Hull photographer Jeff Thiebauth unveils a captivating collection of images depicting notable musical artists.By Richard Trust
As 20th-century photography giant Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, the magic of an image is all about finding the “decisive moment.” It’s the fraction of a second when there is a window of opportunity to take the shot you’re after. Click! And then the moment passes.
Hull photographer Jeff Thiebauth has captured many fleeting moments throughout his career, often directing his camera lens at the musicians onstage at the Boston Garden, Worcester Centrum, Great Woods and other regional performance venues. Examples of his work featuring famous rock, jazz and blues musicians will be on display at Goss Photo in Hanover during November and December.
The majority of Thiebauth’s images are crisp black and white photos taken between 1978 and 1991 while he was freelancing for the Boston Phoenix newspaper. The collection reveals the joy in blues guitarist Buddy Guy’s face, the grit of Canadian rocker Neil Young, a prominent vein in the temple of Clash guitarist Joe Strummer, the expressive hands of the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, the focused intensity of jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the cheerful smile of country artist Emmylou Harris.
Thiebauth’s first foray into photography began with an image he took of jazz drummer Billy Cobham in February 1978 at the Paradise in Boston. Then a senior at Boston University, Thiebauth fired off numerous frames. Those were the days before digital cameras, so Thiebauth wouldn’t know for certain if he got the shot he wanted until the film was developed. Those agonizing moments in the darkroom would reveal either a hit or a miss. Luckily, Thiebauth’s shot was a home run and it sparked a lifelong passion for photography.
“Capturing the expression in his face was what got me hooked,” says Thiebauth, who, at 60 years old continues to work as a commercial and editorial photographer. “You think you have a shot, but you can’t confirm it until you get home and soup the negative in the developer, wash it and fix it, and hold the negative up to the light,” says Thiebauth. “You look at it with a magnifying glass and scrutinize it to see if it’s the shot you think it is and if it’s in focus. Once you determine that those things align, there’s an adrenalin rush. When you watch the pictures materialize on a white piece of photo paper that pushes it up another notch.”
Thiebauth’s most commercially successful photograph of a musician is that of Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was the headliner at the Newport Jazz Festival in August of 1985. “It was stunning to me the number of people who picked up their blankets and left when he came out to perform,” says Thiebauth. “I guess they were more of the jazz purists and they didn’t want to see Stevie Ray Vaughan because of his heavy blues and a little bit of Hendrix aspect to his music. I was transfixed and just stayed right underneath him and shot away.” Vaughan died in a helicopter crash in August 1990 at 35 years old.
Most of Thiebauth’s musician portraits were taken with a Canon A-1 and later F-1 model single-lens-reflex film camera. The artist went digital 15 years ago and still photographs musical performances on occasion. This summer, he caught up with the Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Levitate Music Festival in Marshfield (he shot with color) and he enjoys photographing up-and-coming acts in the hopes that one day they’ll make it big, “and I’ll know that I got to them at the ground level.”
An exhibit of Jeff Thiebauth’s photography is currently on display through December 31 at Goss Photo, 145 Webster St., Ste. D, Hanover.