Carolina to document their music scenes. In the late 1990s, the Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh scenes were exploding with great artists, such as Superchunk, Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Kenny Roby and many, many more. Those travels led me to wrok with all of these acts, and artists that have arrived in the years since, like Chatham County Line, and Roman Candle. What I also liked traveling to those cities was that I was not some “local guy” taking their photos. I was seen as a photographer, who happened to live in Charlotte. And I’ve always appreciated that.
65. Strokes (2004)
67. James Brown
68. Billy Preston
69. Ray Charles
70. BB King
71. Willie Nelson
72. Janis Ian
73. Procol Harum
Over time, I have been fortunate to photograph many of the musicians that I regarded as legends. James Brown, Billy Preston, B.B. King, Willie Nelson. Some legends, such as Janis Ian, or Procol Harum, achieved some great success, while others like the Sonices are not as well known to a mainstream audience. But they were all legends, to me. They were creators of music that I enjoyed, and wanted to be a part of.
75. Pinetop Perkins
76. RL Burnside
77. Hubert Sumlin
78. Benton Flippen
Silk Hope, NC
79. Cpt. Luke & Mac Hayes
Like many other photographers, I love photographing older musicians. The music, the look. The characters. Pinetop Perkins, R.L. Burnside, Hubert Sumlin and others took their music all over the world. Others, like Benton Flippen, a legandary 89 year-old fiddler when I first met him, and Macavine Hayes & Captain Luke (both of whom are part of Durham, NC’s Musicmaker Relief Foundation), did not let time, or other circumstances get in the way of playing. And I count myself very lucky to have met them all.
80. Merle Haggard
I drove to Alexandria, VA to take photos of Merle Haggard for a microphone company. When I got to the venue, his band said, “Oh, we stopped using that mic. It kept not working.” But Haggard and his folks were very gracious, and let me get these photos. As I was setting up, Merle Haggard stood on stage and played air guitar in some of my photos. Priceless.
81. Bruce Springsteen
Randalls Island, NY
I took this picture of Bruce Springsteen as he stood in the wings at a music festival near New York City. I drove all night to photograph this festival, and proceeded to photograph all 45 acts that performed that day. My memories of that day are a sleep-deprived blur, but it was certainly an adventure.
82. White Stripes
83. St. Paul and the Broken Bones
85. Jean Ritchie
86, 87. Gospelshout
Gospelshout is an amazing annual festival in Charlotte that celebrates the Shout band music of the United House Of Prayer For All People. Every year, I come to take photos, and I get something special, in return. The people, and the experience are amazing.
88. Mercury Dime
near Carrboro, NC
photo session for first album cover
91. Benji Hughes
Randolph Lewis’ wedding
As I began taking photos of musicians in Charlotte, the first several bands I met all asked me to take photos of them. There were very few photographers covering the music scene at the time, and many of them soon became good friends of mine. Bands like Mercury Dime, Lou Ford (which later evolved into the Loudermilks), Benji Hughes, and others all became guinea pigs for me teaching myself how to photograph music. I still like finding great local talent, like the Avett Brothers, or the Sammies to photograph. As long as there are is new music, and new ideas, there is always something new to document.