A/NT Gallery, Al Schackman, American History Traveling Museum, Art/Not Terminal Gallery, Arthur Hull, Charles Parrish, Dean Ishiki, Delbert Richardson, Dia de Muertos Festival Seattle, Drums Of Passion, Festival Sundiata, Goddess Kring, Kimberly Ann Phillips, Mariachi Huenachi, Maurice Rouman, Melanie Granger, NW Folklife Festival, Randy Bowles Photography, Seattle, Seattle Arab Festival, Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival, Seattle's Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival, ST Rivera, World Rhythm Festival
This story has two purposes: one is to share my photography; one is to share the story of some truly interesting folks who are the subjects of my photography.
I’ve been taking photographs, “for real”, for only five years. I’ve spent my creative life as a musician and collector of art and vintage/antique items. Five years ago, a friend gifted me a used Canon PowerShot digital. First, I used it to document my art collection; which soon led me to blogging about it. Then, I began talking photos on my many walks around Seattle. I took mass photos of scenery and architecture, and later, of flowers and trees. Finally, I tackled portrait photography. Initially, I was shy about asking strangers if I could take their photo, so my early works were candid shots of folks. I finally started asking people to let me take their photo, and many said, “Yes”. — From the hundreds of portraits I’ve taken, these are my favorites. Not because they capture people’s looks; but because they capture their character.
I had been wanting to make a blog story featuring my favorite portrait photography. When I compiled them, I realized that almost every photo featured a figure in our arts and music scene. I decided to use only those photos. — The characters who made Seattle a colorful town in the past (think Ivar Haglund, J.P. Patches, Ruth Prins, who played Wunda Wunda, saxophone master Joe Brazil, Ernestine Anderson, Stan Boreson, Dave Lewis, Jacob Lawrence et al) have left us. But, presently, we are blessed with new, wonderful characters who dazzle us with their art, music, fashion — and with their very own selves!
I hope you’ll see some faces you recognize; I hope you’ll see some new ones. Some of the older folks have been on the scene for quite a while, and are now being recognized as true Seattle treasures. And the young people I’ve included are shaking things up! Please seek out their art and music. Every photo here, was done on the fly. That’s how street photography works. And they are in no particular order. (I tried to figure out an order, and gave up. It’s a potpourri.) Let’s go!
I chose this photo of my friend Kimberly, because it captures her love of life. Among many things, Kimberly is Art Curator for Festival Sundiata Black Arts Fest, now in its 37th year. And every year, at least in recent times, Kimberly mounts a dazzling exhibit, “Ultimate Art Experience”, which features art by African American artists. Kimberly, an accomplished artist in her own right, is also a fashion show coordinator. Her standing in the arts community can only continue to grow; her contribution is invaluable.
While Delbert is not an artist or performer per se, his presence at cultural festivals is nothing but a blessing. Delbert founded the American History Traveling Museum, based in Seattle. He brings his museum to our Festival Sundiata every year, where I have the pleasure of saying hello, and where I take an annual photo of him. I like this one, because it’s a spot-on thumbnail sketch of Delbert involved in his mission: passing the knowledge to the generations. Please join me in thanking this wonderful human being for making our town — our world — a better place to live.
You can see the determination on the faces of these young women as they participate in our Folklife Festival’s hip-hop dance-off. My old camera doesn’t often capture action shots this well, so I am very satisfied with this photo. One can feel the tension and excitement in the air. I regret that I don’t know the contestants names; contact me if you do? (The Folklife Festival has to continually grow and change, in order to stay relevant in this century. Adding hip-hop, alternative-folk, outrageous brass bands and indie music performers to the schedule several years ago made an already breathtaking event that much more special.)
This beautiful man is another person I call my friend. He is an accomplished, renowned sculptor, living right here in Seattle. His work can be seen around town, at galleries including A/NT (Art/Not Terminal) Gallery, where I have the pleasure of performing for him often. For me, there is nothing finer than to be performing folk music for three hours, with Charles Parrish sitting in the front row. — Many Seattleites are unaware of how amazing it is to have Charles living here. — Unless they read The Stranger, because the iconic Seattle paper published a great interview with him. — Get ready to learn more about this should-be-legendary sculptor; he is involved in several upcoming public artwork projects.
ST Rivera is an artist “with a passion for ink” who takes a mandala approach to her art. She is also a friend of mine. Like several folks I’m chronicling here, ST is an artist who shows her beautiful creations at A/NT Gallery, as well as at a long, long list of other venues. — She travels! ST hops on a plane and flies off to display and share her work all over the place. But you can find her, and her work, right here at home (if you’re blessed to live in Seattle). — I just knew ST was an artist before she told me she was. Art is just such a part of her makeup.
I don’t know if Al Schackman played Seattle previously, but he flew here in April of 2018 to play the reunion concert featuring the percussion ensemble Babatunde Olatunji assembled, called “Drums Of Passion”. Babatunde reintroduced African drumming to America in the 1950’s; and that’s when he put together DOP. Baba and group released their first LP in 1957. Al, a jazz guitarist, was recruited to add his perfect licks to the percussion stew the rest of the band cooked up. Now, the photo is a little blurry; and Al is from New York; but if Al Schackman plays Seattle, and I manage to photograph his beautiful face, he is going to be in the story! The one night he contributed to Seattle’s music scene, along with other alumni of Drums Of Passion, was a night that will not, cannot, be duplicated, or topped. Please find some of their music; listen, and dance!
This photo focuses more on the group character rather than on one person’s. The hula dancers move as one, telling their stories with that movement. Our Seattle Hawaiian community adds so much to the cultural riches we enjoy. Every year, many hula groups perform at our Live Aloha Fest, which is where I caught these women engaging in their art form. I’m sorry that I don’t know the particular hālau‘s name; but I thank them for allowing me to take a photo I’m rather proud of. The mix of shadow and light, color and movement, seems just right. — BTW check out the great KBCS music program, “Hawaii Radio Connection”, hosted by Bruddah Stephen Gomes, among other totally knowledgeable programmers. You can stream it anytime, and get your hula on.
I’m a huge admirer of the Japanese art of flower arrangement. Every year, a new and fabulous exhibit is featured at our Cherry Blossom Festival. This year, one of Ikebana International, Chapter 19’s accomplished artists, Dean Ishiki, walked me through the entire exhibit, sharing his extensive knowledge of Ikebana. Dean made the arrangement which is seen over his left shoulder. Dean attends the Japanese Baptist Church In Seattle; coincidentally, my father preached annually at the Wapato, WA Japanese Baptist church in the late 50’s-early 60’s. I know; I was there.
Regarding her music, all I need to say is this: you need to hear Melanie Granger. She blesses Seattle with her jazzy, bluesy, singing; and in general, with her very kind presence. We both play A/NT Gallery’s monthly opening receptions. I took this one at her A/NT debut. I recall walking around the big gallery, saying to friends, “Wow, now there is a performer who is present.” — I should mention that A/NT is an artist’s coop. If I am not playing a particular month’s opening reception, I come anyway, to check out the other great performers, like Melanie, as well as to view the art created by Pacific Northwest artists. Please visit A/NT’s Facebook page, to see when Melanie will return to sing for you. (Or visit my Folksinger/Storyteller/Photographer page listed below; I’ll post the date there.
I almost didn’t include this photo, because it’s a little blurry; or the color is off, or something…. But it so captures this man’s character: balls in the air, a drummer drumming, costumes, Seattle’s beautiful Elliott Bay in the background. This is Howard Jay Patterson, a founding member of the Flying Karamozov Brothers, and — and! — leader of the Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Band. Howard is a part of the Seattle we do not want to, and dare not, lose. Yes, you can see him (and the other Flying Karamozov Brothers) in the movie, “Jewel of the Nile“.
The Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Band are just one of a number of unbelievable brass bands who call Seattle home. Filthy Fem Corps is/are most likely my favorite. I think — hope — this photo really captures this sax player. Gaze upon this powerful woman, giving it her all, and more; and be inspired to go out and do something wild, that takes everything you’ve got.
Arthur Hull is another one of the few people I’m sharing about, who doesn’t live in Seattle. But when he’s in town, every percussion player or fan of same comes running. I was watching an incredible percussion ensemble led by transplanted New Yorker, Gordy Onayemi Ryan, another alum of Drums of Passion, when all of a sudden, Arthur took the seat next to me (I’d watched him for 25+ years and had never met him). Arthur just started walking me through the various elements of Gordy Ryan’s performance while it was taking place on stage. I turned to him and said, “You’re my Paul McCartney”. He just laughed. (Although I’ve played guitar for 55 years, I wanted to be a drummer. I have an egg shaker, which if I’m really feeling it, I will call upon to add to the happy noise of a drum circle.) And yes! I’ve played where Arthur Hull was leading the drum circle. There’s only one Mr. Hull…. He, like every person I’m writing about today, needs to be honored now! None of us are here forever….
If this photo looks a little out of focus, all I can say is: the stage lighting at the Seattle Center Armory doesn’t do performers, or photographers, any favors. Taking a good photo of someone on the Armory stage is near-impossible. But how could I leave this man out of my story? — I couldn’t. When 92 year old Maurice Rouman plays in concert, he becomes ageless (I know the feeling). Maurice’s career spans over seventy years. He usually plays in an ensemble; you can see him at various festivals in Seattle. I caught him, here at the Seattle Arab Festival. Below, I post a link to one of his performances, where you’ll find an excellent mini-bio.
I was lucky to capture Baby Gramps when he wasn’t surrounded by a mob of folks wanting his attention. — Years ago, Gramps wanted to learn a song I wrote, that he liked, so I sent him a tape recording and the music for it. — But I never heard him play it. After a few years, I asked him why he didn’t play my song. He said it was too hard! Well, in case you are unaware of this, Gramps is one of the best guitarists on this or any other planet. My late wife, Sally Jo, was one of his “Little Fairies”. I’ve known Gramps since he was a young man, playing an old man. The word, “character” could not be more apt, in this case.
What a face! I’ve known Carlton since the 80’s, when we were both busking at Pike Place Market. Although he’s rather famous, Carlton still plays there. He uses a paper horn and shaker. Carlton almost made it to Las Vegas when he appeared on “America’s Got Talent”. He would have, had not a hater on the panel nixed him. — I remember a day at the Market when Carlton lost his voice. He whispered hoarsely to me”, I can’t sing!” I escorted him to the Market herbalist, Tenzing Momo, and asked them to give him a sample of PoSumOn, a Chinese oil that works wonders for…. well, for everything! The counter person put a drop of PoSumOn on Carlton’s finger; I told Carlton to put it on his tongue. A minute later, he was singin’ like a bird.
I love Mariachi music to the point where I call myself a super fan. And there is one group that for me, stands above all other Mariachis: Wenatchee High School’s Mariachi Huenachi, led by the great, and much-honored Ramon Rivera. I see so much determination, concentration and dedication — as well as potential — in this young man’s countenance. — Here is our future, right before our eyes. Members of Mariachi Huenachi go on to college, and then, begin successful professional careers. So, their musical contribution to our lives is only a part of the equation.
I hope when I’m in my late seventies, I’ll be able to sing and play guitar as well as this man can throw his rope. Pablo Castillo Acevedo performs just about every year at our super-over-the-top, not-to-be-missed Dia de Muertos Festival. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with him on a few occasions, at that and other festivals, and I have to admit; I’m in awe. I look up to this man. He does a whole lot more than ropa tricks. He shares his living history of the Mexican American culture freely, with all who wish to partake. When I am with Pablo, I tend to close my mouth and listen.
Update: I’m so sorry to say that we lost Pablo on January 20, 2020. He passed away at the age of 76. He truly will live on in our hearts.
I had a brief fling with Goddess Kring, the mercurial performance artist people in Seattle know for her public access television show. (Yes, although I never write about my post-divorce love life, I do have one. There’s usually nothing to write about; except, when it’s good, it’s amazing.) If you’ll note, I included one other photo of Goddess at the very top of my story. That’s to honor her. She is the one person who helped me learn how to take photos. Now, she never gave me a lesson, or even a tip. But she is a great photographer; I simply watched her: she never left her abode without having a real camera at ready; she never hesitated to stop and capture an image that often, only she could see. I learned from her, that art, and the image, is there for the finding, if you are open to it. — Which is what this post is all about.
I shot this photo of a happy man, at Seattle’s Kerry Park. (Those great shots of Seattle you see, that showcase the Space Needle and the Seattle skyline are taken at Kerry Park.) This guy, who lives three blocks from the park, seems to gain more character in his face by the day. He’s known for his three-hour, marathon, no-break, folk-rock concerts which have taken place at A/NT Gallery over the last ten years. He also blogs. I caught him as he was on a walk, celebrating life, love and photography. Oh, BTW, it’s a selfie.
OK: exhausted? Well, I planned to make this an exhaustive story about the leading lights of our very own arts community. If you are exhausted, then, I’ve succeeded! BTW: I’m way exhaustified.
Visit me here for much fun and merriment: https://www.facebook.com/RandyBowlesMusic/
Just a song, before I go: