Ponderosa Portraits: The Night I Photographed Legends as Portrait Photographer at The Stomp / by Zack Smith

Since 2001 I had found a way to setup comfortable and quiet photography portrait areas amongst loud and raucous festivals in New Orleans...

On May 5th 2001 I set up a white bed sheet between two trees on Sauvage and Grand Route St. John streets, just two blocks from the entrance to the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans. There, for 8 hours, I photographed people as they walked in. My approach and execution were quick and Doctor's Convention-style:

Me: "OK one photo just looking in the camera and no expression"

SNAP

Me: "And now do whatever you want!"

SNAP - and hand over business card - thank you.

Since then I have had 5 years photographing backstage portraits at The Voodoo Music Experience (Voodoo Fest), 7 Years at Chaz Fest, and a host of one-off backstage happenings. By far the most rewarding and fun of the "one offs" was the Ponderosa Stomp in 2013. I have to thank Dr. Ira for giving me the this wonderful opportunity and a small corner in a side room at the Rock n Bowl I set up a simple brown muslin where I was to photograph the legends of rock and roll, one on one, just me and them. I usually know most of the people I am about to photograph but this time I knew none. I was not hip to their music or any of the stories surrounding them. As you may or may not know, the artists booked at The Ponderosa Stomp have usually enjoyed the successes of their hit songs decades ago and have been brought back on stage by the festival to show them how much they are still loved and revered. It really is a beautiful thing.

I have had the privilege of photographing artists in their prime, before their prime, and after their prime. But the constant between them all is that they love what they do, and what they do is what they love. Being witness and recorder to that gives me great pleasure and reminds me I do love what I do, and do what I love.