Carolina through the looking glass

© John Gellman

Carolina Arias is a nice young woman I met in Downtown Books & News in Asheville earlier this afternoon. Her name is pronounced Caroleena - not like the state. As I was hanging out looking at some used photography books, I noticed there were a couple good spots in the store that might work as a setting for a portrait sometime. Fortunately, I had my camera with me, and all I needed was someone willing to pose, so I could make a test shot or two.

I glanced around and saw Carolina and a friend looking at some books. Not being the shy type, I asked if one of them would mind posing for a picture and Carolina immediately agreed. (I guess the older I get, the more harmless I look.) I asked her to step outside the store and look in at me through the window. Just as I had focused and was ready to shoot, the guy in the green shirt walked by and I made one exposure. I looked at the image on the back of my camera and liked the added layer of complexity the pedestrian provided. Between the texture and pattern of the bricks, the vertical line of the window frame, the two people, the partially visible fire hydrant, and the pastel colors, there is a lot more going on than I first expected to capture.

I had intended to post a series of pics from Friday’s Blackberry Smoke concert at the Fillmore in Charlotte, but those can wait a day. Carolina is just too lovely.

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Update – Walten Horton is alive and well

It has been quite a while since I have written about my friend, Walten Horton. I wrote about him on three previous occasions, after he was struck by a drunk driver and critically injured while crossing a street in downtown Asheville the night before Halloween, 2011. Click HERE and HERE and HERE to see my earlier posts. After all this time, I still get inquiries asking about Walt, so I thought I would post an update and a new pic.

Walt has made an almost miraculous recovery from his physical injuries, though he does remain disabled due to the lingering effects of the severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) he sustained in the accident. The human brain is no match for the impact of a two ton car. Walt is again living in Asheville and is able to take care of himself. Walt hasn’t lost his sense of humor and his immense personal likability. And he is rapping and rhyming again. He even performed at Asheville’s One Stop watering hole and music venue.

Rapping runs deep in Walt. As I was driving to Asheville to visit Walt in the hospital, I heard a story on NPR about stroke victims with brain damage, who couldn’t talk, but could sing. The story reported that the easiest test of this phenomenon is to simply ask the injured person to sing Happy Birthday. It is not unusual for stroke victims to be able to sing Happy Birthday. I wondered if there might be any similarity between a TBI and a stroke. Walt was conscious by this time but he could not talk well enough to make himself understood. So, of course, I asked him to sing Happy Birthday, and he sang –  Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Stinky, happy birthday to you. I was so shocked to hear him sing clearly that I didn’t even ask who Stinky was. Then I went out on a limb and asked Walt if he could rap. He proceeded to rap and rhyme as if nothing at all was wrong. I was floored. It was a few more months before Walt reacquired the ability to speak clearly.  He could sing and rap long before he could talk. Go figure.

I photographed Walt yesterday when he paid a visit to my studio. I was struck by Walt’s long curly hair seemingly trying to escape from underneath his red hoodie. Walt claims he is regularly asked if he is wearing a wig. I can attest without any doubt whatsoever, that he is not. Every strand of hair is his own.


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Travelers rest after a long day on the street

© John Gellman

It was around 11 PM as I was walking through downtown Asheville last night when I encountered these travelers on the street less than a block from my studio. I stopped to talk and took a few pics. Nova, a very chill dog, is sleeping on the sidewalk at the feet of his master, Connor, and Connor’s friend, Anna. They couldn’t have been nicer people, which is something I can honestly say about almost all of the young travelers I meet on the street. I am going to make an effort to spend more time talking with the travelers I photograph, and hopefully to write a bit about what they have to say. I’m sure they have some stories to tell.

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The SteelDrivers sell out the Orange Peel… on their first try

© John Gellman

It has been almost a month since the SteelDrivers played their first ever show at Asheville’s premier music venue, the Orange Peel, and sold the place out. I feel bad it has taken me so long to post a pic. Stuff keeps coming up. It was great to see my friend Tammy Rogers, and hear such a tight newgrass band of which she is a part. That’s Tammy in the middle, holding up her fiddle. Onstage with her (from L to R) are Richard Bailey on banjo, Brent Truitt on mandolin, Mike Fleming on upright bass, and Gary Nichols on guitars. The SteelDrivers are playing a few shows near Asheville – in Spartanburgh, Greenville, and Johnson City in April and May. Check out a tour schedule on their website,

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Malcolm Holcombe – the eyes have it

© John Gellman

I feel so fortunate to have met and photographed Malcolm Holcombe. I wrote about Malcolm’s latest DVD/CD on March 18th. Click HERE to read my earlier post. The folks at his European label asked for some publicity pics of Malcolm that were not shot during the recording sessions, so Malcolm stopped by my Asheville studio for a photo shoot last Tuesday. There is nothing laid back about Malcolm. Certainly not his music. Though he is viewed as a folk/Americana singer songwriter, and I have only seen him play an acoustic guitar, his music burns with beautiful intensity that requires no massive amplification to have its intended effect. His songs could light up a dark room during a power blackout. Malcolm’s raspy voice has been described as sounding like an Appalachian Keith Richards. He is about as intense a person as I have ever met.

After looking at the shots, I couldn’t help but think that whoever said “the eyes are the window to your soul” must have been thinking about Malcolm. Then I did a Google search on the famous quote, only to find it was written by William Shakespeare, who died 399 years ago. Still, it fits. That Shakespeare guy really had a knack for a phrase. Photographing Malcolm is all about capturing his eyes, and to a lesser extent, his hands.

The pics shown above and below are from last Tuesday. They were shot in my studio with available light from an open window and a single reflector held by my trusty assistant, Walten Horton.

© John Gellman



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Crusty card game

© John Gellman

I was night stalking again last night after dinner in downtown Asheville. Came across a friendly group of crusties playing cards and making music in front of a jewelry store where there was nice light, which made it possible for me to shoot some pics. I know some of these kids, so they didn’t feel threatened by me or my camera, and I was able to shoot while they ignored my presence. All in all, they were a very nice group of people. I enjoyed talking with them and listening to their music for a while.

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Random rock shots – The Who – 1976

© John Gellman

It has been way too long since I’ve posted an unpublished, never seen by anyone except me and my assistant, random rock shot from my archives. Here’s one I like of The Who. Roger Daltrey’s fringe is flying, Pete Townshend is doing guitar gymnastics, and yes, that’s Keith Moon with his face hidden below the cymbal. This was at the Omni in Atlanta, GA in 1976. Shot from the crowd. This was the best show I ever saw from The Who, and the last time I saw the group with Keith Moon. You can view other shots from this show that I have posted previously by clicking HERE and HERE.

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A column – Protest this, protest that.

A note from JG – Last week, I placed a post on Facebook asking for feedback about the future direction of this blog. The consensus was that regular visitors would like to see continuing photography and more writing from me. I have no clear idea what I’ll write about. I guess anything that interests me, and I hope you too. There will surely be some thoughts about photography, but not today. I am not committing to any regular schedule. I will write every now and then. So here is my first column.


It’s much warmer in Asheville today, and everyone is out and about. I walked around for a bit and ran into several musicians and a Michigan State fan. (He was very happy.) Abby the Spoon Lady was out, as well as several other small groups of buskers, a guy playing the accordion, and as always, several hippies with dreads and banged up acoustic guitars.

The heart of downtown Asheville is a central plaza called Pack Square, which usually serves as protest central. The typical protest is against war. Veterans against war. Women against war. Anyone against war. I have no problem with any of these folks, since I am against war too. Aren’t you? You should be. Then there are the anarchists protesting the 1% and anything to do with government. Asheville does have some of the nicest anarchists you would ever want to meet, so I don’t have a problem with their protests, even though I generally like many things government provides, and I wouldn’t mind joining the 1% – as a philanthropist, of course. I think I would make a really good philanthropist when I grow up.

Several weeks ago, there was a rather large group protesting drones.

Now hold on.

I like drones. In fact, I’d love to have my own drone. I’d attach my GoPro video camera to it and invade the privacy of one and all. I can think of any number of cool things I’d like to do with a drone. And not one of them involves killing people. Besides, who can argue with the concept of using drones rather than putting photographers on the ground.

Today’s protester was a lone woman with a very large sign protesting circumcision of babies as a violation of human rights. None of the hippies with acoustic guitars were playing anti-circumcision anthems. She was completely on her own. Even circumcised babies were ignoring her, though a few uncircumcised babies may have been agitated at the whole idea.

As I’m standing on the busy corner considering whether or not to take a picture of the woman and her sign, I was approached by a very old gentleman with a thick foreign accent. I’m guessing Eastern European. He pointed to the woman and her sign and said “ Sir, can please tell me… circumcision, is what?”

I’m assuming he didn’t understand the word in English. It was a translation problem, not a concept problem. Recognizing there are not a lot of Jews left in Eastern Europe, the guy just might not know, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I explained, while discreetly making the scissors movement with my fingers near my crotch, that circumcision is the removal of the foreskin of the penis, usually performed within a few days of birth.

The old guy clearly did not understand what I told him. My first instinct was to repeat what I said slowly and louder. Like that would aid understanding. But it didn’t seem like a very good idea on that busy corner. So I said the next best thing, slowly and louder. “Welcome to Asheville. Have a nice day sir.”  And then I headed back to my studio.

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