Dave Turner at the piano

© John Gellman

One never knows where one will find a good performance or a good portrait. I happened to be sitting in the back gallery room at 5 Walnut wine bar in Asheville this afternoon with family and friends. In walks this guy who sits down and begins talking with us. Turns out he was pianist singer-songwriter Dave Turner. When he told us what he did, we asked him to play something. After all, there was a vacant piano in the room. Well, he just blew us away. It was kinda like being in the room with Billy Joel or Harry Chapin and not knowing it. I didn’t even need to move from where I was sitting to get this quick portrait between songs. You can check him out at www.daveturnermusic.com. If there is a cooler place to hang out than Asheville, I don’t know where it is. Good things happen here All. The. Time.

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Just donkeys. No roses. No hats.

© John Gellman

Congrats to my friends in Blackberry Smoke upon the very successful release of their new album Holding All the Roses. As you can see, the donkeys that live behind my house were most excited about the new album which features one of their nicely accessorized distant cousins on the cover. They seem to think that their cousin and the band will be household names by the fourth of July. While there may be No Way Back to Eden, the donkeys will settle for a way back to their barn when they want to get out of the snow that fell last night.

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Chad chilling

© John Gellman

Chad is a cook at the Early Girl Eatery, an excellent restaurant located right behind my studio on Wall Street in downtown Asheville. I was walking back to the studio a couple days ago on a rather dreary afternoon, and as I crossed Wall Street, I looked over and saw a spot of red next to the restaurant that caught my eye. Chad was taking a smoke break wearing a red bandana on his head. So I walked over and took his picture. I processed the image in color and it didn’t do anything for me. Next I tried black and white. Better, but still not there. Then I put the red back on his bandana and bingo, it conveyed exactly what caught my eye in the first place. Generally, I’m not a fan of black and white images with a small color element, and now I’ve done it twice in two and a half weeks. Good gracious. I gotta get a grip.

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Bookstore, wine bar, or engine room?

© John Gellman

I had been Photoshopping for several hours this afternoon and I needed a break, so I walked across the street from my studio to the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar. They have the best selection of photography books in Asheville, and the Champagne’s not bad either. I picked out a book and sat down to look through it for a minute and this scene was directly in front of me. Glad I had my camera. Between all the ventilation duct work and other pipes and conduits running along the ceiling, it was reminiscent of a surreal engineering diagram.

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Big Head Todd at the Peel

© John Gellman

I hadn’t seen Big Head Todd & the Monsters in a couple years so I was overdue for a fix when they hit the stage at the Orange Peel in Asheville last night. I only had a three song photo pass, so I couldn’t do my usual thing, but I did manage to get a shot I like of frontman Todd Mohr. Unfortunately, not enough time to get much of the other players. The band sounded great, as usual. My thanks to tour manager Jeff Wareing for granting me access to shoot on very short notice.

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In memory of Dean Smith

© John Gellman

By coincidence, I happened to be in Chapel Hill today when I heard the sad news that former UNC basketball coach Dean Smith had died. I drove over to the Dean Dome because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. There were 150 yards of news trucks parked end to end out in front of the building and a fair amount of people milling about. Many flowers were placed around a plaque honoring Coach Smith, but this solitary bouquet at the doors made for a better pic.

I saw something written by Charlotte Observer writer Scott Fowler just before I drove over there. He said, “Anyone of a certain age who graduated from Chapel Hill had some firsthand dealings with Smith.” Though I didn’t graduate, I was certainly no exception. He was such a kind man. I first met Coach Smith when I was a photographer for the Daily Tar Heel. I hope I am not too indiscreet by revealing Coach Smith’s only bad habit (in the early 70s) was that he smoked. I guess it was his way of dealing with tension and pre-game jitters. I encountered him below the stands in Carmichael Auditorium just before the start of a game, out of view of the fans who were filling the arena. He was vigorously sucking on a cigarette, extracting every last bit of nicotine. He was visibly concerned to see me there with my camera, like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He did not speak to me but had a troubled look on his face. I did not take his picture and I told him not to worry, I would never take a photo to embarrass him. He smiled, gave me a nod and walked off. After that, he always remembered me and addressed me by name, even though I hadn’t introduced myself. I frequently shot games, so we ran into each other from time to time during basketball season. Coach Smith always went out of his way to be exceptionally nice, and not just to me. He was like that with everyone.

Several years later I was back on campus during the summer. I walked over to the basketball court outside one of the dorms where the basketball players were known to play pickup games with campers at Coach Smith’s summer basketball camp. In the intervening years since I had last spoken with him, I had grown a lot of long hair and a mustache. I did not remotely look like I used to look when I was in school. Of course Coach Smith was there, and as soon as he saw me, he walked over, said “Hi John” and asked how I was doing. It was not a rhetorical question. He was genuinely interested, and was not about to let me off the hook until I filled him in on my recent activities. Rarely has anyone made me feel so good simply by saying hi. He was not just a great man. He was a great guy.

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Religious experience with The Resonant Rogues

© John Gellman

Well, not really, tho it does kinda look that way. I shot a recording session earlier today for The Resonant Rogues in the Church Studio at Echo Mountain Recording here in Asheville, which not surprisingly happens to be in an old church building. Rogue bassist Craig Sandberg is pictured above listening intently to a recording being played back in his headphones. Craig was isolated from the other players behind a plexiglass barrier where I noticed the reflection of the huge stained glass window that is on the back wall of the former sanctuary. It would be fair to say that Jesus photo-bombed Craig here. The other Rogues pictured below are Sparrow Pants on accordion. Keith Smith on acoustic guitar, and Drayton Aldridge on the fiddle. (More stained glass reflections on Keith’s guitar below.)

 

© John Gellman

 

© John Gellman

 

© John Gellman

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Abby the Spoon Lady – queen of the Asheville buskers

© John Gellman

Last week, Abby Roach, better known as Abby the Spoon Lady, posed for me in my Asheville studio with her performing partner, Chris Rodrigues. Abby is irresistibly charismatic, with or without her spoons. There is a nobility in her face and character that I tried to capture in a portrait.  I left the pic of Abby above pretty much exactly as the camera captured it, but couldn’t resist shopping the pic below  and converting to black and white. Chris is certainly no second fiddle in this musical partnership, but Abby is a unique performer, and it is virtually impossible to take one’s eyes off of her whenever she plays.

© John Gellman

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