What the heck is this?

© John Gellman

I parked on the top level of a parking deck in downtown Asheville today and saw what appeared to be a motionless body on a rickety part of the roof adjacent to the deck. When I walked over, the guy did move, so at least I knew I didn’t need to call 911. Turns out he was maintaining the very top of a rock climbing wall outside the parking deck. I don’t know what safety gear OSHA might require for this kind of work but I don’t think he was secured to anything. Kind of like hanging out of a 5th story window to take a picture. So who am I to criticize?

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Office hours

© John Gellman

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Except for the “as early as 7″ part. It’s not my office though.

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It’s warm and the buskers are back

© John Gellman

Now that it’s no longer 15 degrees, windy, and snowing, the buskers are returning to the streets of Asheville. This lovely girl named Emily was playing her heart out on accordion and singing next to the Wells Fargo building across the street from Pritchard Park. I invited her up to my studio for a quick portrait but she didn’t show. I guess it’s reasonable for young women to be cautious when approached by older male strangers. Emily, if you should see this, the invitation is still open, and I am HARMLESS. Of course, I suppose that’s what they all say.

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New Malcolm Holcombe RCA Sessions DVD/CD

Producer Brian Brinkerhoff sent me this today and I am EXCITED. It’s the cover artwork for the live-in-the-studio Malcolm Holcombe DVD/CD using pics I shot last September in Nashville. Click HERE to see my earlier post about Malcolm. The DVD/CD is being released on April 9th and you will be able to purchase a copy on Malcolm’s website. In the mean time, click HERE to go to a page where you can listen to some of the songs on Soundcloud. Just scroll down a bit when you get there and you will see the RCA Sessions on Singular Recordings. I don’t know how long Brian will leave these online, so don’t be slow.

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View of Asheville from my 5th floor studio at dusk

© John Gellman

This is not the kind of thing I typically shoot, but the view from my studio window Monday night was so pretty, I couldn’t resist. The pic above is looking east from my 5th floor window in the Flatiron Building. Wall Street is in the foreground. The view from the same window looking west a few minutes earlier is shown below. I think it’s amazing how much the light can change in a few minutes. In case you are wondering how I can look east and west out the same window, the window actually faces south. Since the window does open, and there are no screens, I can lean out of the window with a camera and look both ways. Watch out below. (I’m quite sure the farther you fall, the flatter you get.)

© John Gellman

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Why Blackberry Smoke always looks so good

© John Gellman

Charlie Starr is a cool looking dude no matter where he is, with his trademark chops and all, but he and the other Blackberry Smoke band members always look GREAT on stage. That’s no accident. I don’t know how many bands who are not arena headliners always travel with a lighting director (LD), but BBS does, and has for the last couple years. This is not an insignificant thing. A talented LD adds cost, not to mention care, feeding, and transportation. Kind of like a hamster, except a lot more expensive and logistically challenging. I make the hamster reference only because Blackberry Smoke’s LD goes by the name of Thumper. (Have you ever had a hamster named Thumper? How about a rabbit?) I’m relatively certain his parents put Christopher Hathaway on his birth certificate, but I would not have known that without texting Brit Turner for the lowdown.

Having an LD on tour represents a substantial commitment to offer the very best experience to the fans. The shows not only sound great, they look great too. As a photographer, I am a direct beneficiary. Light is everything to a photographer. The shot above is a great example of how an otherwise ordinary pic of Charlie, Richard, and Brit is raised to another level by Thumper’s dramatic and beautiful stage lighting. It is also an example of how important it is to me to have virtually unrestricted access to shoot the entire show, not just the first three songs. I took this picture late in the show. I noticed the particular lighting scheme earlier, and waited in the same spot for almost ten minutes with the hope that Charlie would be in just the right position if Thumper did it again. When the planets finally aligned perfectly for me, I was in the right place at the right time with the right lens.

For those who are interested, this pic was shot in St Louis during Loufest last September. Hard to believe it’s been six months since I’ve heard the band. I’m looking forward to seeing them perform next month in North Carolina. Can’t wait to hear all the new songs live, like everyone else. When it comes down to it, I’m just a very fortunate fan.

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Zebulon Station

© John Gellman

It’s amazing what turns up in my old negatives. This dignified woman was the stationmaster at the train station in Zebulon, Georgia. She was visible behind these windows, though not recognizable, in the photo of the Outlaws that appeared on the inside gatefold of their second album, Lady In Waiting. Click HERE to see that photo. I shot this pic in 1976 when I was scouting the location, a few days in advance of the Outlaws photo session. I had forgotten where the train station was located, but there is another shot (shown below) that leaves no doubt Zebulon was the location.

© John Gellman

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Remembering Barney Barnwell

© John Gellman

I never had more than a casual acquaintance with musician/writer and general character Barney Barnewell, but I have been friends with his sisters, Betsy and Beth, for over 35 years. Barney, who passed away in 2007, played fiddle and was a founding member of the Plum Hollow Band. Say what you will about him – he was always spicy, never bland. That’s a good thing for an entertainer. I happened to drive Barney’s nephew, Jackson Ellington, from Asheville to his parents house near Hickory yesterday, and I know Jackson has never seen this old pic taken around 1980, (give or take a couple years) so I thought I’d post it here. Actually, I’m not sure if Betsy and Beth have ever seen it either. Now, everyone can see it. Here’s to Barney. [Update – See comment below. It was 1982. That’s within a couple years.]

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