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Blog // Images
October 12, 2009

William Ellis At The Hong Kong Jazz Festival

Tonight I made a quick trip to the very chic Dada Lounge in TST to hear William Ellis speak on Jazz photography, as part of the Hong Kong Jazz Festival. Ellis is an extraordinarly gifted photographer of musicians and their instruments, as well as a nice guy, willing to be really honest about his craft. […]

Tonight I made a quick trip to the very chic Dada Lounge in TST to hear William Ellis speak on Jazz photography, as part of the Hong Kong Jazz Festival. Ellis is an extraordinarly gifted photographer of musicians and their instruments, as well as a nice guy, willing to be really honest about his craft. He showed us some of his greatest photos and spoke at leangth, not just about technical issues in photography, but also about what it takes to create, or find a decisive moment with a musician.

Tonight reinforced a number of lessons I’ve been facing in photography. First of all, the importance of interacting with the subjects. Ellis was able to recount a lot of detail about his subjects, not just as musicians, but as people. Surely that is why so many of his portraits reveal not just a moment, but more importantly, tell us a story about the musician as a person.

One of Ellis’ most moving pictures, for me, was a recent backstage portrait of Tommy Emmanuel (you can find it in the portraits section of www.william-ellis.com ), that reveals not just the love Tommy has of playing, but for those who know his biography, the way the man has aged with his craft and journey of being a live musician.

Second, was the importance of really having a grasp of the artistic components, especially light and composition. All great photos are studies in light and the arragement of subjects in their space. I’m barely starting to understand how light works within the frame of a photograph. So, it is captivating to hear an established photographer of this calibre talk about the way light is moving in an image and also reference other great artists and photographers.

Finally, I was reminded how important it is, to just take a good shot. Very few of Ellis’ photos are cropped, which is really quite extraordinary. There’s such a temptation, with digtial cameras and software to settle for ordinary images and just “fix” it later. Now, I love digital, but there is so much to be said for getting as much quality as you can up front, in the camera itself.

Which is really where photography and music converge. As much as modern recording software allows us to do a great many wonderful and creative things, there is still not susbstitute for capturing a great performance, for getting it right before the mix.

I walked away from tonight buoyed and inspired, as a photographer and as a musician. Meeting people who are really on top of their game should always do that for us. My only regret was that there weren’t more people there. The Hong Kong Jazz Festival is very cool and I’m extremely thankful to them for putting this even on tonight. But it seems like a lot of people haven’t even heard the festival is on, let alone about tonight, which is such a shame. I hope next year the music “community” here can get the word around a bit better, especially for events like this – but, that’s a topic for another blogpost.

For now, if you haven’t already, take a look at some of the photos.

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