Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Stare of the Ex-eeRoadie

I am assuming we all know what a roadie is? False assumption? Yes, well a roadie is a person who travels with a band and does all the heavy lifting. You know the things like setting up the stage, unpacking instruments, carrying the can when something goes wrong. You know? Oh, sometimes they also make coffee, make sandwiches and generally are there to help the band to do its thing.
    Well, this guy is an ex roadie. Which means he used to do all the above and, by the look of his tired and weathered face, a whole lot more. Anyway, he's retired now, and I found him just sitting back enjoying some very cool Blues music at a festival recently held in the town I live in. He isn't a rich man: I mean, a roadie doesn't earn much at the best of times, and a retired roadie, well, he's not much good for anything else is he? He says he was too busy out there on the road and had no time for all that extra schooling that getting a "qualification" would have meant. Besides, there was a lot of fun to be had!
      Our friend here does manage from time to time to pick up a bit of light work with the odd band here and there. But, after lugging heavy gear like speakers and other stuff for years, his back isn't what it used to be. Anyway, his lungs aren't too good either after spending too many years in smoky venues with the bands he worked for.
      But, he gets by. That's what he wants me to know. What with the dole and the odd casual gig, he even manages to get to the odd concert or festival. He likes to keep his hand and his ear in the loop so to speak. He is on the whole a happy chappy who wouldn't change one minute of his life. He's earned those wrinkles and he's damn proud of every one, okay?
      Now I have a bit of bad news for you dear blog reader. A lot of the facts above are just not facts. I made a lot of it up. Surprised? Of course you are. Anyway, here's the thing: What have I made up? And what facts are for real?
      Can't say? Of course you can't. You weren't there. You don't know this guy. Why some of you don't even know me! You give up? Okay I will tell you. Here are the facts:
1. I was the photographer
2. The picture was made at the Blues Festival as I said
3.The guy is a man (well I think he is anyway)
     And that's it. I have no idea what he does or did for a living; I didn't speak to him. Not a word. So there really are only those three (sort of) facts known to me, and therefore to you dear reader(s). But, I have another question for you. Do I or you know for sure that the other "facts" in the little tale above are false? Of course we can't know can we?. We could, I think, make an educated guess about what this guy does or did for a living. But at the end of the day it would be just that: a guess. We could guess that his weathered face was caused by hard work and/or hard living. Again, just a guess. And who can say anything about the state of his health? That part of my little story really just flowed from all the other bits I made up.
    My point is this. A photograph does indeed tell us stories. There is, at least in this kind of portrait made on the street, a narrative that can be drawn from the picture. As we have just read, facts are few and far between in this kind of street work, especially when it is a case of making photographs on the run as I do.
    But what about truth? Just because my facts are invented, does that mean there is no truth present here? No, I don't think it means that at all. Here we have a man, a "middle-aged' man (sorry not a term I like but you get the picture) with "hair" and a weathered face. He was at a music festival and he looked very satisfied with the situation thank you very much.
    No. I think what I have managed to do in this image, and with my little invented biography above, is capture some essence of truth; some fragment of a reality not my own; some little piece of the life of another person. I would now like to make  reference (as I have several times in the past and as I no doubt will again in the future) to a cliche, that, after all, being a cliche must contain some element of a truth.
    I am a story teller. In the current context I tell stories through the magical (in my humble opinion) medium of photography, more specifically, street photography. As a story teller, I am given (by whom I am not sure: perhaps by the gods of Art?) licence to tell stories in which, while the facts may be invented, there is at least  the essence of truth. This essence goes beyond mundane facts and appeals to the heart and soul of the audience. That's you by the way.
I have a challenge for you. I challenge you to come back to me and tell me your mind wasn't engaged, nor your heart touched and your soul remained un-shifted. I bet you can't do it! Why am I so sure? Because I have given this image life, with the very able assistance of the gentle man in the image. (Well I don't know if he is a gentle man or not; he just looks like one to me. Okay?)
I think this discussion should now be turned over to you, my valued and dear readers.
Peace to you all


  1. a good blog post Paul, nicely written. Kinder and much more articulate than mine :) I agree very much with the things you say and to be honest, I think the guy was a Roadie too.

  2. Thank you John for taking the time to read it. Kinder than you? mmmm perhaps! LOL But we all have our style don't we? and if he WASN'T a roadie, what was he? LOL


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