So I'm not too sure where time has disappeared to since I returned from America in October, but I have been busy editing images, researching exhibition venues, transcribing interviews, as well as making plans for a return trip, which I'm pleased to say I am going to be doing next month (April), when the prestigious blues 'Juke Joint Festival' will be taking place in Clarksdale, MS.
During the past few months, I have also had time to really analyse & refine what the story is here, as my pre-conceived ideas for the trip in October and its reality were quite different. I had initially planned for the story to cover the whole of the 'Blues Trail' area from Memphis to New Orleans, looking at the way in which the music has become such an important economy to the two big Cities, as well as the State of Mississippi (arguably the poorest State in the Country), bringing in large amounts of International 'blues' tourists on a regular basis, who might not otherwise have much reason to visit. The story also set out to look at the ongoing fragility surrounding blues music's existence and its uncertain future, whilst simultaneously acknowledging the opportunities it currently provides for the younger generation.
Whilst I still made the journey as planned, the majority of the trip was spent in Mississippi, as the people & landscape connected with me like nowhere else, and it was hard to leave an area that clearly had so much depth to it. My aims and objectives of the story remained the same, but the main notable decision I have made since returning to the UK is that I will be focusing and presenting images solely from the town of Clarksdale (MS) and its surrounding areas, rather than trying to depict and tell a story covering the vast distance from Memphis to New Orleans.
Essentially, the main reason for this is that I want both you & I to be able to get much closer to the story, to really connect with my subjects and understand the history & current social,economic & visual landscape of where I am working. This is only possible when focusing on one place or area, which is why I am returning specifically to Clarksdale. Without this focus and intentional decision to leave out the other photographs from the trip in October, the result I fear would just look like snaps from a Southern road trip, which is not what this is. I want the imagery to be Documentary Photography, not Travel Photography! I want you, the viewer, to be able to get close to the story, to feel a connection with both the place and subjects , as if you are there too.
Whilst I did create A LOT of content - images, audio & video, during my trip in October, I decided there & then that I wanted to return to the area at a time when the town of Clarksdale became most alive with music, which I know is the case with Juke Joint Festival, as so many people I met talked about it, and the buzz around it was palpable. So this is what I am going to be doing next month, and I'm very much looking forward to it! I'm also happy that I'm now focused on where my story is based, as whilst Clarksdale is a small rural town in Mississippi, it has a history and being that speaks much greater than its size.
NB ** As well as my Photography, I am also a semi-professional Musician and teacher, and have played the Drums since the age of 11. It is fair to say it is my other passion, as well as contributing to my livelihood, and is very much interlinked with why I chose to do this project, as I have a great love and appreciation for the music, as well as an interest in its rich history, and concern for its future.
Blues drumming is not easy, if done well. It's just that it's made to look easy! I got to play 6 times or so back in October - at both jams & gigs, and am hoping to be able to play again on my upcoming trip. Playing with the local musicians was a great way to break down barriers, to connect on a greater level that was beyond me being just 'the photographer', and them my 'subjects'. Many musicians feature within this project, people I am now lucky to call my friends.