Vsonoma: Pia, that's some serious music DNA
Pia: "I grew up with music all around me! I was also a dancer — thirteen years of classical ballet taught by my cousin who was a prima ballerina. Her name was Mignon King and it saved her when she was in a concentration camp. They would have her dance at gala events.
I think what attracts me to music so much is it's a universal language. One that penetrates all boundaries and also touches the soul by evoking memories that a song from the past brings up".
Vsonoma: What motivated you to start shooting blues bands?
Pia: "I got started with musical photography from dating a musician at one time. That led to doing photography for several local bands and over time it's created a very close-knit family".
"I pretty much exclusively follow the blues circuit now and do most all of their promo shots and CD covers. These are some of the well known blues artists that I really enjoy — Curtis Salgado, Keb Mo, Tab Benoit, Janiva Magness and Beth Hart. On a local level, Catalina Eddy and the Blue Keys, Back Bay Betty, Irene Cathaway Band, Deep Blue, Cinders Blues Band, Big Daddy's Blues Band, Burning James &The Funky Flames, AJM Band, Mojo Combo, and Bluz Dogs are all favorites of mine. Working with them I incorporate a love offering system and it continues to work well for me".
Vsonoma: How do you initially approach the musicians and ask for permission to photograph them?
Pia: "I've never really formally asked for permission. I just start shooting, stay to one side or the other and if I do a full-on-fontal (lol), I'll kneel down and do it as quickly as I can".
Vsonoma: ...and the most unexpected set of circumstances you've encountered?
Pia: "The craziest circumstance I've encountered is when one of the bands pulled me on stage to sing back-up. It was so much fun!"
Vsonoma: What type of gear do you take to a show?
Pia: "I use a Canon SX50. It's compact, light with a nice zoom capability. My mono pod is perfect for tight conditions and is compact and lightweight as well so I can move quickly on and around the dance floor. I always carry my iPhone too. Minimal gear definitely works for me while constantly being in motion, ducking in and out, stepping around cords and carefully avoiding expensive equipment and instruments".
Vsonoma: Do you chat it up some with the musicians while you're shooting?
Pia: "I usually just smile and say just want to catch this shot from this angle or I'll only be a second. I'm pretty bold. You have to be or you'll miss the shot. I just take a breath and go for it then I mention how sweet they are for letting me in and thank them. I'm always aware of not being in the way so it hasn't been an issue".
Vsonoma: Thanks so much Pia for both the interview and fabulous images. One last question — how 'bout your own favorite blues songs?
Pia: "That's a tough one. I'm so busy taking shots I mostly just listen to the rhythm while constantly shooting and being on the move. I do know one thing, I LOVE the blues!"
All images © Pia Kelley | Pia Kelley portrait by Abe Perlstein
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