My life with guitars began with the sounds of my brother’s guitar wafting up from the basement and reverberating throughout the house. My sister played the guitar for a little while, and the music of Richie Havens and Jose Feliciano strummed through her bedroom door a lot. I dutifully played the piano for 7 years as a child, and love to hear and see the piano played now. But I grew to really love the sound of the guitar and loved even more the people who played them; especially my brother who became Guy Davis the blues and folk man, and Wali Ali, the jazz guitarist who I married.
A part of my life with guitars is living with the guitars themselves. By the musician, the guitars are played, attended to, cleaned, touched, and squeezed. They are hated when they are hard to play and loved when they are easy on the fingers. The guitars are conduits for the emotional release of hand clapping, toe thumping, head nodding music to mere listeners like me. By me, a photographer, the guitars are a pieces of wood, metal, nylon, plastic, and circuitry; elegant instruments that displace the light in ways that catch my eye and cause me to raise my camera. And I not only see that light dancing with guitars, I also see it flowing in and out of in saxophones, through drums, and other instruments.
This guitar life of mine takes me into the music scene where I’m always taking pictures. I go to most of Wali’s gigs (sometimes as his wife, sometimes as his girlfriend, but always as his #1 fan), and he and I go to other people’s concerts and shows. Since I was a teenager making my way to the front of the stage to photograph the Isley Brothers or Sly and the Family Stone, I take photographs back stage, on stage, from my seat, and from as many places as I can.
I wonder at times whether or not I photograph instruments because I live with a guitarist or because I love them, the music, and the music scene. If it becomes a question of which comes first –the tomato or the seed– I’d have to say the soil.