So I recently had a very interesting commission from Atlas Obscura on ‘Learning The Ancient Art of Horseback Falconry’, photographing their writer Kerry Wolfe (who had flown in especially from Brooklyn, NY) having a lesson in said activity, which took place on the wilds of Dartmoor (SW England). She was instructed by Martin Whitley, founder of Dartmoor Hawking, who teaches competent horse riders how to handle/fly birds of prey. It was an unforgettable day…
Having returned to England over three weeks ago from a great trip to the Southern States of America where I embarked on my latest new project Where the Southern Crosses The Dog - supported using public funding by Arts Council England - I am now sitting in my local library, listening to the rain outside (and trying not to get distracted by the woman opposite who is on her twelth bar of chocolate already), beginning the huge (but fun!) task of editing the work.
The trip started in Memphis, TN, the beginning of the Mississippi Delta, and after a much needed good night's sleep, the next day I had to hit the ground running, travelling almost 2 hours out of the city down to a town in Mississippi to visit 84 year old bluesman Leo Bud Welch, who I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to meet and photograph at his home. *(Leo now has a busy gigging schedule, his musical career beginning just two years ago...)
Leo, born and raised in Sabougla, Mississippi, has always played music, be it in church or purely for himself, since the age of 13. Having worked on a farm and as a lumberjack his whole life, things unexpectedly changed in 2013, when friend Vencie Vernado (now his Manager) booked Leo to play at his 50th birthday party. Knowing he was a talented musician and aware of Leo's potential, Vencie recorded him playing on his phone, subsequently sending these recordings to record labels in the months to come. He quickly got Leo signed, releasing his debut album 'Sabougla Voices' less than a year later in 2014, just before Leo's 82nd birthday.
Vencie, a former army veteran, has always loved music too, but had never been involved in the business. It is therefore truly remarkable what him and Leo have managed to achieve together in such a short space of time since their meeting in 2013. Leo has now recorded TWO albums with a third coming out next Spring (2017), collaborating with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, he has performed and continues to play all over the world, boarding a plane for the first time in his life, and soon, even has a film coming out about him, which I can't wait to watch.
There is a lot more to say about Leo's story, as well as a lot of images/video/sound from the afternoon I spent with him, this is just a tiny taster...so if you like what you're reading/seeing, watch this space for more to come!
PS you can visit Leo's website to go and hear some of his music :-)