They Ain’t Nothing Much, but they’ll do

© John Gellman

If you have spent any time at all walking around downtown Asheville over the last few months, then you’ve probably heard these guys playing on a sidewalk. Sonny Blister, Billy Scribbles, Stephen Ray Lester, Chicken Coop Willaye, and Josh Jakubowski are Ain’t Nothing Much. They play their own brand of rowdy bluegrass music that makes people stop, dance, and throw money at them.

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Traveling brothers

© John Gellman

It’s mid-summer, and people are pouring into Asheville from all over. Jesse and Sam Williams were sitting together on Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville as I walked up. Sam was holding his violin. He started playing a classical tune that I did not recognize. I asked him what it was and he said “Something I wrote.” I did not realize they were brothers. They are from Iowa, which is a bit ironic for me because I spent the day yesterday hosting an old friend from my college days and his family who are from… you guessed it, Iowa. We talked for a while and they accepted my invite to come up to my studio for a pic. They are headed to Hot Springs in a couple days and then back to the Midwest.

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Badass swamp player

© John Gellman

One of the coolest things about shooting recording sessions in Nashville is you never know who’s going to drop in and lay down a track. Today, it was the great Tony Joe White of Polk Salad Annie fame. Tony Joe added some badass filthy Stratocaster licks to some of Malcolm Holcombe’s songs. I gotta say it was a privilege to listen to Malcolm and Tony Joe jam.

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Died and went to Rickenbacker heaven

© John Gellman

Still alive, but it does look like Rickenbacker garden of paradise here. Watch out for the snake though. Looks like it’s about to take a bite out of the forbidden headstock. I’m in Nashville this week on a shoot for Malcolm Holcombe, who is recording a new album here. The recording studio is decorated with over 70 guitars hanging on the walls. There is no chance Malcolm will use any of these, but they are a sight for the sore eyes of any Rickenbacker aficionado.

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Ambassador of Tibetan culture

© John Gellman
Tenzin Tsedup is a Tibetan artist spending some time in Asheville. I met Tsedup (pronounced Sadoo) when he was busking on Haywood Street, about a block from my Flatiron studio. He graciously agreed to come upstairs and pose for a quick portrait with his dranyen, a traditional Tibetan string instrument. Click HERE to listen to some of his music.

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Doc Docherty – made with my own light

© John Gellman

Here is another pic of Asheville magician, Doc Docherty. I shot this last week on location at the Crow & Quill, a cool little watering hole in downtown Asheville. Usually I shoot with available light, or at least with continuous light, but this was made with good ole flashes, which I hardly ever use. I have had two small Canon Speedlites gathering dust in my equipment bin for around a year that I have never used. Not once. The Crow & Quill is just too dark, and I finally put my little flashes to work. I bounced one off a reflector, and aimed the other through a diffuser panel. This is the first flash photo I have shot or posted since October 2013, so it’s a big deal for me. I think I like it.

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Callie’s Mona Lisa smile

© John Gellman

I shot this portrait of Callie right on the corner of Biltmore and Eagle, smack in the middle of downtown Asheville at midday, but it doesn’t look like a street shot. I guess that’s the difference between pure street photography and street portraits. I don’t really care whether my pics are posed or totally candid. I only care if I end up with an image that pleases me, and hopefully, my subject/victim as well. I like portraits that reveal something about the person being photographed, even if I’m not sure what it is.

 

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Pick a card… any card

© John Gellman

Magician Doc Docherty visited my Flatiron Studio for a photo shoot this afternoon. You may have encountered Doc performing on the street, or at a party or restaurant where he does extraordinary card tricks and close-up magic. Doc does not cut women in half, or make elephants disappear. He specializes in tricks that are much more intimate, right in front of you. I have always loved close-up magic. It’s all about the skill of the magician, and doesn’t require assistants or expensive devices designed to fool you. If you think you can tell which cup is hiding the little ball, let me tell you the odds are not in your favor. If you pick a card, go for the Queen of Spades.  Very entertaining.

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