Charnett Moffett digs in at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California. Over the past 20-plus years with BASS PLAYER, Art Director and photographer Paul Haggard has accumulated a shelf full of broken cameras and some dusty memories. He will recount some over the next few columns until either he can't remember any more, or they fail to be interesting— whichever comes first.
BACK WHEN I WAS A KID, I WOULD SIT AND LISTEN TO music on vinyl and, without the distractions of the adult world, enjoy the luxury of being able to become absorbed within the song and imagine hearing it being played live. My mind would wander, and I would fantasize further about being in a room one-on-one with the musician, as if he or she has stopped by my home and was giving me a personal performance. C’mon, it’s not so weird—you have had this fantasy youself. Admit it. Hey, Jaco, pass the bowl of chips; and while you’re at it, play “Birdland” again. I never get tired of that riff .
Well lo and behold, time, as it does well, has flown, and it is now 2013 and I have spent the last couple of decades trying to learn to be a photographer. Someday I might succeed at making a good photograph, but if I ever do or not, I’ve been having a lot of fun trying all this time. Given that I love music and playing, it is only natural that my work involves this industry, where all manner of artistic avenues intersect to form beautiful sounds and images, thoughts and ideas, philosophies and cultures. It is a place where some of the most profound art is made, but it doesn’t happen without hard work and dedication.
It is impossible to become great without years of practice and countless hours of immersion. There are lots of musicians, but only a small percentage stand out. There is a huge difference between hearing the performance of a virtuoso and someone, well, less than one. These are the few who get the spotlight, the big tours, the promotional vehicle, and, of course, the media photo op. This is where I come in.
I don’t want to say that I have a routine for my photo sessions, because that would imply lax creativity, but there are requisite criteria necessary to fullfill for magazine work. I need to make a setup for the cover, and then when that is safely in the can, I let the mood take the subject and me wherever it will—but last and most important, I insist that the subject do what he or she does best: play.
And here is when my adolescent dreams come true. No, not those adolescent dreams . Get your mind out of the gutter.
After many years, I frequently find myself in a room alone with a great player, and he or she does give me the gift of a personal performance. And I relish these gifts as my little reward for having parlayed what was essentially a great enthusiasm and respect for music into a satisfying creative outlet. My heartfelt gratitude goes to all those who have played for me.